Definitions

chick weed wintergreen

Pollen source

The term pollen source is often used in the context of beekeeping and refers to flowering plants as a source of pollen for bees or other insects. Bees collect pollen as a protein source to raise their brood. For the plant, the pollinizer, this can be an important mechanism for sexual reproduction, as the pollinator distributes its pollen. Few flowering plants self pollinate; some can provide their own pollen (self fertile), but require a pollinator to move the pollen; others are dependent on cross pollination from a genetically different source of viable pollen, through the activity of pollinators. One of the possible pollinators to assist in cross-pollination are honeybees. The article below is mainly about the pollen source from a beekeeping perspective.

The pollen source in a given area depends on the type of vegetation present and the length of their bloom period. What type of vegetation will grow in an area depends on soil texture, soil pH, soil drainage, daily maximum and minimum temperatures, precipitation, extreme minimum winter temperature, and growing degree days. The plants listed below are plants that would grow in USDA Hardiness zone 5. A good predictor for when a plant will bloom and produce pollen is a calculation of the growing degree days.

The color of pollen below indicates the color as it appears when the pollen arrives at the beehive. Bees mix dry pollen with nectar and/or honey to compact the pollen in the pollen basket. Dry pollen, is a food source for bees, which contains 16 - 30% protein, 1 - 10% fat, 1 - 7% starch, many vitamins, but little sugar. The protein source needed for rearing one worker bee from larval to adult stage requires approximately 120 to 145 mg of pollen. An average bee colony will collect about 20 to 57 kg (44 to 125 pounds) of pollen a year.

Source: THE R-VALUES OF HONEY: POLLEN COEFFICIENT accessed Feb 2005

Spring

Trees and shrubs - Spring

Common name Latin name Blooming months Pollen color Availability Source for honeybees
Maple Acer spp. Feb - Apr light yellow feral fair
Manitoba Maple (Box elder) Acer negundo Feb - Apr light olive feral good
Norway maple Acer platanoides Apr - May yellow green, olive feral fair
Red Maple Acer rubrum Mar - Apr grey brown feral
Grey Alder Alnus incana Feb - Apr brownish yellow feral
American Chestnut Castanea dentata May - Jun mostly ornamental
Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa May feral good
Common Hackberry Celtis occidentalis Apr - May feral
Flowering Quince Chaenomeles japonica, Chaenomeles lagenaria, Chaenomeles speciosa 'Nivalis', Chaenomeles x superba Apr - May feral good
American Hazel Corylus americana Mar - Apr light green feral and ornamental fair/good
Hawthorn Crataegus spp. Apr - May yellow brown feral fair
White Ash Fraxinus americana Apr - May
Honey Locust Gleditsia triancanthos May - Jun feral
American holly Ilex opaca Apr - Jun feral
Walnut Juglans spp. Apr - May cultivated fair
Tulip-tree Lirodendron tulipifera May - Jun feral and ornamental good
Crab Apple Malus spp. Mar - Jun light olive ornamental
Apple Malus domestica, Malus sylvestris Apr - May yellow white cultivated and ornamental very good
American Sycamore Platanus occidentalis Apr - May light olive feral
Plum Prunus spp. Apr - May light grey, grey ornamental and cultivated
Almond Prunus amygdalus Feb light brown to brown pollen - not considered a good pollen source but bees are the primary pollinator cultivated mostly in California fair
Wild Cherry Prunus avium Apr - May yellow brown, light brown feral very good
Cherry Plum Prunus cerasifera light brown to brown feral fair
Sour Cherry Prunus cerasus Apr - May dark yellow ornamental and cultivated very good
Peach Prunus persica Apr - May redish yellow ornamental and cultivated good
Black Cherry Prunus serotina Apr - May feral minor
Blackthorn Prunus spinosa feral good
Pear Pyrus communis Apr - May red yellow ornamental and cultivated good
Oak Quercus spp. May feral
Oak Quercus robur, Quercus pedunculata May light olive feral minor
Black Locust Robinia pseudoacacia May - Jun feral
Blackberry Rubus spp. May - Jun light grey feral and cultivated
Raspberry Rubus idaeus May - Jun feral and cultivated good
Willow Salix spp. Feb - Apr lemon feral good
White Willow Salix alba feral good
Goat Willow Salix caprea Mar - Apr feral very good
Violet Willow Salix daphnoides Mar - Apr feral very good
Pussy Willow Salix discolor Mar - Apr feral and ornamental
Basket Willow Salix purpurea Mar - Apr feral very good
Silky leaf osier, Smith's Willow Salix x smithiana Apr - May very good
American mountain ash Sorbus americana May-Jun feral
American Elm Ulmus americana Feb - Apr light grey feral
Winged Elm Ulmus alata Feb - Mar pale yellow feral good
Europea field elm Ulmus americana feral good

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Flowers and annual crop plants - Spring

