Nectar flow describes the period when flowering plants are producing and making nectar available to bees and pollinators. This is a key consideration when devising a gardening calendar to ensure abundant foraging opportunities are available for bees throughout the year, and beekeepers in particular are concerned with nectar flow.
It's important for beekeepers to understand how nectar flow affects the honey bee colony, and the role of nectar flow on colony health and fitness.
Firstly, as the flowers begin to bloom in spring, the bees begin to gather pollen to support the development of larvae in the hive. Pollen is typically gathered from spring flowering trees and shrubs, such as fruit trees, willow catkins, and early blooms, like crocus.
A good flow of nectar is vital for the developing colony.
Nectar provides energy for the growing colony as workers go about their tasks of foraging and beeswax comb-building, and research suggests that comb-building periods coincide with periods of high nectar intake, as the need for comb storage increases.
Knowing about the nectar flow in your region is important. You should allow for local weather patterns as well as availability of nectar through the year from the local flora. Your region may experience dearth or flow, and advance knowledge of local patterns will help you ensure sufficient honey is left for the bees to feed.
Knowledge of local nectar flow can also help guide you with regard to the plants you need to include in your own garden to supplement local provision of nectar in the surrounding landscape.
Aside from devising a calendar to ensure good nectar flow, you can also try these tips to prolong the season of various plants and shurbs:
1. Dead heading
This simple technique to encourage re-growth of flowers is frequently overlooked, yet it is a highly effective method for prolonging the flowering season of many flowers and shrubs.
2. Cutting back
Some plants with flowers along erect stems (such as Linaria purpurea) can have the stems cut when only a few individual flowers still remain at the very top of the stem. The plant will then throw up new stems and flowers.
3. Sow quick flowering annuals
Include annuals in your garden to help provide extra forage opportunities for bees. The list is endless, but could include Marigolds, Zinnia, Nasturtiums, California Poppy, Sunflower and many more.
Remember to check for regional variances and flowering times in your region:
Trees and shrubs:
Alder (Alnus spp.)
Willow (Salix spp.)
Blackthorne, sloes (Prunus spinosa)
Cherry, plum (Prunus spp.)
Apple (Malus spp.)
Pear (Pyrus spp.)
Horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocasstanum)
Daphne (Daphne Bholua)
Sweet box (Sarcococca spp.)
Others: wild brambles, raspberries, blackberry, heathers).
For more plants, see the links below:
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