Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Willow Blossoms (Catkins)

A variety of willow trees, wild and cultivated, provide an awesome hit of pollen and nectar for Newfoundland honey bees in the early spring.

Willow blossoms, or catkins, in Flatrock. (May 6th, 2021.)

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.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Colts Foot

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.

Colts Foot finally blooming in Flatrock. (May 1st, 2021.)

I’m not a flower expert, so getting these things wrong from time to time is in the realm of possibility for me.

Honey Bee Friendly Flowers: Poppies

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):
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Elderberry

I’ve been told by people with a better eye for flowers than me that this is likely a variant of Elderberry, probably Sambucus canadensis.

Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis (August 20th, 2019, Portugal Cove, NL.)

My honey bees seem to like it, though I didn’t get a photo of a honey bee on it in this series of photos.
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Orange Hawkweed

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.

It looks similar to Colts Foot, but apparently it isn’t. Either way, I’ve seen honey bees on it, so it’s now on my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list.

Alder Bushes and Birch Trees Can Provide Pollen for Honey Bees

I’ve written about Alder Bushes before as one of the honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland, but I’ve never posted any video of honey bees on alder bushes. So here it is:

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.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Yellow Rocket (Wild Mustard)

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.
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Malva Moschata

I recently found these flowers growing around the edges of my gravel driveway.

2016-07-25 11.47.29

According to my friendly neighbourhood person who knows these things, the flowers are called Malva Moschata, sometimes referred to as Musk Mallow.

Malva Moschata makes an appearance. (July 25, 2016.)

Malva Moschata makes an appearance. (July 25, 2016.)

They’ve shown up, not in large numbers, in the past week.

Malva Moschata (July 25, 2016.)

Malva Moschata in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (July 25, 2016.)

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.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Lupins

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. (July 04, 2016.)

Lupins. (July 04, 2016.) Click the image for a prettier enlarged view.

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.

Lupins. (July 04, 2016.)

Lupins. (July 04, 2016.)

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!

Out of focus honey bee on Lupins. (July 16, 2016.)

Out of focus honey bee on Lupins in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (July 16, 2016.)

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Colts Foot Meadow Hawkweed

    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.

Field of yellow flowers, possibly Colts Foot? (July 1st, 2016.)

Field of yellow flowers, possibly Colts Foot? (July 1st, 2016.)

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.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Buttercups

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).

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

I’ve never seen a honey bee on a buttercup, but I know they go for buttercups, so I’ve added buttercups, or Ranunculus, to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list.

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

Buttercup in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland (June 28, 2016.)

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.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Alder Bush

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:

A source of pollen for honey bees in Flatrock, Newfoundland on May 25, 2016.

A source of pollen for honey bees in Flatrock, Newfoundland, on May 25, 2016.

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.

The unfurled version of the flower in Flatrock, Newfoundland on May 25, 2016.

The unfurled version of the flower in Flatrock, Newfoundland on May 25, 2016.

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.
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Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage

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.

Honey bees in Newfoundland, or at least where I live on the eastern part of the island, aren’t likely to see any pollen until April when crocuses begin to poke through the soil.

Honey bee on crocus  (April, 13, 2011).

Honey bee on crocus (April, 13, 2011).


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.

Honey bee on dandelion (May 26, 2011).

Honey bee on dandelion (May 26, 2011).


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.
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Autumn Joy (Sedum)

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.

Honey bee on Autumn Joy in Flatrock, NL (Sept. 20, 2015.)

Honey bee on Autumn Joy in Flatrock, NL (Sept. 20, 2015.)


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.
Cell phone photo of Autumn Joy in Flatrock, Newfoundland (Sept. 20, 2015.)

Cell phone photo of Autumn Joy in Flatrock, Newfoundland (Sept. 20, 2015.)

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Asters (or Daisies)

Many of the honey bee friendly flowers I’ve photographed this year grow in or around my new beeyard, including this daisy-like flower:

Honey bee on some blue flower in Flatrock, Newfoundland (Aug. 24, 2015.)

Honey bee on some Aster flowers in Flatrock, Newfoundland (Aug. 24, 2015.)
Click the images to see more detail.

It’s a member of the Aster genus of plants.

Honey bee on blue flower in Flatrock, NL (Aug. 24, 2015.)

Honey bee on Aster flowers in Flatrock, NL (Aug. 24, 2015.)

