When the Bees Arrive


When the snow stops! The snowy garden in April below…

Bees are curious little creatures. Each different species have their own way of making a living. Honeybees work all winter, where a pregnant bumblebee queen will hibernate. She gets to do all the work come spring of nest making, building a honey-pot to store honey, and collecting pollen to make bee bread.  She lays the eggs and sits to incubate them. Then some of her offspring hatch and take over her chores so she can lay more eggs. Not very queenly if you ask me. She has a busy, hard life. Bees have a hard life.

Bee-1I know come spring I too am very busy, but what I look for first is not what flower is blooming or popping out of the ground, but what flower is hosting bees. How many of you actually pick your flowers with bees in mind?

I bet many will say they grow native gardens for bees. I myself have an abundance of native plants, but if you really watch the bees, you will see them foraging on many herbs, shrubs, trees and tender annuals, all not native to your region. Bees of many types are very fond of Mediterranean plants – herb gardens. Plant some for bees. If the plant is tender to your region or soil conditions, make a container full of bee favorites. If the plant is not native and causes no horticultural harm, weigh the benefit for bees when adding to your garden.

Bees should be showing up soon when temperatures are above 55°F, so this year, take note of how many bees are actually in your gardens. My tiny garden hosts many hundreds of bees each day in summer.

Now we are in the mid the 30°s in the afternoon with snow showers likely to continue into next week.  It really is not going to be bee weather until late April here in WNY, but that does not mean mason bees will not be out and about during those warmer days that are predicted. Honeybees get a jump on collection early as the weather allows, working to replenish their pantries.


I was listening to a NPR podcast the other day all about spring bees. They  discussed how flowers attract bees, even with low electrical pulses. Other topics ranged from bees sipping caffeine in nectar to bees getting drunk on alcohol. I posted on each of these subjects over the years, but every year there is so much new to learn on bees.

Did you know Rhododendron can be toxic to bees? They will be blooming this spring. I won’t ruin the suspense, so check out Adventuresinbeeland’s post to find out more.

As I said, bees are curious little creatures, always amazing us. What would a flower be without its pollinator? From the standpoint of a plant, the pollinator is the reason for its flower to exist, even to catch a breeze and sway in the wind to get pollinated. They don’t exist to pretty our gardens or bring smiles to our faces from the viewpoint of a plant. Not very poetic from that perspective.

Flowers are mainly for pollinators, but we can eat some as well, also not very poetic. We enjoy flowers, no matter their function. Flowers lure in pollinators, but their beauty lures us in as well.


Tip of the day? Eat more flowers! Not!!! Add plants that bloom early for those honeybees and native bees to get a jump on the season. Better yet, have a garden in bloom the whole growing season.


Hellebores in my garden April 2, 2016

I rarely see a bee on the Hellebores (shown above early today and no bees), but honeybees love crocus and don’t miss even one of them.


Let those early dandelions flower for a bit in the grass too. Dandelions are actually pretty tasty in salads, but bees will be happy with pollen baskets full.


Next garden tip in my flurry of garden posts.. Change Bloom Time on Your Perennials.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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33 Responses to When the Bees Arrive

  1. Amazing photos, Donna!

  2. David says:

    I like all the photos but especially the first.

  3. So much great info and photos. Thanks.

  4. Emily Scott says:

    What a great photo of the heavily laden bee over the dandelion! Thanks for linking to my blog 🙂

  5. A.M.B. says:

    I’m always very happy to let the dandelions flower in my yard (something that I actually incorporated into Amelia Elkins Elkins) because they’re such cheery little flowers. The fact that bees like them is an added bonus. Great post!

  6. swo8 says:

    Good tip about the Rhododendrons, Donna. I won’t be getting any although they are so beautiful.

  7. Honeybees love snowdrops and visit them as soon as the sun shines even when the temperature is way below 55 degrees.

    • “Way below” does seem a bit unlikely since honeybees don’t fly in temperatures below 50° as far as I know, a few stray bees maybe. Native bees like digger bees and orchard bees can fly in cooler temperatures than do honeybees. I would have to look it up to see how low a honeybee can take flight, or ask Emily in the link in the post. I do believe certain bees enjoy the snowdrops. There must be a bee for all flower types.

      • The snowdrops know when the bees are flying and open their flowers accordingly. I would say 40 degrees and sunny with no wind and there will be bees everywhere. They look like honeybees but I haven’t studied them closely. I know customers who are interested in bees have bought snowdrops just for that reason.

        • Wow, that is one group of hungry honeybees at 40 degrees! I did ask Emily over on her blog and here is what she said. “Hi Donna, I’m away from my reference books at the moment, but I know that around 12-13C is the minimum temperature for nectar collecting – because most plants don’t produce nectar at lower temps than that. Pollen is produced at lower temperatures and I have seen honey bees foraging for snowdrop and crocus pollen at lower than 10C (50 degrees F). They can raise their body temperature to fly by shivering their flight muscles. However honey bees are not as hardy as bumbles, which will forage with snow on the ground.”

          Emily is having a baby, so she is in another frame of mind right now. I hope my readers congratulate her on her new and soon to be arrival. Like Emily, I have seen bumblebees out in the snow too, along with those native bees I mentioned. Our bee weather (Meaning when many bees are out buzzing around) is a little later though. Like Emily said, it is dependent on when the flowers produce to bring out a variety and number of bees.

  8. aussiebirder says:

    Great macros Donna, and interesting information!

  9. In past years I have seen bees on the Crocuses and even the Snowdrops. Not this year – too cold.

  10. Apparently Tasmanina native bees love dandelions, too. I’m thinking of having a dandelion meadow instead of pesky grass. Deeper roots and stays green for longer in dry weather, what’s not to like?

  11. I started to see bees the other day when we had a warm high in the 70s, but not we’re back to winter for awhile. It’s such a thrill to see those first pollinators on the flowers. I do pick flowers and plants for their value and preference by various pollinators–not always, but quite often. It’s so fun to see the “plans” work and to welcome those visitors to the garden. Great photos! Great post!

    • Thanks Beth. We too had those crazy high temperatures and bees were out. Now we are back to the forties and the bees are gone. In fact, we are hitting the low thirties today with more snow which will last for the next few days. I am surprised at the roller coaster of weather. From the furnace to the freezer and back again.

  12. alesiablogs says:

    I am allergic to bees. I like photograghing them, but I do get nervous when I am close to them! Lovely photos

  13. bittster says:

    Beautiful photos!
    The bees are here and their favorite (mostly overwintering bumblebees) are the browned and frost burned flowers of the Japanese weeping cherry. I’m not a fan of the tree but the bees mob it during its short bloom period and for that I keep it around. They love the crocus here as well… those I’m keeping regardless 🙂

  14. Bees have sometimes taken over our front walk area and a certain breed bores holes in our mail post. The are so fun to look at in your pictures!

  15. Great advice Donna. I did plant loads of early blooms to get the bees started…with the warm March we saw honeybees, flies and one native bee who was waked from slumber….they love the crocus and reticulated iris especially. Looks like spring will be coming back in the coming week. And I will be out looking for which bees are coming out to nectar and roll in the pollen. I think it is more fun to see the bees than all the little flowers.

  16. Fascinating information and beautiful photos, as always! I always learn so much from your posts!

  17. Steve Jones says:

    Hi lovely post, on my plot I have left an area of wildflowers (the uninitiated say weeds) purely because I witnessed the bees feeding on them. “weeds” they might be but they are still very pretty and perform a function in the grand scheme of things.

  18. Love this bee posting, Donna. We have bumblebees in the weeping cherry blooms. So happy. P. x

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