According to US Department of Agriculture, beekeepers loose about 30 percent of their hives during winter.
Although there are a number of theories why honeybees are dying in record numbers - one out of every three fruit or vegetable we eat is courtesy of honeybee pollination - not having enough good pollen sources is sometimes mentioned as one of the factors.
After getting my two honeybee hives settled in, I thought I would find a list of favorite honeybee plants and start adding them to my garden. I was hoping some of them would be my favorite garden flowers but it wasn't that easy.
First, honeybees don't dart around. Once they find a pollen source, they farm one area and even share the location with other honeybees through a little dance. They may also travel up to 1.5 to 2 miles to locate pollen, so to produce a certain flavored honey, honeybees have to be given access to 8,000 acres of just one crop. Honeybees also have color preference. They prefer blue and yellow flowers, as opposed to hummingbirds and butterflies, who prefer flowers in the pink to purple range. That explains why dandelions are a favorite early, sometimes first spring honeybee pollen source, as well as fall's yellow wildflower goldenrod and my hummingbird feeders full of sugar water.
According to "The Hive and the Honey Bee" by Dadant and Sons, the following are favorite honeybee flowers: Alfalfa; Asters; Basil; Blackberry; Button Bush; Catnip; Chickweed; Chicory; Red and White Clover; Coneflower; Dandelion; Goldenrod; Honeysuckle; Locust; Milkweed; (yikes) Poison Ivy and Poison Oak; Privet: Redbud; Sage; Sumac; Thyme; Willow and Yellow Rocket. In terms of fruits and vegetables, honeybees are also fond of Cantaloupe; Cucumber; Gourds: Melon; Pumpkin; Soybeans: Lima Beans; Squash. Apples; Apricot; Cherry; Peach; Plums and (photo) Pears.
I have to confess, when my garden was up for "inspection" before my two beehives arrived, I was very nervous. I knew not using pesticides over the years was good, but I couldn't imagine what else honeybees would need besides a good source of pollen. Turns out a source of water is important, and honeybees don't particularly like clean water; they're attracted to water with a little taste to it, like leaves. Honeybees also need a spot where hives are protected from weather elements but still have a clear flight path. The idea is to minimize cold winds getting into hive entrances; bee wings will freeze at certain temperatures. So far, my honeybee hives seem to be doing well. May-July is the peak of honey-making, and one of my hives is doing exceptionally well. The hive named after Mildred, my grandmother, has one super full of gorgeous yellow gold honey, a second super half full and I added a third one last weekend.
I wasn't sure how the bees would react to having two top, honeybee full floors, or supers, moved to make room for a third one. Except for raising the noise level in the hive when I applied smoke to gently move them down into the hive, the process went smoothly. The new super is designed to help bees produce easy-to remove comb honey.
I'm not sure I put them together correctly but that's part of the adventure!