Once again I am counting my blessings as knapweed, the invasive scourge of my little valley, provides an abundance of nectar and pollen to fill my bees’ hives. Sweet peas and Queen Anne’s Lace are also blooming but offer little in the way of forage for honey bees. Good nutrition and ample stores are critical to winter survival, so I decided earlier this season to address what at best is a narrow diet and at worst a complete dearth for my bees. A little research revealed that there are quite a few late-season nectar plants that could provide a good quality and quantity of stores if we can add them to our landscapes. I got to experiment with just a few this spring…
Borage (Borago officinalis), a tried and true bee favorite, did well in my garden last year, so I planted two flats this spring. It began blooming in late May and continues even in August’s heat. I also started Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), Hairy Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and two members of the Aster family; Sky Blue Aster (Aster oolentangiensis) and Aromatic Aster (Aster oblongifolious). These perennials won’t bloom appreciably until their second year, so I will need to be patient and report on them later. The Korean Evodia (Bee Bee Tree, Tetradium daniellii) seeds I purchased germinated well, but it will be years before they supply the copious amounts of nectar alluded to in the LCBA’s August 2014 newsletter. Last year, I was able to establish a few Silphium perfoliatum, a.k.a, Cup Plants. Flower stalks began stretching up this June and are now blooming much taller than I am and attracting many species of bees. Not only does this plant produce serious amounts of nectar, but it’s also grown as a nutritious forage plant for livestock.
Fall is a good time to sow the seeds of some pollinator plants; many species require winter’s cold to germinate. Cooler weather also provides an excellent opportunity to establish potted perennials. Now’s the time think about next year’s dearth…what do you suggest?