Sonoma County Beekeepers Association
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SCBA

Plant for the Bees

Whether you keep bees or not, you can help the bees by planting local forage for them. SCBA has teamed up with local Sonoma nurseries to promote the Yellow Dot project, nurseries mark bee forage plants with a yellow dot for easy identification.

Native Bee
Native Bee - photo by Sierra Castillo

A great resource is Berkley's "Gardening for Bees" plant list, as it gives a detailed list of planting season, which pollinators visit the plant, whether the it provides nectar - pollen - or both, and more.

The following is a list provided within the Extractor newsletter, with our own local beekeepers take on What's In Bloom? each month. We have many gardeners at SCBA, and often have plants and seeds for sale during the meetings.

January

What's In Bloom?

Some eucalyptus, bottlebrush, borage, manzanita, calendula, wild mustard and radish bloom this month. Plant some crocus bulbs now to get a bright orange pollen in February. Look through the seed catalogs and local nurseries to see what else you can order or buy. Hellebores are early sources of pollen.

Trees to Plant for Nectar and/or Pollen:
This Spring At this time of the year, many nurseries and garden centers have bare-root trees for sale. Here are some suggestions if you are thinking about buying new trees: Apples and crabapples (Malus spp.), Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) editors note on this-this is a great tree but is invasive so plant where you don't mind its coming up along the roots, Catalpas (Catalpa spp.) edtor's note-I may be bringing in volunteers for our plant exchange table as I did last year; cherries, peaches, plums (Prunus spp.), cottonwood (Populus deltoids), elms, hazelnuts (Corylus spp.), Maples (Acer spp.) editors note- Momiji is a huge maple tree nursery at 2765 Stony Point Rd., Santa Rosa. See the Farm Trails Guide, Oaks (Quercus spp.), persimmons (Diospyros spp.) editor's note- my favorite is the giant Fuyo that you eat like an apple, redbuds (Cercis spp.) sycamores (Platanus spp.) tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipfera), willows (Salix spp).

 

February

What's In Bloom?

Some eucalyptus, borage, manzanita, bottle brush, willows, bulbs, poppies, calendula, wild mustard, radish and lots of fruit trees bloom this month. Plant Advice from Mary Frost Do you have a Buddleia davidii (butterfly bush) in your garden? Would you like to have more blooms this year? If you never prune your Buddleia, over time the blooms may decline in number or get smaller in size. Even though the Yellow Dot Project plant list shows Buddleia d. is not a "major" nectar or pollen plant it will certainly attract bees. Once in your garden these little fuzzy friends will quickly find the other "major" nectar or pollen source plants you have such as, Thymus (thyme), Borago officinalis (borage), Vaccinium spp (blueberries), Lavandula spp (lavender), Coreopsis grandiflora (coreopsis), Passiflora (passionflower), Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) and Monarda didyma (beebalm)! Buddleja d. blooms best on new growth. You can prune it twice a year, once in spring just as the new growth begins and again more lightly after the first flush of flowers fade. Buddleja d. can grow more than 8 feet in one season so consider how tall you want your plant to be this year and prune down accordingly. Each year prune out a few of the older branches to the ground in order to allow room for new shoots to fill in. Since Buddleja d. blossoms come in a range of purples from the deep rich purple of "Black Knight" through the lighter blues of other varieties you may want to shop for your new plant in the late spring or summer when they are in bloom at the nursery. There is a variegated variety too. If you have a variegated Buddleja d. and you want to keep that yummy variegation prune out all solid green growth as soon as you notice it otherwise the plant will revert to solid green. Accurately listed as a "drought tolerant" plant in many books, Buddleja will look much better if given water weekly in the summer. Make sure it is deep, slowly applied, and Buddleja will pay back your effort with healthy foliage and an abundance of blooms!

Mary Frost, The Gardening Tutor is a new member who has offered to write about plants for us. We thank her and welcome the help with our bee gardens!

 

March

What's In Bloom?

Some eucalyptus, borage, manzanita, bottle brush, willows, bulbs, poppies, calendula, wild mustard, radish and lots of fruit trees bloom this month.

April

What's In Bloom?

By the end of April we should see the apples blooming. Dandelions, Borage, yellow mustard, calendula, wild radish, bulbs, oak, bottle brush, ceanothus, citrus, Clematis, filaree (storksbill), apple, pear, cherry, some lavenders, California poppy, poison oak, Rosemary, willows, salvias, cotoneaster, and ice plant are blooming throughout this month. Vetch, oak trees, willow trees, hawthorn, tulip trees, California poppies, lilacs and roses will also bloom this month.

 

May

What's In Bloom?

