I was feeling quite pleased with myself after finishing my last post on February Bee Forage Plants. I had produced a post that was likely to interest beekeepers, and managed to slip a few Permaculture Principles into it too. However, whilst walking the dogs yesterday, the haze of smugness that was surrounding me parted, and I realised that I had missed out some good February Bee forage plants. Now I never claimed that the post was definitive, but I wanted to include the additional information, so rather than just update the original article, I though that I would write a second post.
More February Bee Forage Plants
In addition to the plants listed in the previous article, there are other useful plants.
Hazel is widely reported as a source of pollen for honeybees. I have not seen any of my bees collecting pollen from hazel, but have still planted lots. As well as providing pollen, hazel gives nuts, firewood, and materials for crafts. A good Permaculture plant.
I have seen my bees on Viburnum Tinus, which is an evergreen flowering shrub. The flowers seem to bloom over an extended period, and are occasionally visited by my bees.
I regularly see my bees on Pulmonaria, along with the occasional early bumble bee. The basal shoots are supposed to be edible, although I’ve never tried them. Pulmonaria is a useful plant, as it can grow in shade, and retains it’s leaves all Winter, providing a useful groundcover.
Another good bee forage plant is Cornelian Cherry. As well as providing early bee forage, it gives a useful fruit. I planted my first whip three years ago, and it produced one flower last year. This year there are more flower buds. I planted fifty whips last year, so am hoping that they will start to produce some flowers this time next year. I also planted fifty cherry plums. They will flower towards the end of the month, when they are old enough.
I’ve read that Forsythia is a decent provider of bee forage, but I never saw any bees on my shrubs last year. They were only a year old, so perhaps there were not enough flowers to interest the bees. There are more flower buds this year, so I’ll know how attractive they are soon, although if they’re flowering at the same time as my willow, it’s possible that it will be ignored.
The early flowering heathers are another popular bee plant. There are quite a few growing in the village,and they are regularly visited by bees.
Finally there are a lot of early flowering varieties of flowering cherry and almond, along with the real almond tree. The double flowered versions are no use for bee forage, but the single flowered ones are. A really useful thing to do is to visit nurseries, gardens, and arboretums, that are close to bee hives. On a decent flying day, it’s really easy to see what plants are visited by bees, and which are ignored.
Of course, further South and West of Lincolnshire, some of the plants that flower in March here,will be flowering in February, and there are plants that I have no experience of, that may also be good sources of forage at this time.
Bee Plants, by Martin Crawford, is an excellent source of information, and I would recommend it.
I hope that the two articles have been useful, and have perhaps encouraged you to plant more early bee forage.
All of the best