Why Red Maple Trees are Important to Honey Bees

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How Red Maple Trees Help Bees

Among the many blooming plants that help bees, the Red Maple tree is one of the most important to honey bee colonies. It is not just because of the food provided by these trees – though these trees do feed bees. It is about the timing of the bloom. And that is why beekeepers in regions with native Red Maples watch for the bloom.

picture of a red maple tree in bloom

Early spring, when a honey bee colony is in need of fresh nectar and pollen.  In some regions,  the time when red maple trees bloom signals the beginning of Spring.  Even though it make still read January on the calendar.

Red Maple Blooms Provide Early Bee Food

When beekeepers see the Red Maple tree in bloom, we known that Spring has arrived for the honey bee colonies. Yes, it may still be winter on the human calendar.  But the bees are planning for Spring.

When do Red Maple Trees Bloom?

A valuable early food source for honeybees, red maple blooms appear while winter still has the land in its grip.  

In my area (upstate South Carolina), this bloom can occur in January some years. But February-March is the most common bloom time.

A reddish tint will begin to show in the tops of the trees. The tiny bloom of the red maple would likely go unnoticed if the tree possessed any leaves. However, the bare tree limbs hold only the tiny red blossoms.

picture of red maple tree in bloom and Fall color

Nectar and Pollen Encourage Brood Production

Red Maple trees produce a lot of pollen and a moderate amount of Maple nectar for over-wintered colonies that are desperate for fresh food.

A honey bee colony routinely reduces the brood nest in late Fall. Shortly after the Winter solstice, life inside the hive begins to change.

The queen bee who may have not been laying eggs at all – starts to lay a few each day.

The increasing length of the day at this time of year and the influx of fresh pollen and nectar (from Red Maples and others trees bees like) encourage the queen bee to lay more eggs.

Do Bees Produce Honey from Red Maple?

While this tree provides important early nectar for honey bees, more regions will not see an excess honey crop from Red Maple trees.

This is due in part to the fact that the hungry bees need the fresh nectar (even if they still have stored honey).

Also, the mid-Winter bloom time occurs when bees can not fly enough to take full advantage of the food source. Some days will be too cold, windy or rainy for the honey bees to fly.

Most beekeepers will not harvest Red Maple honey. Still, it is a very important food source for our bees.

For some colonies, it may make the different between winter survival of the bee colony or death before Spring.

Bumble Bees Benefit Too!

Honey bees are not the only ones that benefit from this rich food source. Our friend the Bumble Bee may make even better use of Red Maples.

Larger and fuzzier than honey bees, Bumbles also fly in cooler weather. Don’t be surprise if you hear the “rumble from a bumble” in your tree on a warmish January day.

Can You Plant Red Maple Trees for Your Bees?

Sure, you can plant these trees for your bees but you may already have them in your region. They are native in many areas of the US.

If you do decide to plant, be sure to choose a location that is good for the tree and will not cause problems for you.

Red Maples reach heights of more than 60 feet and roots can be a problem if planted too close to your home.

The best time to plant red maple trees is fall or very early Spring. You can order Red Maples online too.

The Red Maple is a fast growing tree .  You will have nectar producing red maple blooms in a few short years.

Why are Red Maple Trees so Important to Honey Bee Colonies?

Because Red Maple trees bloom so far ahead of the true nectar season, they help honey bee colonies build up.

The bees need several weeks of population growth so they can have a full work force ready when true Spring arrives.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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2 Comments

  1. Brian & Linda Woodcock Woodcock says:

    help Your info is helpful. Thanks. Brian.

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