Here in my Zone 5b Massachusetts garden we are in the second half of October and it is unseasonably warm. We have had many 70 degree days with no hard frost in sight. Unusual for sure. Perhaps you are experiencing something similar. The bees, of all varieties, are expending precious energy to forage nectar and pollen from the flowers. Yet many of our native and perennial fall bee flowers have passed, such as goldenrod and asters. What flowers offer the bees some nectar or pollen now?
Here is a list of late fall flowers with busy bee traffic right now in my garden. Admittedly it’s a short list. But it’s a reminder that the flowers we plant can help our local bee populations. What flowers are the bees visiting in your yard?
Late Season Bee Flowers
Nasturtiums. This year I have two healthy varieties of nasturtiums, a yellow that has seeded itself from last year and an orange/coral one named ‘Tip Top Apricot’. Honeybees, bumblebees and native bees have all been busy on these flowers, with honey bees dominating. I don’t notice much bee traffic on nasturtiums during the summer months–probably because there are many other flowers to choose from. But now it appears to be a valued flower.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sactum) My culinary basil has generally passed but the holy basil or tulsi is going strong. The bees are busy collecting a deep orange pollen from its flowers. Its medicinal value for humans is well known. I would love to see the science on whether holy basil provides benefits to the bees as well.
Dahlias Grown as an annual in zone 7 or below, a perennial in the warmer zones. The open centered dahlias are the most popular with the bees, with an easy access to pollen and nectar. For more information about dahlias, check out a previous post, My New Favorite Bee Flower: Dahlias! I would love to see science examining the quality of dahlia pollen and nectar.
Many of the annual flowers normally popular with the bees, such as zinnias and cosmos, are not receiving many bee visits now. Why? I assume these flowers have slowed their nectar production.
While climate instability and climate change will be our new normal until we address our climate crises, longer seasons may be common for many of us. Flowers may fade before the season is done. With less flowers to eat from, this change could have serious consequences for our pollinators. Planting flowers that will keep going until frost, even when other flowers are no longer are available could be critical for their welfare. What flowers are your bees eating from right now? I would love to hear in the comments below. Please add your zone or location too.