List of Northern American nectar sources for honey bees

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A honey bee collecting nectar from an apricot flower.

The nectar resource in a given area depends on the kinds of flowering plants present and their blooming periods. Which kinds grow in an area depends on soil texture, soil pH, soil drainage, daily maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, extreme minimum winter temperature, and growing degree days. The plants listed below grow in USDA hardiness zone 5. A good predictor for when a plant will bloom and produce nectar is a calculation of the growing degree days. Hopkins' bioclimatic law states that in North America east of the Rockies, a 130-m (400-foot) increase in elevation, a 4° change in latitude North (444.48 km), or a 10° change in longitude East (two-thirds of a time zone) will cause a biological event to occur four days later in the spring or four days earlier in the fall.[1] In botany, the term phenology refers to the timing of flower emergence, sequence of bloom, fruiting, and leaf drop in autumn.

The classification in major or minor nectar sources is very dependent on the agricultural use of the land. An agricultural crop such as canola or alfalfa may be a major or minor source depending on local plantings. Generally, the more diverse a forage area is, the better for a stationary apiary. Urban, suburban, and uncultivated areas provide more consistent warm-season nectar forage than areas that are heavily cultivated with only a few agricultural crops. The nectar sources from large cultivated fields of blooming apples, cherries, canola, melons, sunflowers, clover, etc. benefit a bee keeper who is willing to travel with his hives throughout the season.

Honeydew sources are not included in this listing.

Trees and shrubs[edit]

Plant type Nonscientific name Scientific name Begin Bloom Month End Bloom Month Monofloral honey Availability Source for honey bees / pounds of honey per acre
T Maple[2] Acer 1 5 no feral major but temperature usually too cold
T Red maple[2] Acer rubrum 1 5 no feral major but temperature usually too cold for bees to fly
T Ohio buckeye[3] Aesculus glabra 4 5 no feral minor
S Shadbush Amelanchier arborea 4 5 no feral minor, or major depending on location and weather.
S, T Devil's walkingstick Aralia spinosa 7 8 no feral minor
S Red Chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia, Photinia pyrifolia 5 6 no feral minor
S Black chokeberry[4] Aronia melanocarpa 5 6 no feral minor
T Catalpa, Indian bean[3][4][5] Catalpa speciosa 6 7 no feral, ornamental minor
S Common hackberry Celtis occidentalis 4 5 no feral minor
S Buttonbush[3] Cephalanthus occidentalis 7 8 Honey is light in color and mild in flavor. feral
S Hawthorn Crataegus 4 5 no feral minor – 50–100 lb/acre
S Honeysuckle[3] Diervilla lonicera 6 8 minor
T Honey locust Gleditsia triacanthos 5 6 no feral minor
S American holly Ilex opaca 4 6 no feral minor, important in Southeastern US
T Tulip-tree, poplar Liriodendron tulipifera 5 6 yes, see Monofloral honey feral major in southern Appalachians, select northern locations, and Piedmont
T Apple[4] Malus domestica 4 5 No, the nectar is mostly used for spring brood-raising and not stored for surplus.[5] cultivated minor
T Crabapple Malus sylvestris; Malus coronaria[3] 3 6 no ornamental minor
T Cherry[3][4] Prunus cerasus 4 5 no feral, cultivated minor – 30 kg/ha
T Pear Pyrus communis 4 5 no cultivated minor
T Black cherry Prunus serotina 4 5 no feral, cultivated minor, can be major under the correct conditions/location
T Plum Prunus 4 5 no feral, cultivated minor
S Common buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica 5 6 no feral minor
T Sumac[3] Rhus glabra 6 7 mixed with other honeys feral major
T Black locust[4][5] Robinia pseudoacacia 5 6 yes feral major – 800–1200 lb/acre; short bloom period of about 10 days
S Raspberry Rubus 5 6 yes feral, cultivated major in some areas
S Blackberry Rubus spp. 5 6 yes[3] feral, cultivated major in some areas[4]
T Willow Salix 2 4 no feral, ornamental major, but outside temperatures are usually too cold for bees to fly, 100–150 lb/acre; 1,500 lb pollen
T Pussy willow Salix discolor 3 4 no feral, ornamental major but temperature usually too cold for bees to fly
T Bee bee tree Tetradium 7 9 ornamental major
T Basswood[4][5] Tilia americana, Tilia cordata 6 7 yes, short flow up to 14 days; white, aromatic honey[3] see Monofloral honey feral, ornamental, produces a high volume of honey on a cycle of every five to eight years, with lower volume of nectar other years[citation needed] major – 800–1,100 lb/acre
T American elm Ulmus americana 2 4 no feral minor
S Blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium angustifolium, Vaccinium pennsylvanicum 5 6 no, honey amber and of good flavor cultivated minor in most areas, very low quality pollen, strong colonies may store 50–90 lb of surplus from it[3]
S Black haw[4] Viburnum prunifolium 5 6
T Redbud Cercis 4 4 no cultivated, ornamental minor
T Sourwood Oxydendrum arboreum 6 7 yes feral major

