Honey bees seem to like onions going to seed, so let’s add onions to the list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland.
A variety of willow trees, wild and cultivated, provide an awesome hit of pollen and nectar for Newfoundland honey bees in the early spring.
I used to think Dandelions provided the first pollen for the bees in my climate, but it seems like Colts Foot might have the jump on the Dandelions, and Willow Catkins are a close second. When I see my bees bring in yellow pollen in the month of May (when it’s warm enough for the bees to forage), it could be from Dandelion, Colts Foots or Willow Catkins. It’s possible to see the difference between all these pollens as the bees bring them back to the hive, but that’s another story. Either way, willows are now on my list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland.
The first time I wrote about Colts Foot, I got it wrong. It was probably Meadow Hawkweed, which seems to bloom around July in my part of Newfoundland. Colts Foot (or Tussilago) shows up in May, even earlier in warmer inland areas of Newfoundland. In any case, the bees like it, so it’s going on my list of Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage.
I’m not a flower expert, so getting these things wrong from time to time is in the realm of possibility for me.
First of all, photographing honey bees and doing it well boils down to 90% bad luck and 10% good luck. The bees in some of these photos are out of focus. That’s how it goes.
Second of all, the colour red in these poppies doesn’t seem real to me. On film, it looks almost fake. But it’s real.
And I forgot my third point, but check out these poppies (click the images for a better view):
ERRATUM: Uh, I guess I was asleep at the wheel when I made this video. The title in the video refers to this flower as Orange Hawkweed, which it definitely is not. I’ll fix that as soon as I can.
Here’s a slowmo video I shot on my cell phone of a honey bee on Cow Vetch (vicia cracca).
If you look closely at the beginning of the video clip, you can see that the honey bee has its tongue (proboscis) stuck in the flower and then yanks it out.
More honey bee friendly flowers in are listed in Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage.
I noticed this flower growing in an area where I may have tossed an envelope of “wild flower” seeds.
Apparently it’s called Orange Hawkweed or Pilosella aurantiaca. It’s a small flower.
October 2019 Postscript: These video clips and photos were taken on my cell phone at a time when I was just beginning to emerge from the cave I’d been living in since December 2016. The medical community calls it Post-Concussion Syndrome. It’s about as much fun as it sounds. The best therapy, better than any physical and neurological therapy, was being outside. In silence. With my bees. Whenever there was a calm in my neurological symptoms, I went outside to enjoy it while I could. I’m slowly digging through those cell phone videos and posting them when I can.
I still think the best way to “save the bees” is not to bother with packs of wild flower seeds. Just take a pile of dirt, leave it alone and let whatever wants to grow in it grow in it. The flowering plants — like wild mustard — that grow in exposed soil are usually more attractive to honey bees and native pollinators than anything I’ve seen come out of seed packets.
I’ve spotted honey bees on this yellow weed that has 10 billion names including wild mustard and Yellow Rocket.
I recently found these flowers growing around the edges of my gravel driveway.
According to my friendly neighbourhood person who knows these things, the flowers are called Malva Moschata, sometimes referred to as Musk Mallow.They’ve shown up, not in large numbers, in the past week. I have yet to notice any honey bees on them, but the Oracle tells me honey bees go for them. As usual, that’s good enough for me to add them to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list. I’ll update this post if I manage to take a photo of a honey bee on one of the flowers.
UPDATE: I’ve seen honey bees on them.
Lupins (also called lupines), like many summer flowers in Newfoundland, show up suddenly after the first heatwave of the summer. (Anything over 20°C / 68°F qualifies as a heatwave in Newfoundland.)
Lupins, which grow mostly on the sides of highways and country roads in large numbers, appeared about two weeks ago during our first (and probably last) heatwave of the summer. I’ve been sitting around in fields of lupins for the past week and haven’t seen a single honey bee go anywhere near them — or any kind of bee for that matter — so I’ve been hesitant to add lupins to my Honey Bee Forage list.But a little Googly action shows loads of photos of honey bees on lupins. That’s good enough for me.
More pollination information on lupins from pollinator.ca: “In some species, honey bees may not be able to trip or open large early flowers, but can do so with smaller flowers later in the season. For large, early flowers, larger bees may be required.”
Also: “Honey bees will readily work lupine, and placing commercial honey bees on the fields produces a highly marketable honey.”
JULY 16, 2016: Found one!
2021 Update: Yeah, I knew I was probably wrong about this. The flowers in these photos are more likely meadow hawkweed, or Pilosella caespitosa. Colts foot looks like this, and it seems to bloom around the month of May, probably sooner in the warmer inland areas of Newfoundland.
Another yellow flower that seems to appear as the last of the dandelions are going to seed: Colts Foot, also known as Tussilgo.
Colts Foot can be confused with hawkweed.
I’ve seen honey bees on them enough times to know I can add them to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage List.
By the way, I see Colts Foot well into the fall.
Buttercups have been in bloom around these here parts for the past couple weeks (before that the weather was cold and miserable most of the time).
May 30th, 2020: This plant is sometimes referred to as Creeping Buttercup, which is toxic to grazing animals. I’ve seen honey bees on buttercups a few times, but apparently there is some concern that it could be toxic to honey bees too. If it is, I doubt honey bees will bother it. They’re usually good at avoiding things in the natural environment that aren’t good for them.
June 22nd, 2020: Well, I finally saw honey bees on buttercups:
The bees didn’t stay on them for long, but they seemed willing to give them a taste.
I noticed my bees collecting a light-coloured pollen from a flowering tree today that I’ve never noticed before. Here’s a cellphone shot:
The flowers are not juicy and wet like fruit flowers full of nectar. They’re dry and crumbly and the pollen easily floats away like dust with the slightest disturbance, very much like Sorrel pollen.
Anyone who lives in Newfoundland has probably seen this tree many times growing in the ditches by the side of the road. But I don’t know what it is.
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.
I’ve long heard that sedum plants attract honey bees and other pollinators in a big way, so when I noticed an Autumn Joy sedum, a variant of Hylotelephium telephium, growing beside my new house, I thought I’d witness something great and wonderful. But so far it’s been underwhelming. Bumblebees seem to love it, butterflies, wasps, but not many honey bees.
I’d classify Autumn Joy as a late-season nectar source for honey bees in my area, coming to bloom even later than Japanese Knotweed, which is possibly the very last source of nectar and pollen before the onslaught of winter.
I’ve heard that honey bees will go for Knapweed, but today is the first time I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
Alright, then. So let’s add Knapweed to my list of honey bee friendly flowers in and around the area of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
P.S.: At first I thought the plant was Thistle, but it doesn’t have thorns like Thistle. So I asked around and it was identified as the invasive weed, Knapweed. It’s not the only invasive plant honey bees are able to take advantage of. Honey bees are attracted to Thistle, but I won’t add it to my list until I — correctly — see it with my own eyes.