Bees 101: Bee Friendly Plants for the Honey Flow Season

Honey Flow is a Season for the Bees

The “honey flow” is when there is an abundance of nectar from the flower and trees that are blooming.  Honey flow can happen at different times of the year in different parts of the country.  The most common time is spring when everything is starting to bloom.  It is almost certain that once the Red Maples start to bloom in my area, about a month later the honey flow will be starting.

Red Maples in Bloom

Red Maples in Bloom

Honey Flow Season Varies From Year to Year (Depending on Weather)

This can vary from year to year.  The honey flow can be set back by colder temperatures or it can be sped up by warmer temperatures.   The amount of rain that is received can also determine how long the honey flow lasts.  Conditions with no rain will dry up the flowers and shorten the honey flow and good amounts of rain each week can extend the flowering time and extend the honey flow.

Dead Nettle – It’s Not a Weed !!

My yard is a myriad of different green plants.  Many people may say that I have a yard of weeds, but many of those “weeds” are food sources for my honeybees.  Dead Nettle is one of those plants.  It is a very important  source of both pollen and nectar in the early spring when there may be a shortage of other food sources.  I let it grow and bloom so that my bees can feast on the blooms.  A couple of other early spring sources of food for the bees are dandelion and clover.  Chuck the herbicide and keep the bees!

Dead Nettle

Dead Nettle

The Tulip Poplar – A Big Source of Nectar in The South

One of the best sources of nectar in the spring in my area is the Tulip Poplar flower.  It is a huge yellow, white and orange bloom that opens about 2-3 weeks after the tree has leafed out.  The flower is the perfect size for the honeybee to get into to draw out the nectar.  When this tree is blooming, it is very unlikely that the honeybee will  go to any other flower until this tree has stopped blooming.  In the South, this flower is the source of most of the spring nectar during the honey flow.

Tulip Poplar Flower

Tulip Poplar Flower

Plant Bee Friendly Plants in Your Garden

You can grow flowers for the bees all summer long.  Some other sources of nectar and pollen for the bees are Bee Balm, Cat Mint, Hyssop, Sunflowers and lavendar…just to name a few.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

 

Lavendar

Lavendar

How Honey Flow Leads to Honey for Us!

The bees take the nectar and pollen back to the hive to feed the young and the Queen, but during the honey flow there is an over abundance of nectar that the bees make into honey.  The bees will fill up the hive body first, because having their food close to the brood is very essential, but when the hive body is full, the bees need somewhere else to put the honey.  That is where me, the Beekeeper, will provide the bees with a “super”.  A “super” is half the height of  the hive body and fits directly on top of the hive body.  The reason that the super is half the size of the hive body is because a full super of honey can weigh 50 pounds.  The Beekeeper keeps a watchful eye on the super.  When it is full, he adds another, and another, and another, until honey flow is over.  The beekeeper knows when the honey flow is over when that last super just doesn’t fill up.

Keep following my blog posts on beekeeping.  Find out how we extract the honey!

For more bee-friendly plant info, see:

-Gladys Hutson
North Carolina -Union County Extension Master Gardener
Union County Beekeeper’s Assoc.

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2 Responses to “Bees 101: Bee Friendly Plants for the Honey Flow Season”

  1. Ray Eckhart says:

    I understand that in more temperate regions, the tulip poplar is also an important source of nectar, primarily because its bloom time comes later than most other spring flowers, before the relative dearth of summer sources.

  2. Gladys Hutson says:

    Thanks for the comment Ray. I am not sure how far north the tulip poplar flouishes, but in the South, it is a major source of nectar. While in bloom, the bees prefer it over most other blooming flowers.