Thread: Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Billerica, MA (Zone 6)

    Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

    I am a backyard bee keeper and am considering joining ADF, and was wondering about the attractiveness to bees of the 10 free flowering trees. (NONE of them are listed in the page ) I like trees but prefer ones that do more than just stand around looking green and would like ones that would help increase my honey production even by a small amount. According to the website tree map, I live in zone 6 (Near Lowell, MA)

    I did try a search on the forums for 'honey bee' and did not find any useful results. If I missed something relevant and this is an oft discussed topic, I would appreciate a pointer to the relevant threads.

    My 'ideal tree' would have most of the following properties:
    1. Produce lots of nectar that is attractive to honey bees.
    2. Not make excessive pollen (We have lots of pines in the area and the hive already tends to get pollen bound, no need to make it worse)
    3. Not generate lots of constant debris (Weeping willows are really bad in this regard) and what they do produce handled by just running over with a lawn mower.
    4. Grow tall enough not to be difficult to get under with the lawn tractor (we currently have some trees and bushes that make me do the 'lawn tractor limbo' which is a PITA, somewhat dangerous, and makes me fantasize about chain saws )
    5. It would be nice (but not essential) if they also produced something human edible
    6. Be reasonably shade tolerant (most of my likely planting locations are somewhat shaded already)

    As a side note, I'm not sure just what I'll do with TEN trees... It might be nice if instead of having preconfigured signup bonus packages there was a way of doing a 'design your own' with some amount of credit at the tree store so as to get a selection that most matched the prospective members desires.



  2. #2

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Columbus, OH

    RE: Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

    This is my first time to the forum so you may have to bear with me a little.

    I'm not sure if they're offered as far as your 10 free trees, but the classic answer to your question, would be Lindens (Tilia sp.). They are definitely hardy in a zone 6 and are well known for bees preference for them. The trees also flower in the summer after most other flowering trees are done. They can be limbed up to mow under or since you may be getting them rather small you could just let it stay branched to the ground. They don't produce anything edible, but do have ornamental qualities to them.
    The forseeable problems I see may be size and possibly adding to the pollen. Depending on the exact species you get they can get rather large which may be a problem. They are also not very shade tolerant.

    Here's a website that may help:

    Hope that helps!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Eastern PA

    RE: Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

    Although you may be able to get away with some trees that can handle zone 6 conditions, I think you may want to make sure whatever you try also does well in zone 5 (speaking from personal experience in that area - although I now live in an area alternately listed as zone 5 or zone 6/7, and I'm trying things that are zone 7 and warmer...)

    Tulip trees also seem to be a favorite of bees, although again without the edible fruits and the size - in fact, they are the largest deciduous tree in Eastern North America (200'+ possible.) I've heard that the lend to an excellent quality honey, though.

    Green Man Enviroscaping LLC

  4. #4

    RE: Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

    Honeylocust and sourwood are also very good choices for honey production. Sourwood honey is highly prized since the trees tend to be underplanted.
    The ten free trees are educational seedlings, but we have larger stock available at the Tree Store.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Billerica, MA (Zone 6)

    RE: Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

    Well, I've looked up the ten free tree varieties, the Hawthorn was the only one that explicitly said it was a bee favorite, but nothing was said either way about the others.

    I've been poking around a bit in the tree guide and it has been interesting. Both the sourwood and linden trees were mentioned as honey producers.

    The linden is actually noteworthy in the Cambridge/Boston city area. The MBTA planted Lindens along many of their subway and train right of ways, and when those trees do a heavy flowiring season the city beekeepers (about which tales can be told) get a bumper crop. Linden tree honey is what's called a 'water white' honey, and is nearly colorless and crystal clear. It looks almost like white Karo syrup.

    I've also seen much mention of sourwood honey in the mead makers digest, didn't know the trees would grow in this area. I suspect the biggest reason sourwood honey is scarce though is that the rules for 'varietal' honey require that at least 50% of the nectar in the honey comes from the named floral source. As a practical matter, this means you need to time installing and removing your honey supers to coincide with that particular nectar flow, and that that flow be the primary nectar source in the area around the hive. Since sourwood is not thickly planted in many places, it is hard to get it to be the primary nectar source. (most backyard folks produce 'Wildflower' honey which is the beekeeper's way of saying 'I don't know where the **** they went' )

    One of the big surprises was that southern magnolia was listed as a zone 6 tree - I've always thought of it as a strictly deep southern tree. I don't know what kind of honey it produces, but I know it attracts honeybees like crazy - I encountered some a few years back and there were so many bees on the tree that you could hear the humming from 20 feet away. I need to be closer than that to hear my HIVE...

    OTOH, neither the tree guide or the Ohio site that Ricky pointed me at list the magnolia as a bee tree. Ditto for the honeylocust and tulip trees. I just wish there was a better definitive source for info.

    At any rate, it does look like it's worth giving the freebee trees a try.

    Back Yard bee keeper, interested in trees that will increase my honey production.

  6. #6

    RE: Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

    If you do a search under "tupelo honey" or "sourwood honey" you'll find that it brings top dollar.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Billerica, MA (Zone 6)

    RE: Looking for honeybee friendly (high nectar) trees

    If you do a search under "tupelo honey" or "sourwood honey" you'll find that it brings top dollar.
    Oh, I quite agree, it is premium priced stuff. The problem is the logistics of getting 'varietal' honey of any sort. One tree would never be sufficient, it would take a large stand of them, with fairly few competing nectar sources, and careful timing of when the honey supers are put on and taken off.

    Varietal honey in most cases is difficult. As an example, a beekeeper I know has several hives that are located on a cranberry bog, and were put there specifically to pollinate the cranberry plants. However because there are lots of plants in the same general area that have nectar flows about the same time he does NOT attempt to sell the honey from that hive as 'Cranberry Honey' because he can't guarantee that cranberries were even the majority nectar source. All he can say is that the honey has lots of cranberry in it. In many cases one can identify major nectar sources in a honey by it's taste, color, odor, tendency to go crystal, etc. but that isn't the same as being able to market it as that sort of varietal.

    In general it isn't considered practical to try and increase honey production or get a varietal honey by small scale planting of anything. OTOH, it doesn't hurt to pick nectar producing varieties when thinking about planting a tree or whatever any ways. (for instance I don't try to discourage dandelions in my yard, and have been known to put clover seed on the bare spots...)

    Back Yard bee keeper, interested in trees that will increase my honey production.

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