Planting for Your Honeybees: High Honey Production

As a backyard or urban beekeeper, you will need to ensure that your honeybees can find the pollen and nectar they need to build and support a healthy hive, and in the process, produce quality honey. Though your bees will go into other backyards and gardens to forage for pollen and nectar, your backyard should provide a plethora of flowers and plants that will provide the necessities for your bee colony.

Bees and Pollen


Plants with high nectar and/or pollen content are the best plants to fill your garden with. The following ten plants are particularly attractive to honeybees due to their high nectar and/or pollen content:

  1. Borage (Borago offcinalis)
  2. Lemon Balm/Melissa (Melissa officinalis)
  3. Phacelia (Phacela tanacetifolia)
  4. White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba)
  5. Echium (Echium vulgare)
  6. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  7. Yellow Sweet Clover (Melilotus officinalus)
  8. Goldenrod (Solidago)
  9. Cornflower/Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus)
  10. Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

You will need to check with your local nursery to see which of these plants are the best for your climate and area of the country. You should also consult with other local beekeepers to learn about other plants that are high in nectar and pollen that will contribute to higher rates of honey production.

You can also check out these website for more information:

“Plants for Honeybees,” The Melissa Garden: a Honeybee Sanctuary

“Guide to Bee-Friendly Gardens, Urban Bee Gardens

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The Bees Are a Buzz’n

Honeybee swarms are a natural process of growth…if you find one remain calm and call a professional

As summer is approaching, the blossoming flowers and growing bounty of the land attracts the buzzing honeybee. As the season progresses these important creatures are busy building their hive. A natural part of this process is the swarming of the honeybee. As their hive grows they will begin to overpopulate their space and a portion of the hive will go in search of a new home. The bees will form a cluster and swarm in a tree, study foliage or even a man-made structure. They will then send out scouts to search for a safe place to build a new home. This is the natural way that the honeybee multiplies and builds their population. Often the bees will swarm in the proximity of those of us that live among them and can be an intimidating site. Knowing what to do is the most important thing when you cross paths with a honeybee swarm. According to Matt Reed, a Portland beekeeper and owner of Bee Thinking, bees are actually at their least aggressive while swarming because they don’t have a hive to protect.

So a swarm may seem like something that should elicit panic, but it is important to stay calm and call a local beekeeper (such as Matt Reed) to capture and move the swarm to a place where they can find a home. Of course it is a good idea to keep pets and children away from the swarm, but be patient and wait for the swarm to be safely removed. This is important to protect the swarm, a vital part of our ecology.

To find out who in your area will remove swarms, check with your state beekeeping association or you can search the internet of local beekeepers.

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Benefits of Local Honey

With farmer’s markets starting up again, local honey is much more readily available, along with the fresh produce and flowers often purchased.

Honey 1

For people attempting to have a healthier diet and lifestyle, using honey as a replacement for traditional sweeteners in cooking can be a healthier option. According to Ashley Gartland in the Oregonian article, “Local Honey is Liquid Gold,” local honey is a much better option than many commercially produced honeys that often have corn syrup and other additives in them. Click here to read the rest of this article.

Eating local honey is also said to have a positive affect on people with allergies. The theory is that local honey contains the pollens of local plants, which are often the cause of many allergies. Supposedly, by eating honey produced in your area, it can gradually build up a person’s immunity to the various local pollens.

To learn more about honey, check out the National Honey Board’s website at

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Where Do They Go in the Winter

We all know that many of our feathered friends bulk up to survive the colder temps (or they migrate south if it is too cold).

You also may know that many of the other critters in the yard hibernate or slow down their pace in the winter months.

But what happens to bees? Well that depends on what type of bee you are talking about.

For bumblebees most of the colony will die and only the new bumblebee queens will survive. They will mate with the males and feed to build up fat reserves ready for their winter snooze. They like soil banks and sometimes even soft potting soil in a plant pot or a compost heap…so be careful when you begin to start prepping for the spring.

