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
Amelanchier spp. – Serviceberry
Calendula – marigolds
Convallaria majalis – Lily of the Valley
Crocus – genus of flowering plants in the iris family
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
Late May to Early June – First Pollen Spike
Echinacea purpurea – Eastern Purple Coneflower
Hypericum spp. – St. John’s Wort
Liriodendron tulipifera – Tulip Tree
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
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.
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
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.