Thanks to the April showers we have plenty of May flowers. The apples are blooming. Dandelions, borage, vetch, berry vines, California poppies, Oriental poppies, wild celery, filaree, lilacs and roses also bloom this month. May looks like a good nectar flow month! Rosemary, lavender, roses (bees like the old fashion ones), apple trees, wild mustard, vetch, California poppies, wild radish, clover, dandelions, borage. The locust will be finishing its bloom early in May. (This is known by Europeans as Acacia and is a great source of nectar.)

May is the month we all wait for because it brings us the big nectar flow. Blackberries, black locust, catalpa, lavender, clover, borage, bluebells, bottle brush, fennel, linden, mock orange, Oriental poppies, California poppies, filaree, thyme, Rosemary, tulip trees, white Dutch clover (ladino), wild buckwheat, wisteria, wild radish and wild mustard are all blooming this month.

If you have strong hives, you can put comb honey foundation and frames on this month. There is a demand for comb honey and it is worth the effort to set up your hives to make it!

California Buckeye trees bloom this month. Hopefully the Buckeye will not cause the problems it does in drought years but if you have any in the area near your hives, watch for deformed, sickly bees. The buckeye pollen is toxic to the bee larvae if they get enough of it.

 

June

What's In Bloom?


Lots of nectar plants are blooming so get those honey supers on now! Borage, yellow mustard, pincushion flower (Scabiosa), statice, calendula, wild radish, bottle brush, ceanothus, citrus, Clematis, lavenders, California poppy, Catalpa trees, citrus trees, nigella (Love-in-amist), salvias, cotoneaster, blackberries and other berries and ice plant are blooming this month. What happens when you don!t provide room for all that nectar? You could be causing swarm conditions and you will have burr comb anywhere they find to put it!

The catalpa trees along our street are blooming; some started the last week of May. We all know the wild blackberries are in full bloom this month! We also have yellow mustard, poppies, star jasmine, nigella, bottle brush, daisies, bachelor buttons, fennel, elderberries, guava, hairy vetch, lavender, mock orange, plantain, button bush, Echium vulgare California asters, cosmos, squash, beans and asparagus blooming.

 

July

What's In Bloom?

Nectar and pollen plants are blooming in some areas but other areas not irrigated are extremely dry. Be aware of the possibility of California Buckeye poisoning your brood. Borage, butterfly bush (Buddleia), purple cone flower, buckwheats, pennyroyal (mint family- good honey taste!), yellow mustard, pincushion flower (Scabiosa), lemon balm, Chaste tree, statice, calendula, wild radish, bottle brush, ceanothus, citrus, lavenders, California poppy, Catalpa trees, citrus trees, nigella (Love-in-amist), salvias, squash and early sunflowers are in bloom. July is generally a dearth month in many regions around here. Be sure your bees have adequate water available, too. Alice Ford-Sala said on the Yahoo List, 'What plants are your bees' favorites right now? Besides lavender, ours absolutely love my Salvia nemerosa "Snow Hills" or Schneehugel. It has a spiky white flower, and the individual flowers are rather shallow, so the bees can easily get the nectar out. I never see the two plants I have without several bees on them. I'm going to try and plant some more. Also, they love borage and of course, thyme and oregano. Those who have the land might want to plant as much as possible of those plants, as they don't take much water, the bees love them and they bloom when the buckeyes bloom. Get your neighbors to plant some, too!" Marcee Pfaff replied, "My alstroemeria is the hands down favorite right now. I have lots of flowers blooming in my garden but that one is always loaded with bees."

Plant News from Rincon Valley
By Alice Ford-Sala (posted on the Yahoo List) But here's another bee plant list, for mid-July in Rincon Valley:
1. Super duper favorites: Lavender, thyme, borage, oregano, mint, veronica, basil, salvia (nemerosa), Eriogonum (buckwheat), melons, tomatillos, agastache, verbena bonariensis ,raspberries, a white crepe myrtle over the fence from us.
2. Also busy with bees, but not constantly: Squash, peppers, lace cap hydrangea, eggplants, roses, rudbeckia, coreopsis, buddleia.
3. Plants we see out and about that they like: Privet and that street tree that gets the "Japanese lanterns" on it. It!s called golden rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata. Another tree that has heart-shaped leaves and upright yellow flower spikes is called Chinese Tallow Tree, Sapiumsebiferum

So we still have quite a nectar flow going on, and the bees are VERY busy! They are bringing in lots of pollen, and every afternoon they have a huge cloud doing their orientation flights. When we checked last week we had tons of sealed and new brood in all three hives.

We haven't harvested any honey yet; we may take one frame in September when our wandering son comes home for a couple of weeks.

