Spring flowers offer a welcome resource for bees who have made it through winter.
Of course, feeding bees in spring can help give them a boost…
But the best option is early spring flowers to give them a more natural alternative.
There are plenty of different blooms you can cultivate at this time of the year, while others occur naturally and should be promoted in your garden or apiary.
In this article, I have a list of early flowering plants you should consider.
Early Spring Flowers For Honey Bees
Bee-friendly plants that flower in early spring are of huge value to bees coming out of the winter season. This is because resources in the hive are low or thoroughly used up after winter, and the bees need a ready source of pollen and nectar to provide nourishment and begin building up the colony for summer.
Beekeeping is an activity that requires an understanding of many aspects of the natural world and numerous different skills, which is why I love beekeeping!
Many beekeepers are also weather watchers, woodworkers, gardeners, and botanists – all to care for and provide for their bees.
Spring flowers can be one of the most essential early resources of the coming productive season to set up your colony and build its strength.
Knowledge of wild and cultivated plants that provide pollen and nectar early in the year will give your buzzy friends a jumpstart for summer!
In fact, there are several aspects of spring flowering plants and some late winter flowers that beekeepers can exploit to benefit their honey bees.
Use this list to grow some spring food for your bees…
Or use your bees as an excuse to leave the weeds to grow in your garden until summer arrives 🙂
Spring Weeds For Bees
Gardeners often malign weeds as an irritation and nuisance, but these tough plants actually provide beneficial springtime forage for bees.
Weeds are survivors for a reason. They’re often the first plants to sprout new growth and flowers in the early spring.
So before you pull all the weeds from your garden, explore the potential benefits they can offer your honey bees after a harsh winter.
Here are some beneficial weeds you should consider allowing to grow as natural spring forage.
Dandelions are considered a nuisance, but this wild plant is highly useful for bees. Dandelion also has medicinal properties that humans can make use of too.
Dandelions prefer warmer climates and do well in zones 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. They produce flowers in April that last through to May.
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea)
Creeping Charlie is a ground-cover creeper, often called ground-ivy. Glechoma hederacea grows well in zones 5 through 10, produces small purple flowers in April, and lasts till May.
When crushed, the creeper produces an aromatic mint-like scent. It can be used as a salad green for humans if you enjoy foraging for wild edibles.
Chickweed, sometimes known as Field Chickweed (Cerastium arvense), is widespread across the US and grows well in most soil types.
This herb is not the common chickweed that most of us know, which was introduced to the US from Europe and plagues all lawn-growers.
Field Chickweed is a small, pretty plant that produces delicate white flowers that bees love.
The flowers appear in April and last right through until August, making this plant an excellent robust resource for bees. Cerastium arvense grows all across the US, except in the southeastern states.
Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule)
Henbit is part of the nettle family and is generally considered a nuisance weed. Still, it offers valuable spring resources for hungry bees.
This plant is widespread across all zones in the US, often growing on roadsides and areas of undisturbed ground, open fields, and suburban gardens.
Purple-to-pink flowers are present in temperate climates throughout winter and into early spring. In colder winter regions, they flower early in March, providing early spring pollen and nectar resources for bees.
Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum)
Purple deadnettle (also called red dead nettle) is often mistaken for Henbit since it grows in the same areas along roadsides, fields, and gardens.
Purple deadnettle grows well in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. The purple flowers appear in March and last through until October. The pollen is unique in that it is red in color rather than the typical yellow. So, if you see bees with red spots of this pollen on their heads, they have been visiting this plant.
Beekeepers sometimes confuse the red pollen with mites on their bees since the color is similar. The new shoots at the tops of the plants are also edible for people and can be used in salads.
Spring Flowers For Bees
Planting flowers in your garden (or apiary) that produce flowers in early spring is another good strategy to provide spring reserves for bees.
Taking the time to select some early spring blooms will brighten your garden soon after winter and provide welcome food for bees.
The Crocus family of flowers is part of the iris family, and certain versions flower in the early spring. Other varieties bloom in fall and winter, so planting a combination of these plants in your garden can help the bees throughout the year.
To help the bees in early spring, ensure you plant the variety that flowers at this time, and your bees will have forage from early March in USDA zones 3 to 8. A cold winter helps to set the bulbs and improve the flowering performance of the plant!
Hellebore (Christmas/Lenton Rose)
Hellebores are like nectar wells for bees early in the spring. The flowers provide an abundance of nectar, giving the bees much-needed energy after the winter.
Hellebores flower through winter and into March and April, providing early seasonal resources for bees. The plants are most suited to USDA zones 3 through 9.
Hellebores are available in red, white, pink, violet, and yellow flowering varieties. Ensure to select the yellow and violet-colored types, as bees are more attracted to these colors.
Primrose is another early flowering plant good for bees. Primrose plants will flower in the winter in zones with mild climates but will flower early in spring in areas with colder seasons.
Primrose grows best in zones 4 through 8 and makes a beautiful addition to any winter or spring garden!
Heather is a hardy plant that can nourish bees all year round. It is a particularly good source of protein-rich pollen and energy-laden nectar for bees in the spring.
Heather flowers strongly, with many blooms on a single plant, and it is easy to grow.
It is tolerant of conditions in USDA zones 5 through 7. Several varieties flower at different times of the year. So try planting several types and give your bees forage all year round!
These plants’ late winter and early spring flowering characteristics make them an excellent early spring flower choice to help your bees out after winter.
Galanthus Snowdrops flower in the cool weather from January to May and thrive in zones 3 through 7 in the US.
Trees, Shrubs, And Vines Providing Flowers In Early Spring For Bees
Trees are another source of early forage for honey bees. So planting trees that give humans AND bees food is a win-win option for your garden!
If you prefer trees in your garden to flowers or want to plant some trees to provide height, I can recommend several examples that flower early in spring…
Magnolia can be a tree or a shrub, and many varieties flower soon after winter comes to an end. They are ideal for growing in zones 7 through 10, flowering between February and June. These varieties will offer the best spring forage for bees.
The fruit from the magnolia is not usually used for food but has some medicinal uses, which you can explore.
Apple trees are a great fruit tree option that benefits both the bees and you as the gardener. Apple trees generally bloom from early spring into late summer, providing practical resources for the bees after winter and throughout the summer.
Apple trees grow well in USDA zones 3 through 5, with certain varieties extending up to zone 8. So plant some apple trees for your bees, and you will reap the reward in the form of honey as well as homegrown apples!
Growing plants in your garden that will benefit your apiary in the early spring by supplying nectar and pollen is an excellent way to give them natural forage after winter.
On top, the bees will boost your flower and fruit production from the pollination service they provide to the plants!