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Hi. I am a newcommer, live in the Nelson area, and am delighted to find this site. I have been keeping bees nearly 3 years so am a relative beginner still. I have 2 top bar hives and so need a good honey flow but where I live there are no garden, only nicely mown lawns and so I am making a bee garden on my 1/4 acre. I think I have Italian bees - golden, and I am told by the person I bought them off that they have got much more golden since being with me, they are very quiet and a pleasure to work so of course anything growing in the garden is either food for me, food for the bees, soulfood for me - or it goes and will get replaced with anything anyone can recommend to me that their bees love. If anyone can recommend winter flowering plants for my bees - thank you in advance as I really don't want to feed unless absolutely necessary.

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Lucky you, Federated Farners have done the work already, Here's a link to Nelson/Tasman Trees for Bees: http://www.fedfarm.org.nz/f1759,65232/65232_New_S2_NelsonTasman.pdf

 

But I didn't need to feed in a Dunedin winter, so wouldn't you probably be OK if you leave them enough stores?

 

Many thanks for the link, Janice. I have no more room for planting trees, so am looking for flowers that will feed the bees. There was problems with poisoning from sprayed clover earlier on this year with a lot of dead bees in this area and so the hives are really just building up which may make it a bit late for foraging enough winter stores. I may be worrying unnecessarily but until I have experienced a couple more winters when I know what I am doing I need to be sure there is enough feed.

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Some work by UK scientists have produced this list recently

 

Biologists at the University of Sussex have been analysing how effectively different species of flowers attract foraging insects. Preliminary results have revealed there is a 100-fold difference in the lure that some popular garden plants have for honey bees and bumblebees. The best plants are the Mexican giant hyssop, which was particularly good for bumblebees, while borage was best for honeybees and lilac sage was second best. Wild marjoram and Greek Origanum were found to be most attractive to wild solitary bees. Lavenders such as the white Lavender edelweiss and the blue lavender grossblau were also good for attracting the insects.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9090726/Save-our-bees-scientists-reveal-the-plants-that-could-halt-bee-decline.html

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Some work by UK scientists have produced this list recently

 

Biologists at the University of Sussex have been analysing how effectively different species of flowers attract foraging insects. Preliminary results .... Wild marjoram and Greek Origanum were found to be most attractive to wild solitary bees. Lavenders such as the white Lavender edelweiss and the blue lavender grossblau were also good for attracting the insects.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/9090726/Save-our-bees-scientists-reveal-the-plants-that-could-halt-bee-decline.html

Greek origanum is bee magnet par exellence. It is a summer flowerer, and the only competition are bumblebee - and me! Greek origanum flower heads (only) is extremely high in a variety of 'medicinal' oils. We harvest and dry the flower heads ('origini') for using in cooking. Interestingly, as the weather cools in autumn, the final flower heads have zero essential oils.

 

The oils are so 'potent' we eat small pieces throughout the day when we are developing a sore throat. 9 times out of 10 it stops it in its tracks.

 

The only 'downside' is that the essential oils are so strong that it is very 'hot' to have in the mouth.

 

I can't imagine what honey made with these flowers tastes like....(assuming its honey, not pollen, being foraged for.)

 

I was told some years ago that some parts of Greece are covered in in this wild herb.

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I'd encourage anyone to plant 'bee-friendly' plants and there are a number of good books on the subject, provided you stick to the sort of 'international' repetoire of introduced parks and garden plants. There are some for native New Zealand plants, but not many. It's a question many new beekeepers ask; "What should I plant for my bees".

As interesting though, is a sense of the scale at which a colony operates to gather sufficient food resources. It is an enormous topic, and we tend to look at it in small 'chunks'. It varies with time of year, what they are foraging for, and the landscape they inhabit. There is a world of difference between a forest or field crop and a suburban setting. Scout bees have been known to search over an area of maybe 100kmsq. In a rich, complex suburban landscape the foragers themselves may have a typical distance from the hive as low as 600m, a more normal range would be 1.3km. Pollen foragers go a bit further, perhaps 1.7km. But there's huge variation. A good nectar source can draw bees from quite a distance; a Shefield study found an average of 6-ish km but up to 10km for heather-hunting bees. It seems they go as far as they need to; clearly the 'yield' (and the effort) matter.