Honey bees don’t really hibernate, but are not really out and about. They become less active, when the temperature falls and huddle together in a temperature regulating cluster called a ‘winter cluster’. By this time, there will be no males (drones) in the hive or nest.

For solitary bees, like mason bees, they overwinter in hollow place such as plant stems or other small spaces in the garden. It is a good reminder not tidy up everything in the garden and leave some things for the critters to survive the winter.

Curious Questions…Do bees hibernate?


These critters have an interesting form of winter survival. They stop flying when the temperature drops below 50 degrees and crowd into the lower portion of the hive, forming  a cluster. The worker bees encircle the queen bee and flutter their wings, creating energy to keep the center around 80 degrees. The colder the weather, the tighter the cluster becomes. Observations have shown that hibernating honeybees consume up to 30 pounds of stored honey during the winter months, which helps the bees produce body heat. On warmer days, honeybees will venture out for short flights.

Mason Bee House

Mason Bee House


Mason Bees

The adult mason bee lives only for about 6 weeks, unlike honeybees. They are solitary creatures and each female makes her own nest. Inside the nest, eggs hatch and each larvae has its own cell and food supply in it’s own compartment. After the larvae feeds, it spins a cocoon and remains there the whole summer. In the fall, the larvae molts and transforms into adult form. They spend the winter as adults in the cocoon and then emerge in early spring to start another generation.

Bumble Bees

Although bumble bees are a closer relative to honey bees, they do not maintain colonies throughout the winter. The last of the summer colony will contain a number of queens. Each of these queens will mate, she will find a place to overwinter and will hibernate until spring alone. The queen depresses her rate of metabolism which allows her to hibernate while burning very little fuel. In the spring she will find a place to build a nest and begin to lay and tend to her eggs.







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The Reluctant Beekeeper

Beekeeping is not for everyone. It takes a certain mixture of patience, fascination and a bit of courage. But with some research and the right gear, it is possible to begin the journey as a beekeeper and have the satisfaction of working with the amazing creature…the honey bee.

Bee Hives

Do Your Homework

The first place to start is to hit the books (or trusted online sources) to find out what beekeeping is all about. There are many types of beehives and ways to keep bees. It is important to find a method that will work best for you and your space. Another thing to consider is can you afford the proper equipment needed for the correct set-up.

There are also several farms and nurseries that offer classes on beekeeping and the teacher is often plugged into the beekeeping community, making them a valuable resource when you are getting started.

One Thing at A Time

Take your time with getting things set-up and be patient as you learn the ropes. Late winter and early spring is the best time to get things started and planned. Honey bees will begin to swarm and become active in the hives around March or April, depending on the area you live in. In addition to planning for your hive(s), you will want to think out how to keep your bees happy in your own yard. Research the area you live in for the best bee friendly plants that are indigenous to where you live.

Backyard Bees

If you truly want to become a beekeeper, knowledge is key! There is quite a community that surrounds this hobby and they will offer the support you need. The whole process can provide a very satisfying experience…from the time working with the bees to the knowledge of what you are doing to help the environment.

For more details on how to get started click here:

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Learn How You Can Help the Bees

Last year, in Wilsonville Oregon there was an incident where thousands of bees were found dead in a local parking lot. They were falling from the trees and found dead on the ground. There is currently an active investigation being performed with cooperation from The Oregon Department of Agriculture, City of Wilsonville, City of Sherwood and the Xerces Society. It is believed that this incident is a direct result of pesticide use. This is unfortunately not an isolated incident and has been an ongoing problem for several years now nation wide. Our agriculture, ecosystem and food supply are reliant on the bees and the dwindling bee population is having a huge impact. It is our responsibility to be educated about this topic. Click on the image below to download the guide “How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides” provided on the Oregon State Beekeepers Association’s website.

Reduce Bee Poisoning, A Resource from Farm Garden and Beyond

Cover Image from Pacific Northwest Extension Publication PNW 591

Or Click Here to Learn More:

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