Spring Solstice and Bee Trees

Bee friends. Forgive me for being away so long. I’ve been on the road and distracted by many things. As I pondered what to write today, I decided to use an article that came to me from a friend. As you can imagine, I collect random tidbits about bees. Friends and family email me, stuff my hands with bee magazine and newspaper articles and fill my snail mailbox with all sorts of bee related news and trivia. Thank you everyone! I learn all kinds of fascinating things about bees from you, and I like to pass it along in Think Like a Bee.

Now that Spring Equinox is right around the corner—Tuesday, March 20 to be exact— I want to get down to business. It’s time to talk about TREES, the gold star of all Spring bee forage.

Tree New Mexico provides a fabulous compendium on the importance of planting flowering trees, since they provide gobs of nectar food for hungry bees coming out of   winter dormancy. Check with your local Master Gardeners club, County Cooperative Extension or local nursery for best tree varieties in your location, climate and elevation.

According to Tree NM, natives and native cultivars work best “and any tree will need supplemental watering for – at least – the first 2-3 years. Be patient and keep in mind the old adage “Sleep, Creep, Leap.” It well-describes the first 3 years of a newly planted tree.


Image result for bees and trees images


Thanks to Heather Harrell and Les Crowder’s Top-Bar Beekeeping (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012) for the following high desert trees—though you in far flung, greener places will also recognize trees below that suit your region:

Fruit Trees – How great is this? Honeybees love the nectar and pollen while they increase fruit set and we get to enjoy the result! Apples, cherries and plums are especially favored by bees. Be advised that ornamental fruit trees are mostly self-pollinating and are therefore less attractive to honeybees while heirloom or native fruits are very attractive.

Willow (Salix sp.) – Many species are New Mexico natives. As early bloomers, willows are very important as a spring source of pollen. Willows have added value for wind and visual screening; basketry material; and some add particular visual interest due to form or bark color.

Image result for desert willow tree images

Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa– Yes, that one! This bane of ranchers produces some of the best light and fragrant honey on the planet and beautiful, hard wood.  As another early source of pollen, the bees really appreciate it. It is a relative of the New Mexico Locust (Robinia neomexicana) and other locust varieties also known to be great bee trees. All are in the pea family, so they fix nitrogen and build soils.

Honey Mesquite

Catalpa (Catalpa sp.– Catalpa trees have very large leaves and have the potential to be large shade trees. While they are great bee trees, they do not typically fare well in the desert Southwest without ongoing supplemental water. And even then they may exhibit defoliation from heat stress.

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Linden (Tilia sp.) – Lindens bloom in midsummer, so they are an important nectar bridge during the hottest months and may be an emergency food source if spring blooms are lost to late frosts. Makes wonderful rich honey.

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Bee Bee Tree (Tetradium danielli) – The name says it all. Bees LOVE this tree. Another midsummer bloomer, it is also called the Korean Evodia tree.


Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum) – small white flowers attract bees to this small shrubby maple, winged seeds helicopter to the ground a little later. One cultivar in particular (Hotwings®) with red seeds and red fall foliage was developed for alkaline soils of the Rocky Mountain west.

Tatarian Maple

Japanese Pagoda (Sophora japonica) – Japanese Pagoda trees are especially valuable to honeybees in mid to late summer when little else is blooming. Profuse white blossoms make it an attractive tree for the home landscape as well.

Other trees – Les mentions tulip poplars and ash trees as important additional forage trees for bees….

Image result for tulip poplar images

Happy Spring tree planting!


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