Food for native bees in spring

Here's just a small sample of some of our native plants that bees enjoy:

Shrubs and trees

Bee on serviceberry ©Janet AllenA honey bee on our serviceberry

We were surprised to see how many shrubs and vines provide food for bees, especially in the spring. We just naturally associated bees with wildflowers, but these native shrubs also have nectar-rich flowers.

I saw this bee on one of our serviceberries (Amelanchier canadensis) soon after I heard about Colony Collapse Disorder. I was relieved to see there were at least some bees left to pollinate our vegetable garden as well as the shrubs, such as this serviceberry, that we planted to produce berries for birds. Later, I learned that native bees are even more important than honey bees.

Bee on redbud ©Janet AllenBee getting nectar from redbud

We have a few redbuds (Cercis canadensis), a native tree, though native a bit farther south. They're beautiful in the spring and also provide a good early source of nectar.

(Other than that, though, it's not a very productive tree in terms of hosting lepidoptera and thus caterpillars. We'll be removing it in the near future since it's reaching the end of its life span.)

Bee on pussy willow ©Janet AllenThe pussy willow is an early source of nectar

I love our pussy willow (Salix discolor), especially after the gray catkins flower. It's a very popular spot with bees looking for some early spring nectar and pollen.

This might be a bumble bee queen, looking for nectar and pollen to start her colony.

Herbaceous plants

Bloodroot ©Janet AllenThis little bee appreciates bloodroot for early nectar

There aren't as many herbaceous flowers blooming in the spring as there are flowers on shrubs.

One of the beautiful spring ephemerals is the bloodrood (Sanguinaria canadensis). This small bee appreciated its nectar, too. Other spring ephemerals are Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), various trilliums, and others. I've been slowly developing a nice collection of these natives that are so welcome after such a long Central New York winter.