V is for Viburnum

Viburnum flowers look like you’d be putting out plates of food for the bees. However, we are finding only a few references that bees use the early-spring blooming varieties when there is little else blooming and the fall-blooming varieties for the same reason. Some reports say that the bees are gathering pollen. We squirrels are by no means experts on bee foraging, so perhaps inspect the viburnum flowers when you pass by them?

Viburnum is a shrub that flowers at the tips of the branches. The flower heads are large and flat with many small flowers inside the petalled edges. Below is Doublefile Viburnum, Viburnum plicatum.

And this viburnum with the leaf that looks like a maple is American Cranberry Viburnum, Viburnum trilobum.

The Honeybee Conservancy likes one of what Ms. Flora calls the ‘fancier’ versions of Viburnum, so check that out here.

There are enough varieties of viburnum that you should check the specific sun and soil requirements of each, but in general, the more sun they have, the better they will bloom, but partial shade is usually tolerated. They can reach up to 8 feet high and be even wider, to 10 feet.

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

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T is for Tulip Tree

Way high in the tallest trees in our neighborhood, the tulip trees, Liriodendron tulipifera, are blooming right now–and humans would never know!

“Ahem.” Hickory twitches his tail. “We only know it ourselves, Nutmeg, because that windstorm last Friday broke branches and blew down a bunch of the uppermost flowers.”

Well…yes, as I was saying, the tulip poplar or yellow poplar, are straight and rapidly growing trees that reach 70 to 100 feet tall. They flower way up there, where their canopy branches have full sunlight. The orange and yellow-green blossoms, which yes, we and our human readers most often see when they blow down, are a pretty orange and yellow the size and shape of a tulip flower.

As you can see by the size of the ants that are also seeking the nectar of the flower, they are indeed large, and do provide a nice pool of nectar for the bees, which is quite easy for them to get to!

This may not be the tree for many of you humans to plant in your suburban yards, but anyone with more land on the eastern side of North America will want to encourage them. Their blossoms provide a fair percentage of bee nectar in late April to May.

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

S is for Spicebush

Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin, one of those forest bushes that we squirrels have to skirt when running along the ground, and seems all but invisible to us. Except in the spring. Then, the branches are covered in small yellow flowers. And bees.

Both the male and the female plants that will flower, but only the female plants will set the fall berries. Apparently, there is a minute difference in the flowers to tell them apart, and they don’t set berries for a few years, so you humans are on your own for figuring this one out. Buy a lot of them? The bush grows 6 to 12 feet high and will tolerate a partly sunny location. Because it blooms in April, it serves bees in that early period when they are rebuilding their nectar stores and raising brood.

The Honeybee Conservancy has a lovely post on Northern Spicebush, showing its many seasonal colors off.

Spicebush is also the food plant of the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar, so plant a few extra bushes if you have room!

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

R is for Redbud

Blooming in lines of pink across branches that Ms. Flora will not allow the rest of us squirrels to cross, Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is one of the most stunning of blooming trees. Or so says Ms. Flora, and she insisted we tell you that.

 

Where we live in suburban Washington, D. C., the redbud is blooming now, following the cherry trees, which followed the red maple trees–a continuous bloom for the honey bees and native bees in our area.

This small tree tolerates some shade at the edges of woods, growing to 30 feet high and just as wide. It really does sprout blossoms along the branches and trunk, and the seedpods can follow. If polinated!

Grab some of those seeds and try to plant one. They seem to readily sprout.

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

 

Q is for Quince

Heh, we squirrels thought ‘Q’ was going to be one of those tricky letters to get a woody plant that flowers for bees. (We are participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, in case you didn’t pick up on that!) But no, Flowering Quince tops many of the bee-food lists. So, plant away!

 

Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, is a member of the rose family that was brought to Northern America in the 1700s. The simple, five-petaled flowers lookouts like rose and apple blossoms, but they are a beautiful salmon pink.

Many of you humans plant quince and trim it up, but if you place it in a hedge and just let it go, it grows to 10 feet high and forms a nice loose safe-haven for squirrels and maybe some songbirds…ok, a lot of songbirds that will eat the fruits, which are tasty.

This shrub grows in a variety of soils and light conditions, but blooms best in full sun.

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing


P is for Prunus

Prunus is the genus name of the cherry family. We squirrels are well aware of the many types of cherry trees you humans have created to beautify your spring. Well, keep doing it! But could you lean toward those simple flowers, not the complicated ones?

