At the past club meeting Gerard started giving his initial thoughts on doing plantings for the bees. Here are a few pointers from my experience.
-Trees won't really bloom in quantity until they mature, which can take up to 8 years. However, trees have the potential of providing much more nectar and pollen due to their vertical rise for a given area of land.
-It takes acres of plants to supply an apiary. An acre of sweet clover has the potential of about 160 pounds of honey. That's really only enough for one hive if you consider both their consumption during summer and storage for winter.
-Select plants that tend to bloom in dearth periods when the bees need the most help.
-Although I plant trees and flowers to help I have come to realize the impact I can make is really minimal. A few hundred flowering plants is only a drop in the bucket when you consider the foraging range of a bee colony; roughly 3 miles radius or 28 square miles. If you do plant flowers try to select some that a self-spreading; such as asters or obedient plant.
-I've also tried some pollinator mixes. Although they give a good mix of flowers it’s still expensive if you are planting a large area. Something like $1000 per acre!
Seed and Plant Suppliers: American Meadows, Prairie Nursery by Westfield, Prairie Moon Nursery
-You will find using seed the cheapest, but buying flats of started plants is probably the most successful. Using seeds requires a lot of site preparation and be prepared for low germination rates. A flat of asters (36) is about $100. You can easily drop $500 on seed and plants and initially wonder why you did it. It takes time (several years) for perennials to establish themselves and still they don't cover a lot of area.
-Asters and obedient plant are self-spreading via rhizomes. If you have more time than money you can establish a stand of these and then after several years begin transplanting. Asters and sedum are good plants for your yard or along buildings or fence lines.
So if you want to plant for the bees do it out of your good intentions, rather than expecting your colonies to significantly strengthen or become more productive.
High Nectar/Pollen Trees and Flowers
(listed in approx. bloom date)
-Little leaf linden (tree)
-Sweet clover (needs large areas)
-Alsike (needs large areas)
-BeeBee Tree (tree)
-Shiny sumac (bush)
-Japanese Pagoda Tree (tree)
-Obedient plant-good for wet areas-slightly invasive
-Chinese Sumac (bush)