Flowers, crops, herbs, and grasses[edit]

Plant type Common name Latin name Perennial/annual Begin bloom month End bloom month Monofloral honey Availability Nectar production
F Anise hyssop[4] Agastache foeniculum Perennial 7 10 no feral minor (1858–2787 kg/ha)[6]
F Blue bugle, bugleherb, bugleweed, carpetweed, common bugle[4] Ajuga reptans Perennial 5 6 feral minor
F Chives[4] Allium schoenoprasum Perennial 5 9 no cultivated minor
C, F Garlic chives Allium tuberosa Perennial 8 9 no cultivated minor
F Leadwort Amorpha fruticosa Perennial 6 7 no feral minor
F Milkweed[5] Asclepias spp. 55 species Perennial 7 8 feral, all species are great for honeybees, nectar is so abundant that shaking the blossoms allows visible nectar fall major – 120–250 lb/acre, depending on soil and if good fertilization, Asclepias syriaca has the highest honey yield.
F Butterfly weed[4] Asclepias tuberosa Perennial 7 8 no feral minor
C Asparagus Asparagus officinalis Perennial 5 6 no cultivated minor
F Milk vetch Astragalus spp. Perennial 5 6 no feral minor
F Aster Aster spp. Perennial 8 10 usually mixed with goldenrod[3] feral, ornamental major[4]
F Borage[4] Borago officinalis Annual 6 10 no feral, ornamental minor, but can be major on cultivated area, 200 lb/acre honey, 60–160 lb pollen
C, F Mustard Brassica arvenisis Annual 4 5 no? cultivated minor
C Oil rapeseed (canola)[4] Brassica napus L., Brassica rapa Annual 5 6 yes cultivated major
F Marigold Calendula officinalis Annual 6 9 no ornamental minor
F Canada thistle Carduus arvensis Perennial light honey of good quality[3]
F Thistle Centaurea spp. Annual 7 9 no feral minor
F Mountain bluet Centaurea Montana (Knapweed) Short-lived Perennial 5 5 no?? feral major
F Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense Perennial 7 9 feral (invasive in North America)
F Sweet autumn clematis Clematis terniflora Perennial 9 9 ornamental minor
F Clethra, summersweet[4] Clethra alnifolia Perennial (shrub) 7 8 no feral minor
C, F Cucumber Annual 6 9 no; honey is pale yellow or amber with strong flavor[3] cultivated minor
C Melon Annual 6 10 no cultivated minor
C Pumpkin Cucurbita pepo L.[7] Annual 6 10 no cultivated minor
C, F Wild carrot Daucus carota Biennial 8 9 no feral minor
F Leopard's bane Doronicum cordatum Perennial 4 5 no feral minor
F Candytuft[4] Iberis sempervirens Perennial 5 5
F Viper's bugloss, blue thistle, [8] Echium vulgare Echium vulgare is most widely known, though about 60 additional species exist Perennial 6 8 no feral In California, spring-blooming plant with repeat bloom, fall bloom provides nectar for bees for overwintering. The most unusual feature of E. vulgare is the protection of the nectar inside the flower from vaporization (when weather is hot) or flushing away (when rains). [9] major – 300–1,000 lb/acre honey depending on soil, 500–2000 lb of dark blue pollen
F Globe thistle Echinops ritro Annual 8 8 feral major
F Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium Perennial 6 9 yes feral major
F Heather Erica vulgaris, though many varieties Perennial (shrub) see Monofloral honey 100–200 lb honey
F Joe-Pye weed, boneset, white snakeroot[4] Eutrochium spp., Eupatorium spp., Eupatorium purpureum; Eupatorium perfoliatum; Eupatorium ageratoides Perennial 8 9 no feral minor
C, F Buckwheat[4] Fagopyrum esculentum Annual 7 8 can be, dark honey with distinct flavor, granulates quickly rarely cultivated now minor
F Blue vine[citation needed] Gonolobus laevis[10] Perennial no, honey is clear, heavy bodied, of excellent flavor[3] feral minor, strong hives can collect up to 100 lb[3]
C, F Soybean Glycine soja Annual 7 10 cultivated major
C, F Sunflower Helianthus annuus Annual 6 9 can be feral, cultivated minor – 30–100 pounds/acre
C, F Basil Koellia Annual no cultivated minor
F Henbit, deadnettle Lamium sp Perennial 3 5 no feral minor, but valuable due to earliness/frost hardiness
C, F Lavender Lavandula angustifolia Perennial (shrub) 6 9 can be cultivated minor
F Birdsfoot trefoil[4] Lotus corniculatus Perennial 6 8 no feral minor
C, F White sweet clover[3][5] Melilotus alba Biennial 5 8 yes feral, cultivated major up to 200 lb per hive
C, F Yellow sweet clover[3][5] Melilotus officinalis Biennial 5 8 yes feral, cultivated major up to 200 lb per hive
C, F Alfalfa[3][4] Medicago sativa Perennial 7 8 as clover honey, alfalfa honey granulates readily[3] feral, cultivated major
C, F Clover[4] Melilotus spp. and Trifolium spp. Biennial 5 8 as clover honey feral, cultivated major – up to 500 lb/acre in a good year[3]
F Melissa, lemon balm[3] Melissa officinalis Perennial Western US – Prolonged bloom of 45 – 50 days generally in summer, but with repeat blooming in California. Delicate honey with very light, pinkish color. 150–250 lb/acre honey, 50–120 lb pollen
C, F Peppermint[5] Mentha piperita Perennial no feral
F Catnip, cat mint[3][4] Nepeta mussinii; Nepeta grandiflora; Nepeta cataria Perennial 6 9 no feral, ornamental minor
F Oregano Origanum vulgare Perennial 6 9 no cultivated? minor
C, F Poppy Papaver somniferum Perennial minor – 20–30 lb/acre
C, F Phacelia, tansy Phacelia tanacetifolia Perennial Western US – One of the best spring forage sources for honeybees. Blooms 45–60 days and continuously produces nectar throughout the day. Can be seeded several times per year. Prefers 3 ft of topsoil. 180–1,500 pounds honey per acre, depending on soil quality and depth; 300–1000 pounds of pollen.[9]
G, H Plantain Plantago Major Perennial 7 [11]
F Smartweed Polygonum spp. Perennial 8 9 feral major
F Selfheal Prunella vulgaris Perennial 7 8 no feral minor
F Lungwort Pulmonaria spp. Perennial 5 5 no feral minor
F Appalachian mountain mint Pycnanthemum flexuosum Perennial 8 10 minor
F Azalea Rhododendron spp. Perennial 6 8 no ornamental minor
F Russian sage Salvia × floriferior Perennial 7 9 can be ornamental minor
F Scrophularia Scrophularia spp. Perennial 7 7 no feral minor
F Sedum, autumn joy[4] Sedum spectabile Perennial
F Goldenrod[3] Solidago spp. Perennial 9 10 can be, honey golden color of deep amber; marked flavor; granulates quickly feral major
F Woundwort Stachys byzantina Perennial 5 5 no feral minor
F Chickweed[4] Stellaria media Annual 4 7 no feral minor
F Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Annual (Perennial not an annual) 4 5 no, honey deep yellow, granulates quickly; mostly consumed by bees during brood rearing[5] feral major
F Germander Teucrium canadense[12] Perennial 7 8 no feral minor
F Thyme Thymus pulegioides; Thymus serpyllum Perennial 6 7 no feral, cultivated minor – 50–150 lb/acre honey
F Red-flowering thyme Thymus praecox Perennial 6 7 feral? major
C, F Alsike clover[3] Trifolium hybridum Perennial as clover honey, alsike clover honey is one of the best honey plants in America.[3] feral, cultivated major, up to 500 lb/acre[4]
C, F Crimson clover Trifolium incarnatum Perennial as clover honey feral, cultivated major[3]
C, F Red clover Trifolium pratense Perennial 6 7 as clover honey feral, cultivated major
C, F White clover[5] Trifolium repens Perennial 6 7 as clover honey; honey is white or nearly white; very mild flavored and does not granulate readily feral, cultivated major
F Blue vervain Verbena hastata L. Perennial 7 8 no ornamental? minor
F Tall ironweed Vernonia altissima Perennial 8 9 no feral minor
F Speedwell Veronica spicata Perennial 6 6 no feral minor
F Tufted vetch, common vetch[4] Vicia cracca Perennial 7 8 no feral minor
F Common vetch Vicia sativa Perennial 7 8 no feral minor
F Blackhaw Viburnum prunifolium Perennial (shrub) 5 6 no feral minor

Garden plants to feed honey bees in Canada[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Andrew Delmar Hopkins - Southern Forest Insect Work Conference". Archived from the original on 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
  2. ^ a b Delaplane, Keith Bee Conservation in the Southeast The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension; Service Bulletin 1164; April 2010 (web accessed May 2019)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Pellett, Frank Chapman (1920). American Honey Plants: Together with Those which are of Special Value to the Beekeeper as Sources of Pollen. American Bee Journal. Retrieved 23 May 2019 – via Internet Archive. American Honey Plants.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Tew, James Some Ohio Nectar and Pollen Producing Plants Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, 2000 [dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lovell, John H. Honey plants of North America; THE ROOT COMPANY, 1926
  6. ^ Zhiliang, Pan (Summer 1997). "Bee Visitation and Nectar Production of Anise Hyssop" (PDF). Department of Plants and Soil Sciences, University of Massachusetts.
  7. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Cucurbita pepo L.". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 15 June 2022.
  8. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Echium vulgare L.". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  9. ^ a b "Long Distance Moving Guide | NYC Gardens Near Me & Local Movers Blog". Archived from the original on 2009-11-26.
  10. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Gonolobus laevis". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  11. ^ "A Selection of Bee Forage Plants" (PDF). Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary.
  12. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Teucrium canadense L.". The PLANTS Database ( Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 15 June 2022.

Further reading[edit]