Have you ever noticed that the bees can’t find their way to the center with the nectar and pollen? It’s the same with some of your more complicated flowers–just go back to the simple ones if you are planting for pollinators.

We will leave it to you to look at the various kinds. Wild cherries might even have self-seeded in your yard after a bird ate the fruit. All bloom better in full sun. They have widely varying blooming times, and some even bloom in the fall.

Members of the Prunus genus rely on bees to pollinate their flowers. The more flowers visited, the more cherries a tree will have.

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing


O is for Oak Aphids

Okay, folks, we know it’s a stretch, but we are downright desperate on some these letters. You’ve seen aphids your garden plants, like these…

Different aphids suck the juices of different plants, including oak leaves. Then the aphids exude their honeydew–a waste product–that is full of sugar. Apparently, there is a phenonema of bees swarming into oak trees during the dearth times of late summer.

They are desperate to find any source nectar…and are feeding on the aphid honeydew. (!)

Are you surprised? We were. You’d think we squirrels had hung out in trees enough to have witnessed this, but our sources cites oaks in Oregon–an extension office answered the question of why the oak was abuzz–and in Europe, where the oaks seem to have many, many different kinds aphids!

There we have it, oaks indirectly supply bees with nectar. I bet we have all learned something new today!

This honeybee was spotted resting on a Common Milkweed leaf–could she have been attracted to the aphids that also feed on milkweed? This will take some detective work!

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

M is for Magnolia

Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, appears to be a hot spot for bee nectar-collecting.

Trees For Bees! The tree is big, the flowers are big! And they are so sweetly scented that even us squirrels are drawn over to the tree.

Bees collect both the sweet-scented nectar and the pollen, and so do many other insects. It’s native to the southeast U. S., but is widely planted in the warmer states. It’s slow growing in a full sun spot and takes up a good bit of room both sideways and up–it grows to 120 feet tall. It will flower better in full sun. The shiny, thick leaves are evergreen and the seed pods are interesting, too.

If you have a big space, a Southern magnolia is a good choice. If your space is smaller, consider a Sweetly Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana, also native to the eastern U. S. and very tolerant of wet areas! That might be a selling point alone!

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

L is for Locust

Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is an incredible tree for honeybees and native bees alike. Many of you humans have probably heard of ‘locust honey’ or have smelled a sweet fragrance on the air in June.

Because these pea-like flowers bloom in stages along racemes, the blossoms last three weeks. This is a peak time for nectar collection and building honey stores for bee colonies. Beekeepers near locust groves often have to add extra hive boxes.

Interestingly, the locust tree has been so wide spread since the colonists came to North America, that tree experts aren’t sure where it was first native. Likely it was the Appalachian Mountains and the Ozark Plateau. The tree grows so fast it’s considered invasive in many area, despite it being native. The wood is very hard and makes excellent fence posts that don’t easily rot. (But you humans don’t seem to be making those kinds of fences anymore.)

Yay, because that spread the tree for bees!

Black Locust won’t grow in shade, and often pops up in disturbed areas and edges. It grows straight and tall–40 to 100 feet, and even 170 feet has been found. Look for those late blossoms high in the trees in late spring, June, when the cherries are all done. Or maybe you’ll see the blossoms on your roads first, then know to look, like we did for the Golden Rain Tree!

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

J is for (Spiraea) Japonica

Ms. Flora is a bit miffed. Spiraea japonica, known as spiraea, spirea and Japanese meadowsweet, is not a native species. We try, we really do, to bring you our Virginia and North American natives first, but in keeping with the alphabetizing of the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, we needed a ‘J’. And not just any ‘J’, a ‘J’ that is woody-stemmed and a food source for bee species? (See, we squirrels do stick to some of our rules!)

Does anyone out there know of a native ‘J’–woody plant, that is? (How about a ‘K’? Struggling harder with that one!)

So here we go with Japonica:

See, a native bumblebee! They love it! Plus, spiraea blooms from June into July, in the heat of summer when flowers start to be in shorter supply for bees.

Spiraea is listed on Buzz About Bees’ list of flowering shrubs for bees, which is what caught our attention, even though we leap by numerous bushes every day and have noted the bees on them previously on The Squirrel Network. Right, we didn’t think them as valued for bees, and maybe you didn’t either–but now you can!

Different cultivars are available that grow different heights, so check what you buy and prune accordingly. They like a sunny location and will grow better there as proven by the stunted nature of these ones closer to the pin oak.

In loose bunches, they make a lovely tangled escape for us squirrels (and songbirds!), though the chipmunks living in this mound get a bit grumpy when we dash in.

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing