Honey Bee on Thistle Flower
Honey Bee on Thistle Flower Image
Feeding the Bees

In order to keep a bee colony thriving, it helps to provide them with easy access to food. While it might sound a daunting task to feed 50,000 hungry mouths, it's really quite simple.

Supplemental Feed

Early in the season, I feed a special herbal bee-tea that helps build the bees' immune systems.
  • Combine a 1/2 tsp. of Celtic sea salt with local herbs like, thyme, dandelion and chamomile
  • Steep for 15 minutes in boiling water
  • Add one gallon of water and 10 lbs. white cane sugar to the mixture and stir until dissolved
Cool this simple syrup and put into a bee feeder in front of the hive!

Planting "Food" for Bees

Illustration: Honey Bee Each year to support the bees health, I plant several new perennials, annuals and flowering trees containing nectar and pollen. In addition, I never cut clover that blooms in my lawn as this is a favorite nectar source for the bees. I also let huge islands of grass grow long and keep a meadow full of wildflowers for the bees.

While the variety of plants providing pollen and nectar for the bees is numerous, I’ve listed a few here that I've found to be favorites with the bees:

Name Type Location Nectar/Pollen Notes
Blackberry Bush Field, Intentional Cultivation Poor nectar and pollen source  
Blueberry Bush Wild, Field, Intentional Cultivation Good nectar and pollen source Spring/ summer - Increases fruiting
Inkberry/Winterberry Bush Field Pollen  
Joe Pye Weed Bush Field Nectar and pollen Mid-summer. Will naturalize - great bee plant to introduce in fields
Raspberry Bush Field, Intentional Cultivation Good pollen Summer
Staghorn Sumac Bush Woodland Edge Good pollen Fall - Can be used in smoker for the bees to calm them down
Viburnum Bush Field / Woodland Good pollen Abundant flowers
Flowers / Cover Crops
Alfalfa Flower Field, Intentional Cultivation Nectar Summer / Abundant
Aster Flower Field    
Chamomile Herb, Medicinal Garden Pollen Late Spring / Summer
Thyme Herb, Medicinal Garden / Path Edge Pollen Spring / Helps strengthen bees' immune systems
Borage Plant Garden Nectar Summer / Flowers are beautiful and the bees love this!
Dandelion Plant Anywhere Pollen / Nectar Spring / Summer - Enormous pollen collection - Strengthens immune system - Makes pollen bright yellow
Goldenrod Plant Fields Pollen Late Summer / Fall - Strengthens bees / medicinal feed throughout winter months
Mint Plant / Herb Garden Pollen / Nectar Summer / Let mint come to flower for pollen and nectar
Clover, Alsike Plant, Low-Growing Lawn, Ground, Field Nectar Summer - Great choice to cultivate, very prolific
Clover, Red Plant, Medicinal Field Nectar - Very poor choice for the honeybee, but great for the bumblebee Summer / Though only in drought and excessive rainy season - to shorten flower for bees proboscis or extensive nectar flow
Clover, White Plant, Low-Growing Lawn, Field Nectar Summer - Most abundant flower for honey run
Echinacea Plant, Medicinal Garden Pollen Late Summer
Almond Tree Orchard Pollen / Nectar Spring / Pollination increases fruiting
Basswood Tree Field Nectar Spring - Needs hot humid days to secrete, results in amazing tasting honey, keep in the field!
Fruit Trees:
Apple, Plum, Pear, Cherry, Nectarine, Persimmon
Tree Orchard Pollen / Nectar Spring - Bees increase fruit yield!
Linden Tree Woodland / Ornamental Pollen / Nectar Adds to flavor of honey
Maple Trees:
Sugar, Red, Silver
Tree Woodland / Landscape Green pendulous flowers / Red flowers Spring - Early Food Supply
Poplar Tree Woodland Enormous source of nectar Imparts a sweet caramel flavor to honey
Shadbush Tree Inner Woodland Pollen / Nectar Early Spring - Enormous volume of berries
Sourwood Tree Inner Woodland Enormous Nectar source in flowers with up-righted cups Favorite honey in the south - buy this if you can, cultivate trees in the meantime

Other Bee Notes:
  • Bees need a water source; I have a small pond for them in the orchard.
  • Weather - according to legend John Lovell, bees need vigorous rain for abundant nectar and then hot dry seasons as bees can’t work in wet conditions.

Honey Bee Resources - Educate Yourself!


Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture
Ross Conrad, Chelsea Green Publishing 1997 reprint [ISBN-10: 1933392088]

Bees, with an afterword on the Art of Joseph Beuys
Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophic Press 1998 [ISBN-10: 0880104570]

Honey Plants of North America
John H. Lovell, A. I. Root Company, 1926 [ISBN-10: 0936028203]

A Spring without Bees: How Colony Collapse Disorder Has Endangered Our Food Supply
Michael Schacker, forward by Bill McKibben, The Lyons Press 2008 [ISBN-10: 1599216000]


Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary - www.spikenardfarm.org

The Pfeiffer Center, Spring Valley, NY - www.pfeiffercenter.org
Honeybee classes and biodynamic farming courses.

Sources for Beekeeping Supplies:

Betterbee - www.betterbee.com

Brushy Mountain Bee Supply - www.brushymountainbeefarm.com

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