I remember someone in the American Bee Journal doing the sum for almonds and pollen gathering (2million flowers in an acre multiplied by 1mg of pollen...). Let's call it 2kg, which is about the size of a pollen store in a couple of colonies. So one acre (0.4ha) would provide enough pollen for two colonies IF the whole acre contained 80 almond trees all flowering at the same time and if they didn't eat any! The more colonies in one place then, and the more competition from other nectar and pollen gatherers, and the distances, or area required, increase.

Getting the back of my envelope out, to take the suburban setting, a colony might need to forage over at least a 600m radius (which is 1.1kmsq), or 110ha (of rich, varied, sequential flowers).

 

1/4 acre you say? John's got the right idea I think.

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clearly the 'yield' (and the effort) matter.

 

Getting the back of my envelope out, to take the suburban setting, a colony might need to forage over at least a 600m radius (which is 1.1kmsq), or 110ha (of rich, varied, sequential flowers).

 

 

Excellent perspective.

 

There is another angle to the suburban forage situation. Our border of dentata lavender is in full sun all day. The dentata flower year round, and if the sun is out (or even 'outish') it will always have heaps of bees and bumblebees on it. Today, a brief observation shows about 30% plus of the bees have full pollen baskets.

 

Another Lavandula dentata border, which is much smaller and is quite shaded, only has one or two bees and bumblebees on it on sunny days. More often than not, there are no bees. Yet the border is as floriferous as the sunny one (per plant).

 

So, at least for Lavender dentata, the reward for effort is not there in somewhat shaded plants.

 

If this is also true for other plants, then maybe the floral potential of suburban gardens should be discounted to take account of shaded flowering shrubs and trees. Possibly the area required by a bee colony in the burbs is even bigger than 110 hectares...!

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I think I have Italian bees - golden, and I am told by the person I bought them off that they have got much more golden since being with me, they are very quiet and a pleasure to work so of course anything growing in the garden is either food for me, food for the bees, soulfood for me - or it goes and will get replaced with anything anyone can recommend to me that their bees love. If anyone can recommend winter flowering plants for my bees - thank you in advance as I really don't want to feed unless absolutely necessary.

Julie, I wonder what you've learned about feeding your bees since you wrote this. I'm in Wellington and know that borage and lavender go through the winter but am looking for more options. Also, are your bees really Italian? How are they doing?

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yep I would endorse what John said about the bottle brush,it flowers from mid spring through to autumn here.I have included a list of flowering plants listed as they flowered this year around here.

I love your list! But wonder what NP means. No Pollen? Even though bees here enjoy e.g. the cabbage tree flowers? I've been trying to get rid of (blue) agapanthus and acanthus because they're such weeds. But do bees get pollen from them?

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I love your list! But wonder what NP means. No Pollen? Even though bees here enjoy e.g. the cabbage tree flowers? I've been trying to get rid of (blue) agapanthus and acanthus because they're such weeds. But do bees get pollen from them?

 

On floral source lists, NP usually means the plant yields Nectar and Pollen - as opposed to just N or P

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They do like blue, have been researching the colour issue: Bee-Loved Flower Mysteries | Bee-Loved My next post is about what happened when I uprooted the local favorite, borage.

Yes, mine are blue.

I saw an amazing thing the other day. A mate of mine had a cactus snap off in the wind, 2 months later the thing flowered and the bees loved it. Basically a dying plants still producing bee food.

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I bought and planted borage in my garden for my bees . . . but it is nothing like the wild borage on the hills around home . . . . large and scraggly would be an apt description, however the purple sage is always popular with the bees as is the lavendar. I'm thinking of planting some of the wild borage in my garden = more compact but still with heaps of flowers . . . maybe it isn't wild borage??? Very similar flowers!!!

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