Common name Latin name Blooming months Pollen color Availability Source for honeybees
Ajuga (Bronze Bugle, Common Bugle) Ajuga reptans mid spring
Chives Allium schoenoprasum May - Sep cultivated?
Asparagus Asparagus officinalis May - Jun bright orange cultivated
Mustard Brassica arvenisi Apr - May lemon cultivated and feral
Canola Brassica napus May - Jun lemon extensively cultivated very good
Yellow Crocus Crocus vernus (syn. Crocus aureus) April orange yellow feral and ornamental fair
Leopard's Bane Doronicum cordatum Apr - May
Winter aconite Eranthis hyemalis Mar - Apr yellow feral and ornamental good
Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis Mar - Apr orange, red fair
Henbit Lamium amplexicaule April orange red, red, purplish red Apr - Jul poor
White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba May - Aug yellow to dark yellow feral and cultivated good
Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officinalis May - Aug yellow to dark yellow feral and cultivated
Sainfoin Onobrychis viciifolia May - Jul yellow brown very good
Raspberry Rubus idaeus May - Jul white grey feral and cultivated good
Siberian squill Scilla sibirica Mar - Apr steel blue feral and ornamental good
White mustard Sinapis alba June lemon feral and cultivated good
Chick weed Stellaria media Apr - Jul yellowish feral minor
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale Apr - May red yellow, orange feral very good

Summer

Trees and shrubs - Summer

Common name Latin name Blooming months Pollen color Availability Source for honeybees
Horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum May - Jun after 80-110 growing degree days. red feral good
Southern Catalpa Catalpa bignonioides Jun - Jul ornamental fair
Northern Catalpa Catalpa speciosa Jun - Jul ornamental
Bluebeard Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Heavenly Blue' Aug - Sep very good
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia Jul - Aug good
Boston Ivy 'Veitchii' Parthenocissus tricuspidata 'Veitchii' Jun - Jul good
Sumac Rhus glabra Jun - Jul
Elder Sambucus canadensis Jun - Jul
Basswood or American Linden Tilia americana Jun - Jul yellow to light orange feral and ornamental
Blueberry Vaccínium myrtíllus Jun red yellow, orange cultivated poor

Flowers and annual crop plants - Summer

Common name Latin name Blooming months Pollen color Availability Source for honeybees
Allium Allium spp. feral and cultivated
Onion Allium cepa light olive cultivated
Chives Allium schoenoprasum May - Sep feral and cultivated
Garlic chives Allium tuberosa Aug - Sep feral and cultivated
Leadwort syn. Indigobush Amorpha fruticosa Jun - Jul ornamental?
Aster Aster spp. Sep-Frost reddish yellow feral and ornamental
Land-in-blue Aster x dumosus Aug - Sep feral
Borage Borago officinalis Jun - Frost ornamental
Marigold Calendula officinalis Jun - Sep
Heather Calluna vulgaris Jul - Aug good
Hemp Cannabis sativa Aug yellow green good source
Blue Thistle Carduus spp.
Star thistle Centaurea spp. Jul - Sep
Knapweed Centaurea macrocephala Jul - Aug good
Knapweed Centaurea nigra very light olive
Chicory Cichorium intybus L. white
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp. good
Cucumber Cucumis spp. pale yellow cultivated
Melons Cucumis melo Jun-Frost pale yellow cultivated
Pumpkin Cucurbita pepo Jun-Frost bright yellow cultivated
Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium Jul - Aug blue feral
Joe-Pye weed Eutrochium spp. Aug - Sep
Buckwheat Fagopyrum esculentum Jul - Aug light yellow to light green cultivated good source
Blue vine Gonolobus laevis syn. Cynanchum laeve
Sunflower Helianthus annuus Jun - Sep golden feral and cultivated
Jewelweed Impatients capensis yellowish white
Alyssum Lobularia maritima Jun - Sep
Mallow Malva alcea Jun - Sep
Alfalfa Medicago sativa July - Aug greyish yellow feral and cultivated
Clover Melilotus spp. and Trifolium spp. May - Aug feral and cultivated
White Sweet Clover Melilotus alba feral and cultivated
Yellow Sweet Clover Melilotus officinalis feral and cultivated
Basil Ocimum basilicum ornamental
Poppy Papaver somniverum May - Jun grey feral and ornamental very good source
Smartweed Polygonum spp. Aug - Sep
Chickweed Stellaria media Apr - Jul minor source
Germander Teucrium chamaedrys Jul - Aug
Alsike Clover Trifolium hybridum yellow brown good source
Crimson Clover Trifolium incarnatum dark brown
White Clover Trifolium repens Jun - Jul yellow brown good source
Cat-tail Typha latifolia Jun - Jul
Common vetch Vicia cracca Jul - Aug
Spring Vetch Vicia sativa Jul - Aug
Sweet Corn Zea mays Jun - Jul yellowish white cultivated

Fall

Trees and shrubs - Fall

Common name Latin name Blooming months Pollen color Availability Source for honeybees
Chinese Elm, Lacebark Elm Ulmus parvifolia Aug - Sep ornamental good

Flowers and annual crop plants - Fall

Common name Latin name Blooming months Pollen color Availability Source for honeybees
Aster Aster spp. Sep-Frost reddish yellow
Borage Borago officinalis Jun - Frost
Melons Cucumis melo Jun-Frost cultivated
Sweet autumn clematis Clematis ternifolia late Sept white ornamental
Pumpkin Cucurbita pepo Jun-Frost bright yellow cultivated
Ivy Hedera spp. Sep - Oct dull yellow or black? ornamental (not native to America)
Goldenrod Solidago spp. Sep - Oct golden feral

Source: Bienenweide Arbeitsblatt 207, Bieneninstitut Kirchhain, 2001

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