 

August

What's In Bloom?

Pumpkins, sunflowers, roses (bees like the old fashion ones), wild mustard, California poppies, wild radish, marigolds, agastache, borage, pennyroyal, dandelions, thyme and peppers.

The question was raised on our Yahoo List and this was one reply from Kalia:
"Of all the veggies I've got in the front yard, the ones that the honeybees are going for the most enthusiastically by far are the tomatillos (for comparison, we're also growing tomatoes, eggplant, beans, gourds, squash, peppers, sweet potatoes, corn, berries of all kinds and loads of different herbs). I've got redflowering lima beans that seem to be a big hit with the carpenter bees (anyone else notice that they seem to prefer red flowers?). In the ornamentals-and-herbs part of the yard, the big bee-attractors seem to be vitex, Caucasian mint (teucrium hyrcanicum), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and catnip (they looove the catnip). All of these are doing well with minimal water, and only the teucrium and catnip have a tendency to sprawl or wander. I've also had great bee luck with salvia sonomensis, which has the virtue of being locally native.
Want some cuttings or divides?" Kalia (She promises to bring them if she can get to the meeting!

 

September

What's In Bloom?

Borage, clover, roses, some lavender, scented geraniums, squash plants, yellowstar thistle, sunflowers, cosmos, asters, zinnias and sedum. Asters and sedum are really popular with the bees in the fall. Butterfly bush (Buddleia), purple coneflower, sedum, asters, pennyroyal (mint family- good honey taste!), yellow mustard, pincushion flower (Scabiosa), thyme, oregano, basil, statice, wild radish, salvias, squash and sunflowers are in bloom in watered gardens and fields. September is a dearth month in many regions around here. Be sure your bees have adequate water available, too.

Cynthia Perry sent us a list of plants bees love this month. She said, "I finally identified the plants in my hood and yard that the bees love so much: (all need sun) Obedience plant (needs water)-spectacular 5 every fall- spreads but easy to control. Echium Plantgineum Blue Bladder (NO water --blooms for months), eryngium-sea holly- a little water blooms a long time-spreads but easy to control-- hard to find and if you don't have this...Sedum Autumn Joy.. my favorite for years in the fall ..coated with bees! Easy to propogate by breaking off a piece and shoving it into the soil. Also, there is a Red Flowering Gum that the bees LOVE down the street from me but I cannot find anyone who is selling them."
I have asters, zinnias, cosmos, Shasta Daisies, thyme,
oregano, coriander and basil still blooming in my flowerbeds. Of course there are still pumpkin blossoms here and there out in the field. Hector relies on coyote brush and star thistle to bring honey and pollen to his hives at this time of the year.

 

October

What's In Bloom?

I have Michaelmas daisies, which are in the aster family making the bees very happy. Also I see zinnias, cosmos, chrysanthemums, thyme, oregano, and basil still blooming in my flowerbeds. The yellow mustard is here and there where it gets water. There are a few pumpkin blossoms here and there out in the field. I see a lot of crepe myrtle trees blooming but not many bees on them.

Sunflowers, squash, pennyroyal (in the mint family & makes the honey taste like mint if the bees get enough of it), Japanese knotweed (an invasive weed), asters, Michaelmas daisies (a tall aster), coyote brush and borage if it has water.

 

November

What's In Bloom?

Borage, asters, chrysanthemums, zinnias, ivy, thyme, oregano, statice and lemon balm (in my garden at least), Madrone and Manzanita.

The bees are all over my Michaelmas daisy plant. This plant is part of the aster family, a great source of fall food for bees. Also blooming now are loquats, milkweed, mints, pennyroyal (a mint that grows as a weed on my farm), Veronica, and tree daisy. Look at the plant list on Yellow Dot Project to get ideas of what to plant for next spring.

Ivy, borage, asters, thyme, oregano, statice and lemon balm (in my garden at least), Madrone and Manzanita

Plant bulbs now to have them bloom in spring.

 

December

What's In Bloom?

Before the end of December we can expect to see some eucalyptus blooming. The bottlebrush and California Fuchsias also bloom this month. Let's hope the rainfall is adequate to encourage the wild mustard and radish in January! It is so nice to see our landscape turning green again after so many months of brown fields.

Lavatera maritime, commonly called tree mallow is blooming now and the bees love it! This is Petaluma!s official flower!

I know my seed catalogs are coming in now and I want to mark yellow dots by the good bee plants! Check out Sustainable Seed Company they are in Cazadero, California and have a beneficial insect mix that contains California Buckwheat, coriander, baby's breath, California Poppy, California Blue Bell, yarrow, white alyssum, rose clover, crimson clover and tidy tips.

 

 

 

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