Honey Bee Friendly Plants

The purpose of the Honey Bee Behavior and Ecology Lab at University of Delaware is to create a calendar of bee-collected pollen in the Mid-Atlantic region, and determine the nutritional quality of that pollen. We did this by tracking our own hives, as well as hives at Mount Cuba.

Our pollen calendar revealed spikes in the amount of pollen honey bees bring in. The first spike is in late May to early June. Then the amount of pollen brought into the hive steadily decreases throughout June and July, and spikes again in late August to mid September. The honey bees also collect a medium volume of pollen in March and April. Here are some suggestions of what flowers to plant in each of these spike times to keep your bees healthy and happy!

March to April – Early Season Pollen Resources

Acer – Maple

Amelanchier spp. – Serviceberry

Calendula – marigolds

Convallaria majalis – Lily of the Valley

Coreopsis – Tickseed

Crocus – genus of flowering plants in the iris family

Crocus vernus–Dutch Crocus

Hyacinth spp. – bulbous, fragrant flowering plants in the family Asparagaceae

Hyacinthoides hispanica – Spanish Bluebell

Iris cristata – Dwarf Crested Iris

Phlox – genus of perennial and annunal plants in the family Polemoniaceae

Salix – Willows

Late May to Early June – First Pollen Spike

Cares spp. – Sedge

Delphinium – Larkspur

Echinacea purpurea – Eastern Purple Coneflower

Hypericum spp. – St. John’s Wort

Liriodendron tulipifera – Tulip Tree

Monarda spp.– Beebalm

Prunus – a genus of trees and shrubs, which includes the plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and almonds.

Robinia pseudoacacia – Black Locust

Rubus – Raspberries, Blackberries, and Dewberries

June to July – First Pollen Decrease

Echium spp. – Blueweed, Viper Bugloss

Ilex glabra – Gallberry

Ilex opaca – American Holly

Medicago sativa – Alfalfa

Melilotus officinalis – Yellow Sweet Clover

Rhus spp. – Sumacs

Thistle – In the high lime soil areas of the mid-Atlantic states, June-blooming thistles are extremely valuable for nectar surpluses.

Tilia spp. – Linden Trees

Trifolium repens – White Clover

Trifolium hybridum – Alsike Clover

Trifolium pratense – Red Clover

Vicia spp. – Vetch

August to September – Second Pollen Spike

Aralia spinosa – Devil’s Walkingstick 

Asclepius syriaca – Common Milkweed

Berberis thunbergii – Japanese Barberry

Berberis vulgaris – Common (European) Barberry

Catalpa bignonioides – Southern Catalpa 

Cephalanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush

Clethra tomentosa – White Alder


Diospyros virginiana – Common Persimmon

Koelreuteria paniculata – Goldenrain Tree

Lithium salicaria – Purple Loosestrife

Tetradium daniellii – Beebee Tree

Fall Season

Bidens spp. – Black Jack

Eupatorium ‘Phantom’–Joe-Pye Weed – A good source of surplus honey in the more northern U.S. states

Eupatorium fistulosum – Trumpetweed

Poaceae spp. – Chinese Bamboo

Polygonum spp. – Heartease

Solidago spp. – Goldenrod

Solidago canadensis – Canadian Goldenrod

Solidago sphacelata – Golden Fleece Goldenrod 

Vernon acaulis – Little Ironweed


References and Resources

Ayers, G.S. and J. Harmon. 1992. Bee forage of North America and the Potential for Planting for Bees. In The Hive and the Honey Bee. Dadant & Sons, Inc., Hamilton, IL. Chapter 11, pp. 437 – 535.

Caron, D. M., & Connor, L. J. (2013). Honey bee biology and beekeeping. Kalamazoo, MI: Wicwas Press.

Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware Native Plants for Native Bees

Resources – Identifying Honey Plants

Hooper, Ted and Mike Taylor. 1988. The Beekeeper’s Garden. Alphabooks, London. pp. 152.

Pellet, Frank. 1976. American Honey Plants. Dadant & Sons, Inc. Hamilton, IL, p. 467.