Thursday, November 4, 2010

Goldenrod in Bloom

Goldenrod is one of the most important flowering plants for the honey bee. It is a prolific producer of nectar and pollen late in the year. Blooming in the late summer and fall, this bright yellow-flowered composite provides nectar for the bees to build up stores of honey for winter. Goldenrod also provides pollen to help stimulate the colony to produce brood late into the fall. The pollen adds considerable amounts of protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals to the diet of the late-season bees, helping ensure that they will be capable of producing the food for the next year’s early brood. Goldenrod is a consistent producer of nectar and pollen in most years. The open flowers attract a number of insect species. It is not unusual to see honey bees, bumblebees, and solitary native bees sharing goldenrod blooms with soldier beetles and yellow jacket wasps. Today’s photo shows one honey bee foraging goldenrod for pollen while another collects nectar.

Peace Bee Farm’s hives at the Children’s Museum of Memphis were active today with bees bringing in large amounts of bright yellow pollen, likely from goldenrod. The bees were foraging heavily even though the early morning temperatures were quite cool. The bees were also removing some drones from the hive as well as pupae. The drones, male reproductive bees, are not needed in the winter. They are pushed out the hive entrance to perish the first frosty night of the fall. Honey bee pupae are removed by hygienic bees that have a genetic trait that allows them to detect parasitic Varroa mites living and reproducing in the brood cells with the developing bees. The Varroa puncture the surface of the bee and expose it to a number of pathogens, including viruses. Varroa can be found in all honey bee hives. The mite population in the museum observation hives increased in late summer. I applied a thymol-based treatment to reduce the parasitic mites as part of our integrated pest management plan.


  1. Hello,
    I enjoy your blog and the information you place here. I was wondering. Might you have a list, or know of a source, that states what flowers are good for nectar & what flowers are good for pollen? I'm trying to compile a local list for my area.


  2. Hemlock,
    There is a close relationship between the flowering plants and the honey bees. Beekeepers are keenly aware of the plants that their bees visit. Since so many beekeepers are identifying important bee plants, I listed a number of them in my posting for today, November 6, 2010. Many fall into a group of families that are prolific producers of nectar and pollen: the roses, mustards, legumes, snapdragons, composites, mints, and magnolias.

    I also mentioned a couple of books that may be useful. I like to visit the book shelves of the visitor centers of state and national parks. They often offer books on wildflowers of the area. Identifying the nectar and pollen sources in your area is most interesting and worthwhile.