Trees for Bees and Other Pollinators
Bees and other pollinators rank at the top of the list of important insects, moving pollen from flower to flower to ensure pollination and the resulting production of many of our most important fruits and vegetables. Our supermarket shelves and dining room tables would look dramatically different if not for pollinators — especially bees. But in many areas, parasites, a lack of forage, and other factors are threatening bee health and survival. Trees’ flowers are a critical source of forage for bees, providing nutrient-rich pollen and nectar that bees use for food and to make honey.
Following is a list of bee-friendly trees. Many additional native trees are also good sources of food for pollinators.
Maples, Acer sp.
This large family of deciduous trees ranges from tall giants like red maple, Acer rubrum, to smaller specimens like Japanese maple, Acer palmatum. The flowers are generally not showy. Most have great fall color.
These small American native trees are best adapted to cold winter areas. White to pink spring flowers appear before the leaves, which turn fiery shades in fall. They also produce edible fruit that is used to make jams and jellies and is loved by birds.
Koelreuteria, Koelreuteria sp.
This lovely shade tree features large clusters of yellow flowers in summer followed by Japanese lantern-like seed capsules that hang long into fall. Divided leaves turn yellow in fall. One variety is the goldenraintree.
Many types of trees including plums, apples, crabapples, peaches, and pears are good food sources for bees. Varieties come in fruiting and fruitless types. Many fruiting varieties need bees to produce fruit. Most of these will flower in the spring.
Crapemyrtle, Lagerstroemia sp.
The intensely colorful flowers of the crapemyrtle appear late spring through summer and come in many shades including white, pink, red, and purple. Leaves turn bright yellow, orange, or red in autumn. Peeling bark reveals a smooth, cinnamon-brown trunk.
Liquidambar, Liquidambar sp.
These large, upright trees provide beautiful fall color. The flowers are inconspicuous but still attract bees. One variety is the American sweetgum.
A fine specimen native to eastern states, this shade tree offers glorious fall color. The flowers are not showy but make prized honey.
This prized eastern native has striking, long white clusters of fragrant flowers in spring followed by interesting seed capsules that dangle into winter. Its leaves turn fiery shades of orange to scarlet or purplish in fall.
Black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia
Clusters of fragrant white flowers appear in late spring on this locust, with beautiful yellow color in the fall. This species is not a good garden tree, as it reseeds heavily and has brittle wood. A better place for it is out-of-the-way areas like hedge rows.
Linden. Tilia sp.
Other trees that provide food for pollinators include hawthorns (Crataegus sp.), tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera), southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), privets (Ligustrum), and many additional natives.
If you are a homeowner who chooses to use pesticides, please take additional steps to help keep pollinators healthy. Do not apply pesticides when pollinators are active and always follow label instructions carefully.
Information provided April 2015, courtesy of the Bayer Advanced Healthy Trees for Life initiative. Bayer®, the Bayer Cross® and Bayer Advanced™ are trademarks of Bayer.