Introduction: It’s impressive to see how many wild flowers will grow in exposed soil when the soil is simply left alone. I once moved into a house with a gravel driveway and one half of the driveway was never used. Everything seemed to grow in that gravel and dirt, every kind of clover, bush, vine — you name it, it grew there. And all I did was leave it alone. I saw more of my honey bees, bumble bees and other native pollinators over on those flowers than anywhere else. So maybe planting flowers to “save the bees” isn’t necessary. Maybe all we need to do is expose some soil to the wind and see what happens. In any case, here’s a list of flowers, both wild and cultivated, that my honey bees seem to be attracted to. This list was last updated in August 2019 when I added Cow Vetch.
And crocuses aren’t even a natural source of pollen. They’re popular in some suburban neighbourhoods, but most honey bees elsewhere won’t find natural pollen until May when the dandelions come into bloom.
I say this because I’ve casually documented every honey bee on a flower I’ve seen in Newfoundland since I started beekeeping in 2010. So far I’ve documented over 30 flowers that qualify in my mind as Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage. My list is by no means comprehensive, but it provides me with a general idea of what to expect throughout the year.
April: Crocuses in suburban areas, but usually nothing.
June: Dogberry, Sorrel, Blueberry Blossoms, Plum Blossoms, Chuckley Pear, Maple Blossoms, Apple Blossoms, Spruce Tips, Buttercups and Lupins.
July: Purple Clover, White Clover, Comfrey, Strawberry Blossoms, Orange Hawkweed, Malva Moschata and Colts Foot. It might look like not much happens in July, but many of the flowers that blossom in June continue to flower into July. The same holds for flowers that blossom in other months too. I’ve seen more than a few honey flows peak near the end of July.
August: Asters (or Daisies), Cow Vetch, Knapweed, Honey Clover (or White Sweet Clover), Fireweed, Sea Holly, Goldenrod and False Spiraea. I haven’t listed the flowers in the order in which they bloom because the bloom dates vary significantly due to local environmental factors. Even from year to year the bloom dates can be different by several weeks. For instance, the first time I noticed Fireweed blooming was in August, but the following year it showed up in early July and was in bloom almost right into the fall. So there’s a lot of variation and a lot of overlap.
September: Autumn Joy (Sedum), Morning Glory and Japanese Knotweed.
Although the seasons are delayed in Newfoundland, the summers often brutally short and nothing in bloom for six months of the year, once the flowers do arrive, there doesn’t seem to be any significant nectar dearth and the bees make the most of it. Some humans do too.
* While I’ve yet to see anything blossom in October or November, I’ve seen some plants such as Goldenrod and even Honey Clover linger in small patches long after everything else had died off.