I’m not sure exactly what species grows in my beeyard, so we’ll just go with Aster for now.
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Knapweed

I saw this honey bee on some Knapweed close to the water (i.e., the Atlantic Ocean) in Flatrock today, right at the entrance to the East Coast Trail.

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 17, 20150)

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 17, 2015)


I’ve heard that honey bees will go for Knapweed, but today is the first time I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (August 17, 2015.)

Honey bee on Knapweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland. (August 17, 2015.)


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.

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Thistle (Aug. 17, 2015.)

Cell phone shot of honey bee on Knapweed (Aug. 17, 2015.)

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.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Honey Clover

I noticed all kinds of bee-like creatures — bumblebees, honey bees, flies that look like honey bees — descending on some weedy looking plant in an overgrown flower box next to my driveway today. I sent this photo of the plant out into the ether and was informed almost immediately that it’s White Sweet Clover, or Melilotus Albus — also known as Honey Clover.

White seed clover blooming in Flatrock, Newfoundland, in overgrown flower box next to my driveway. (August 14, 2015.)

White Sweet Clover blooming in Flatrock, Newfoundland, in an overgrown flower box next to my driveway. (August 14, 2015.)


I had a hard time photographing the bees on the flowers. This is the best I could do:

Honey bee on White Sweet Clover in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 14, 2015.)

Honey bee on White Sweet Clover in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 14, 2015.)


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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Fireweed

Fireweed, or Chamerion angustifolium, is a honey bee friendly flower that blossoms usually by the first week of August on the island of Newfoundland. (Click images for a better view.)

Honey bee on Fireweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 11, 2015.)

Honey bee on Fireweed in Flatrock, Newfoundland (August 11, 2015.)

Some parts of the island see Fireweed before others.

Cell phone snapshot of fireweed in Eastport, Newfoundland. (August 9, 2015.)

Cell phone snapshot of fireweed in Eastport, Newfoundland. (August 9, 2015.)


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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Purple Clover

Honey bee on Purple Clover (July 26, 2015.)

Honey bee on Purple Clover in Flatrock, NL (July 26, 2015.)

I saw a honey bee on some Purple Clover yesterday (some call it Red Clover), so let’s add it to the list of honey bee friendly flowers: Trifolium medium, also known as Zigzag Clover. That’s my best guess, anyway.

Honey bees can’t access the nectar in Purple/Red Clover as well as they can from White Clover, so it’s not something I’d go out of my way to plant, but neither will I mow it down if it’s growing in my lawn.

JUNE 30, 2016: I saw Purple Clover in blossom as early as June 15th this year.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: White Clover

Although it’s been in bloom for a while, I’ll now add White Clover, or Trifolium repens, to my list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland because I actually saw a honey bee on some today near the university.

White Clover in St. John's, Newfoundland (July 23, 2015.)

White Clover in St. John’s, Newfoundland (July 23, 2015.)


I snapped these photos with my mobile phone today. Nothing special, but it does the job.
White clover with out-of-focus honey bee. (July 23, 2015.)

White clover with out-of-focus honey bee in St. John’s, NL. (July 23, 2015.)

JUNE 30, 2016: I’ve seen White Clover in bloom this year as early and June 15th.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Dogberry

Another honey bee friendly flower that grows abundantly on the island of Newfoundland is Showy Mountain Ash, Sorbus decora, or as it’s commonly known, Dogberry.

Dogberry blossoms in St. John's, NL (June 23, 2015).

Dogberry blossoms in St. John’s, NL (June 23, 2015).

Again, a big reminder to wannabe beekeepers in St. John’s that your honey bees would be all over these flowers, collecting pollen and sucking up nectar to make their honey. There is no shortage of nectar for honey bees in St. John’s.

Honey bee landing on Dogberry blossoms in Flatrock, NL (June 27, 2015).

Honey bee landing on Dogberry blossoms in Flatrock, NL (June 27, 2015).

These blossoms turn into hard bunches of bright red berries that stay on the trees well into winter and provide a food source for wintering birds.
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Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Sorrel

A red weedy looking plant popped up in my new beeyard a week or two ago, the kind of plant that looks to my eye like something I’d see in the woods in a clearing alongside an old logging road.

Honey bee on sorrel (June 27, 2015).

Honey bee on sorrel in Flatrock, NL (June 27, 2015).

Tiny flowers bloomed on the red weedy plant a couple days ago and today, even though it’s a cold hazy day like it’s been all week, the bees were all over the flowers.

