Trees for Bees

NECTAR AND POLLEN SOURCES

Not all flowers produce pollen and nectar or if they do it is very low in nutritional value to the insects that feed off them especially the honey bees.

The Trees for Bees initiative is designed to identify the good nectar and pollen plant sources and when they yield. Thus urban and rural beekeepers can plant for all year around food sources.

Honey bees obtain their nutritional requirements from the nectar and pollen of flowers and in some instances the honeydew off other insects.

Nectar and honeydew supply energy in the form of sugars, the remainder of the bee’s diet protein, fats vitamins and minerals are provided in the pollen.

The critical periods of the beekeeping year are Spring and Autumn when pollen & nectar sources are low. In the Spring the bee colonies build up in population, from a low winter level before the main nectar flow depending on locality beginning mid-November to mid-December.

Early spring nectar and pollen sources such as willows, barberry and hawthorn may provide a good beginning to this build up period if the weather is suitable for bee flight. Most rural areas are usually scarce of nectar and pollen in October and November. Urban areas can be lured into a false sense of security when there are a lot of flowers around and pollen in the air but they are of no significant value.

This necessitates supplementary feeding sugar syrup and pollen substitutes so the bees can build up to a sufficient level to be honey producing hives and pollinating crops when the time is right.

It is important to note if the bees are fed sugar syrup and there are no pollen resources they use the protein from their muscles to convert the sugar to nectar, this weakening the bees. To produce one frame of bees requires one frame of pollen and one of honey.

This is why planting of species which flower during the void periods is particularly desirable.

Provision of a year-round supply of nectar and pollen is also important for encouraging the spread of bumble bees and solitary bees. Bumble bees and leafcutters are useful for boosting pollination of some crops.

To create your own flowering calender of what bee plants you already have on site and then select plants to fill in pollen supply gaps contact Rae Butler or look at the Trees for Bees website: www.treesforbees.nz.org/HowToPlant