How You Can Help Bees Prepare for Winter

Posted 10/05/2020 BY Bruce Rutter

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Fall is here, and honey bees are still hard at work, gathering nectar and pollen to feed their last broods of the season and stockpile honey for the winter to come. Unlike spring and early summer, the range of flowers available for them at this time of the year is limited. Based on our DNA analysis of honey, goldenrod is a honeybee fall favorite, along with late-flowering daisies, and a few long-blooming species, such as roses, honeysuckle, catnip, begonias, and marigolds.

Some summer flowers, like sweet clover, yarrow and waterlilies will continue blooming into early autumn, providing additional nourishment for bees.

 

A honeybee foraging on goldenrod.

 

HoneyDNA Certified Autumn Flowers

  • Goldenrod
  • Daisies
  • Roses
  • Catnip
  • Begonias
  • Marigolds

When our beekeepers come to call in September and October, clients often ask, “What can we grow in our gardens next year that will help bees prepare for winter?”

In addition to the list above, you can plant annuals and perennials next spring such as asters, cosmos, open-centered dahlias, helenium autumnale, helianthus, honey wort, nepeta (catmint), and Russian sage—all these plants will bloom into the fall.

A great shrub for your yard is blue mist shrub—it blooms from August into October, and bees can’t resist it!

Single flower Rose of Sharon bushes will often bloom into early fall, as well.

If you’re growing herbs, bees love borage, chives, oregano, and sage, which are still blooming now, and if you have a veggie patch they’ll pollinate cucumbers, onions, and squash until the first frost comes.

More Fall Blooms that Bees Love

  • Asters
  • Cosmos
  • Open-centered Dahlias
  • Helenium autumnale
  • Helianthus
  • Honey wort
  • Nepeta (catmint)
  • Russian sage

If you have limited space and are gardening on a balcony or windowsill, annuals like zinnias, marigolds, and calendulas are ideal for containers and window boxes—bees love them, and they bloom all summer and autumn.

Commercial, hotel and residential properties with rooftop beehives will find sedum the perfect plant for their pollinator gardens—bees of all kinds love it, it survives dry, windy conditions, is relatively lightweight, and comes in a wide range of colors. Plant a mix of varieties, and your bees will have a food source from late spring well into the fall!

Autumn plantings in a rooftop garden bed at a client site in Salt Lake City.

 

Pollinator Plants for Balcony and Rooftop Gardens

  • Sedum
  • Zinnias
  • Marigolds
  • Calendulas

Fall blooming plants are a joy to look at and an essential food source for bees.  If your garden is looking a little bare, get some asters and sedum from a local nursery while there’s still time—the bees will thank you!

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