Why Bees Need Flowers?
Bees use nectar and pollen from flowers as a food and energy source. Depending on your area there may be an abundance of wildflowers, landscape flowers, crops or trees, and shrubs. Bees will fly about 3 miles from their hive to find their nectar and pollen source. Just remember that the further they fly, the more calories they are burning. This could weaken your colony.
Vegetable gardens, herb gardens, and flower gardens are all options that require very little space. If you have an acreage consider planting an orchard, clover or buckwheat crops or a field of wildflowers.
Pollen and Nectar Explained
Pollen is the powdery part of the male reproductive organ of a flower. Field bees collect pollen and bring it back to the hive in their pollen baskets. After they deposit the pollen in the hive the nurse bees use it to make food for the colony.
Nectar is the sugary fluid produced by flowers. It attracts pollinators who will, in turn, spread pollen between flowers. Nectar is the bees primary source of energy. Field bees will store nectar in their honey stomach. They bring it back to the hive and give the nectar to a house bee. She will regurgitate it over and over, adding enzymes until all of the water is removed. That mixture then becomes honey and is stored in the honeycomb.
This is obviously a simplified explanation of the process. You will find in most of my posts that my goal is to be real and explain things in a way that a new beekeeper, gardener, or chicken owner would understand. You are not going to get complex and scientific with me.
So now that we know why bees need flowers, let’s answer the question:
Should I plant wildflowers near the hive?
My personal preference is YES! Because I love flowers!!! Wildflowers will provide your bees with a close source of nectar and pollen. They will also provide you with a beautiful area around your home. We have 10 acres and there are some wildflowers in our field. You can read about my wildflower planting plan here to get inspiration for your own acreage.
If you don’t have this much space or are not ready to take on such a big project then start small. Plant some flowers in pots or in a flower bed in front of your house. It took me 4 years of living here before I planted a single flower. I found that there were just too many other projects that needed to be completed first. This was very hard for me considering what our backyard looked like in our previous house.
Pretend To Be A Bee
Drive around a 3-mile radius of your house and see what it out there. We have several pick-your-own type farms near us as well as some pretty large home gardens. You may live near some big farms that grow an abundance of 1 crop. This will be great during the growing season of that crop, however, it will become a food desert when it’s done growing. Make sure that your area has a variety of nectar sources available. If not, then plant some for them.
Where To Buy Wildflowers
I am still in the planning phase right now so I can’t speak yet from experience. While I was researching I came across the website American Meadows from a beginning beekeepers Facebook group. They have so much information on how to plant, when to plant and how to have the most success. Check out their website for some great information. (I have no affiliation with American Meadows and am not being compensated in any way)