Honey bee collecting sorrel pollen in Flatrock, NL (June 27, 2015).

Honey bee collecting sorrel pollen in Flatrock, NL (June 27, 2015).

I was informed today that the plant is called Sorrel and the leaves are edible, kind of the tangy side, though not so delectable for humans once they’ve gone to seed. (It’s also possible to grow it.)
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Collecting Propolis

Here’s an out-of-focus cellphone shot of a honey bee in my beeyard collecting propolis from what I’m guessing is a Black Spruce tree (though it could be White Spruce for all I know):

Honey bee collecting propolis from spruce tip. (June 27, 2015.)

Honey bee collecting propolis from spruce tip. (June 27, 2015.)

April 13th, 2016: I’ve decided to add spruce trees to my Newfoundland Honey Bee Forage list. The bees collect sap to make propolis and probably very little or zero pollen or nectar, but close enough.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Blueberry Blossoms

I’ve seen honey bees explore blueberry blossoms around my house and quickly move on to something else. They don’t seem too interested in blueberries. But seeing how honey bees are used to pollinate blueberries, I’ll add blueberries to the list of honey bee friendly flowers in Newfoundland.

Blue Berry blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 26, 2015.)

Blue Berry blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 26, 2015.)

Not the greatest photo of a blueberry bush, I know. I’ll replace it with something better if I can remember to take a better photo some day.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Plum Blossoms

Well, I’ll be damned. Someone gave me a plum tree as a housewarming gift. I like it and so do the bees (though I couldn’t manage to get a shot of a bee on the blossoms). It’s an unnatural plum tree, a hybrid, so I’ll just skip the scientific name and go with the Wikipedia entry for Plum.

Out of focus cell phone photo of plum blossoms. (June 17, 2015.)

Out of focus cell phone photo of plum blossoms in Flatrock, NL. (June 17, 2015.)

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Chuckley Pear

I recently noticed honey bees on these Chuckley Pear blossoms…

Chuckley Pear blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 11, 2015).

Chuckley Pear blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 10, 2015).

…so I’m adding Chuckley Pears to my list of honey bee friendly flowers (in eastern Newfoundland, at least). As with most wild berries, it goes by several names: shadbush, serviceberry, juneberry, saskatoon berry, etc.

Chuckley Pear blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 11, 2015).

Chuckley Pear blossoms in Flatrock, Newfoundland (June 10, 2015).

My 60-second Wikipedia research tells me the Chuckley Pear is called Amelanchier, though the particular species in these here parts is probably Amelanchier Canadensis.

Thanks to everyone who identified the blossoms for me.

Honey Bee Friendly Flower: Maple Blossoms

June 2019 Introduction: I have read several accounts of honey bees making an early spring honey from Red Maple blossoms, usually on the west coast of North America. I don’t see many of those trees where I live on the east coast of Newfoundland, but regular maple trees, whatever you want to call them, are abundant in urban areas of the island. This post was written on the assumption if honey bees collect Red Maple nectar, they must be able to collection nectar from regular maples trees too.

The city of St. John’s may be one of the best places to keep honey bees on the island of Newfoundland because it’s full of maple trees and a large variety of flowering plants that offer honey bees a bonanza of nectar and pollen from June well into October. Walk around the city today and you will see flowering maple trees everywhere with little flowers that look like this.

A maple tree flower in St. John's, NL (June 09, 2015.)

A maple tree flower in St. John’s, NL (June 09, 2015.)

I took that photo on my cell phone and I know it’s not the greatest, but if St. John’s had more beekeepers, honey bees would be all over those flowers — and honey made from maple nectar is spectacular.

The quantity, diversity and consistency of honey bee forage makes the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland, an excellent place to keep bees. (Just make sure your neighbours don’t mind.)

March 6th, 2016: I found this photo from 2011 that shows flowers on a maple tree, the kind of flowers that hang down in long bunch. The bees supposedly go for these too.

Maple blossoms in St. John's, Newfoundland. (June 19, 2011.)

Maple blossoms in St. John’s, Newfoundland. (June 19, 2011.)

Not the greatest photo but good enough.

May 27th, 2016: The maple tree flowers show up as early as May. Nice.

Maple blossoms in St. John's, Newfoundland (May 26, 2016.)

Maple blossoms in St. John’s, Newfoundland (May 26, 2016.)