We need bees for pollinating our garden, our flowers and the majority of the world’s food crop. The decline in bee populations is an ongoing concern, with questions being posed on how to reverse the trend. We can each do our part, beginning with providing our busy little friends with the best trees for bees in our own yards. Everyone wins – the bees gain pollen and nectar and we gain beautiful flowering trees to enjoy!
A Bit About Bees
There is an amazing amount of information available about the 4,000 different bees in America and the other 16,000 worldwide. In the interest of time and eye strain, we are sharing basic information about the honeybees and bumblebees we have locally, as well as the kinds of trees that will help them thrive.
The life cycle of an average honeybee worker is 15-38 days and up to 200 days in the winter. There is only one queen bee per hive, and she can lay thousands of eggs per day when conditions are optimal and food is plentiful. When a queen honeybee starts to age after a year or two, the hive will hatch a new queen by feeding the larvae a special diet of royal jelly. Honeybees are attached to their hive until they outgrow the current one and swarm to find a new location.
Bumblebees have more of a yearly cycle and are as likely to be found underground in an abandoned tortoise burrow as they are in a hollow tree. They are able to fly in colder temperatures – so you will likely see bumblebees later in the Florida fall and early in the spring. The queen bumblebee and her bees that hold court during one season will die at the end of summer, making way for a new generation that will search out their own burrow or tree to overwinter, repeating the cycle.
Note: It is estimated that the American bumblebee population has declined by 90% in some areas, nearly vanishing from eight states. Pesticides and loss of habitat are contributing factors to the decline, as well as competition from non-native honeybees. Let’s plant more trees so there is plenty of nectar and pollen for all our busy bee friends!
Trees for Bees in Our Zone
Red Maple, Sugar Maple and Silver Maple are all in the Acer family and will provide bees with nectar and sap. The flowers are rich in nectar, and the sap is found from small holes created by woodpeckers or other sap seeking critters. Maples make beautiful shade trees in the summer with a colorful display in fall before the leaves drop. Maples prefer colder temps during the winter months and will do fine in our Zone 8 region.
Eastern Redbuds are native trees that will tolerate shade but are best planted in sun to produce more blooms for bees. Their small pink flowers attract pollinators in early spring. The pollen is a favorite for bees, but the nectar can be challenging for the shorter tongued honeybees. Carpenter, blueberry and bumblebees enjoy both nectar and pollen from redbud blooms.
Serviceberry is often the first tree to show life in the spring with an abundance of nectar-rich white blooms the honeybees and mining bees love. The fruit that comes later in spring is a favorite of birds and is known to make a sweeter pie than blueberries. At an average of 15-20 feet tall, a serviceberry is a great addition to any yard and a must-have for early season bee feeding!
Oak trees and bees are important to each other. Pollinators help to transfer pollen between the male and female flowers that later produce the acorns that feed wildlife or grow into new trees. Honeybees extract nectar from inside the small flowers and bumblebees use their fury bodies to collect pollen.
Black Tupelo is a tree known to like moist, well drained soils, often found in the wild at the edge of ponds and wetlands. The tree offers beautiful fall foliage with displays ranging from yellow to orange, red and rust. Black Tupelos produce small blue-black berries that wildlife and bees use for food. This is not a tree that you want near a sidewalk as the berries will stain concrete and track into a house.
Fruit trees can be very dependent on bees for pollination, with growers often hosting hives in their orchards. For homeowners hoping to give bees seasonal food choices, consider a variety of fruit trees that bloom at different times of the year. Fruits trees that can be grown in our Zone 8 region include apple, pear, plum, peach, fig, cherry, nectarine, apricot, persimmon and lemon. There are plenty more, including bushes and vines such as blueberries and blackberries.
Do your research and look for dwarf varieties to make your fruit harvesting possible without a lift. Keep in mind that some fruit varieties need a male and female tree blooming at the same time for fruit to set. Keep bloom times in mind for the bees, striving to have blooms available for food from early spring to later fall.
Not every situation with a bee may be positive. Sometimes bees swarm when a hive becomes too large or they lose one hive and have to find a new location. These bees usually congregate together and are less aggressive with no hive to defend. DO NOT approach a swarm of bees. If possible, it’s best to leave them alone or call a qualified removal specialist. This is especially true if you find an active hive within an occupied structure or a tree that is scheduled for removal.
In Florida, registered beekeepers can remove and relocate swarms and established colonies. If a colony is in a difficult place to reach or are overly aggressive and pose a risk to humans – particularly near a school – a certified pest operator may need to eradicate. Both of these services are regulated, and registered operators can be found on the Honey Bee Removal or Eradication List maintained by the Florida Department of Consumer Services.
We hope the information about bees has been informative and is inspiring you to plant new trees for bees. And yes, Miller’s Tree Service can keep the trees you select for your bees trimmed, just like we do for the other trees already in your landscape. We can plant and transplant trees, too. Give us a call at 850.294.TREE (8733) and let us help you realize the dream of being bee friendly with trees!