Top Trees for Bees & Other Pollinators
When choosing plants that provide food for bees one type of plant is often overlooked – TREES. If your desire is to have more flowers for bees, planting some blooming trees for bees is a great first step.
Of course, not every tree provides food for bees. Some plants even repel bees because they don’t need them.
But some of the blooming trees can give a big boost to hungry bees – especially in the early Spring.
On average, trees bloom for a shorter time than some other types of plants. However, they provide a lot of bee food over their short bloom time.
Even a small tree can provide a bee colony with a large amount of nectar in 1 central location.
Before buying a tree for your garden or yard, take a moment to look around. Do you see any trees that are already in place and beneficial to bees?
If so, consider planting a tree that will bloom at a different time. Filling in the “food gaps” or time when other things are not in bloom is one good way to help save bees.
Also, the nectar or pollen provided by each plant is slightly different. By providing bees with a variety of food sources we are promoting better bee health.
Early Flowering Trees for Bees
As the Winter months begin to wind down, early Spring bees are hungry and anxious to get started on the new season.
In my region, the native Red Maple trees (Acer rubrun) are one of the earlier nectar providers for bees.
In a warm Winter season, it is not uncommon to see Red Maple pollen being brought in to the hive in January. This fresh pollen and nectar is one of the first signals to the colony that Spring is coming.
Red Maples grow wild here – so most people do not bother to plant them. See them here on Amazon ( Red Maple Tree).
However, if you live in a neighborhood lacking a woodland area-this is one tree to consider.
As with any type of plant, consider your space and growing region when choosing trees for bees to go in your landscape. Some trees are messy or unsuited for small areas.
If the idea of a large Red Maple doesn’t appeal to you, the small Japanese Maple “Bloodgood” (Acer palmatum atropurpureum ‘Bloodgood’ ) attracts bees to the blooms in my yard each year.
It does bloom a bit later in the Spring but is a good candidate for small spaces. The blooms of this Japanese Maple are very small but the bees enjoy visiting them.
Wild Cherry trees (Prunus avium) are another early blooming food source for honey bees. Because parts of the plants are poisonous, most people do not choose them for a yard tree.
However, you will see them blooming along the roadsides in early Spring. They provide important early nectar for growing bee colonies.
Good Small Trees for Bees
The Easter Redbud tree (C. candadensis) is just about the perfect tree in my opinion. This native tree grows throughout most of the Eastern US.
Several different cultivars have been developed as well. As a smaller under-story tree, the Redbud fits into any garden plan. I rarely have fewer than 4 or 5 growing in my yard.
In early Spring, this tree blooms before leaves appear. Beautiful magenta blooms attract bees and other pollinators for several weeks. It is an important early pollen sources for many types of bees – not just honey bees.
Another tree that is a good fit for smaller spaces is the Crape Myrtle. There are many cultivars of this plant available for purchase.
Some sources claim that bees do not visit Crape Myrtle blooms. My bees however have not read those books and visit my blooming Natchez Crape Mytrle (Lagerstroemia x Natchez) in late Spring/Early Summer.
During this time, the big Spring bloom time is over. My Crape Myrtle provides some fresh food for the bee colonies in a time when many other things are not in bloom.
The Natchez Crape myrtle is a beautiful specimen plant with peeling cinnamon bark. See here on Amazon ( Natchez Crape Myrtle)
Another popular tree for beekeepers is the Yellow Popular or Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). Locally, we just call these “popular trees”.
This large native tree is fast growing with large beautiful leaves.
Each Spring huge yellow and orange blossom fill the top of the tree. In a year when nectar production is good and flying weather cooperates, you can stand under the tree and hear the buzzing bees in the top.
Popular honey is a local favorite. A strong colony can make a good honey crop from the bloom of this tree.
However, these trees get quite large and are only suitable for those with lots of space. They need room to grow as they get rather tall.
These are only a few ideas to help you find a good tree for feeding your bees. Before planting, consult the growing requirements for any tree that you consider.