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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
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    250

    Default Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    I'm compiling a list of trees that can be planted here in Philadelphia to increase forage for our bees. I'm working off a list of trees that the City of Philadelphia (Dept of Parks & Recreation) has approved for planting along the streets.

    Some of the choices seem pretty good for example, Crabapple (Malus), Hawthorn (Crataegus), Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), Serviceberry (Amelanchier), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Tulip trees (Liriodendron tulipifera), and Linden/Basswood (Tilia americana) in order of increasing size. All the Maples are good, right?

    They don't have a lot of really big trees that I recognize as good for the bees, aside from the Lindens which they say can't be planted along the street because they're too big, only in parks, etc. Are Elms good forage?

    Other trees I'm not too sure about. I don't want to say that they don't help the bees very much, just because I don't see them listed as good sources. Some are obvious Ginkgo trees, for example.

    Here are some of the trees I don't want to discount too quickly. Any thoughts on these?

    • American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
    • European Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
    • American Hophornbeam, Ironwood (Ostrya virginiana)
    • Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
    • London Plane, sometimes called Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

    And what about Oaks?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    West Chester, PA
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    138

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    American Linden/Basswood, Black Locust, Tulip Poplar, Sourwood and Sumac are great choices. You might want to stick more with flowering trees to help the bees. Maples provide some pollen in mid-to-late Winter, but our bees aren't out flying much then. Early and late season flowering trees can give the bees a boost when forage is less plentiful.

    You might also want to focus your scope more than "the whole city". Planting many trees in a relative close proximity to one another, such as a park, cemetery or large landowner property, is more valuable to the bees than a single tree every few blocks.

    Jim.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
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    1,682

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Poplars are great. They are early in NC and make the bulk of our early flow.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
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    Philadelphia, PA
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    250

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Quote Originally Posted by jfmcree View Post
    Planting many trees in a relative close proximity to one another, such as a park, cemetery or large landowner property, is more valuable to the bees than a single tree every few blocks.
    That's an excellent point, something to keep in mind. I've started a facebook group on the topic, for anyone with an interest in this topic.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/191211807880030/

    The emphasis is on the mid-Atlantic region and specifically trees for the city environment. (And we do have parks, cemeteries, and large properties in Philadelphia, which gives us another angle of approach.)
    Beekeeping - a form of magic that weaves together two elements: wood and bees.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Lamar Co. Alabama, USA
    Posts
    3,048

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Flowering cherry (Yoshino) with the single light pink blossoms are excellent for my bees. They cover the trees and you can hear the bees working the trees from about 50 feet away. I think that is the variety planted in Washington DC. They don't get too big, would be great for parks also.
    "Sometimes the best action is no action at all."
    Started 2011, 3-10 frame hives; 2016, 45-8 frame hives, 5 nucs.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    250

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Quote Originally Posted by dsegrest View Post
    Poplars are great. They are early in NC and make the bulk of our early flow.
    You mean the tulip poplars, right? I looked for information about poplars and found they're in the Populus family (including cottonwoods, aspens, etc.) which are mainly wind-pollinated. Tulip poplars are in the Magnolia family, and maybe they're just called poplars. I'm getting into this topic and starting to get used to how much confusion naturally occurs with the common names of plants and trees.
    Beekeeping - a form of magic that weaves together two elements: wood and bees.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    250

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    The best way to understand our project is to put it alongside efforts everywhere in the country to improve the forage for honey bees. At our last bee club meeting we saw an online powerpoint/audio presentation by Zac Browning, about difficulties they're having in eastern North Dakota with keeping and maintaining bee-friendly forage. They have some support from the federal Land Conservancy apparatus, but it seems they're feeling frustrated with so much of the land being dosed with herbicides and/or the 'natural' flora being replaced with seed mixes (e.g., grasses) that aren't at all suited to pollinator insects (nevermind dreams about seed mixes specifically tailored to honey bees).

    "Remember the bees!" seems to be the general message when talking to federal, state, local and not-for-profit organizations which are deciding what to plant and how to maintain it. And we're learning how to say that better in cities as well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    250

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    I've finished the list. It's pretty comprehensive, aiming at what's best for our region. We presented it at the club's symposium earlier this month, and had a nice panel discussion with some of the groups in Philadelphia that are involved in planting trees across the city.

    The contents of the list are posted on one page of the set of six.


    It distills a lot of information into a relatively compact space.

    (I can't control the size of the font on that page. It's *teeny-tiny* and the best way to read the page is to bump up the font-size in your browser.)

    It's also available as a pdf (5 pages), linked from the page at phillybeekeepers.org/bees-and-trees/. That's probably easier to read on-screen, and can be printed.

    Feedback here is welcome, or in our "Bees and Trees and other species" facebook group.
    Beekeeping - a form of magic that weaves together two elements: wood and bees.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Stockholm, NJ, USA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Japanese Pagoda trees. They bloom late summer.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    50,665

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    >Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

    It does not produce very much honey... that is not the cause of it's name.

    >London Plane, sometimes called Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

    I can't say bees don't work it, but I've never noticed bees on it when it's blooming. Maybe something else is blooming at that time.

    Any kind of early fruit tree is great. Linden is good. Tulip poplar is good. Black locust is good.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 41y 200h 38yTF

  11. #11
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    Jan 2011
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    Philadelphia, PA
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    250

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    >Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

    It does not produce very much honey... that is not the cause of it's name.

    >London Plane, sometimes called Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

    I can't say bees don't work it, but I've never noticed bees on it when it's blooming. Maybe something else is blooming at that time.

    Any kind of early fruit tree is great. Linden is good. Tulip poplar is good. Black locust is good.
    Thanks for the comments, Michael. I already went ahead and wrote up what I could, a few weeks ago, based on what I could discover.

    Here's what I put in the handout:

    Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) √ , β May, 30-70′
    Named for the supposedly sweet taste and smell of seed pods and foliage, which can be fodder for livestock. For the bees, it’s good for pollen, not much nectar. Some cultivars are thornless.

    ...

    Pollen & Propolis
    Some trees are basically wind-pollinated, including Oaks, Birches, Hickories, and Mulberries, and evergreens such as Pine and Spruce. These trees often flower early in the spring, at or before leaf out, as leaves would inhibit the passage of pollen from one tree to another. For many of these trees, male flowers are ‘catkins’ and female flowers are inconspicuous and odorless. Grains of pollen are generally small, hard, and low in protein. Many of these trees are nearly useless to insect foragers seeking nectar and digestible pollen.

    ...

    Sycamores (Platanus spp.)
    Commonly planted on Philadelphia streets, the London Planetree (P. x acerifolia) provides almost nothing for the bees.

    I wrote that (and a lot more) but I'm not 100% sure about any of it. I'm not an expert, but I couldn't find much good information on the subject. So I found what I could, connected the dots, and wrote it up. Feedback and corrections are welcome. Another page has links and references for the best sources that I used for this project.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Hampton, Georgia
    Posts
    317

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Maples are problematic in urban areas. They have strong surface root structure and will heave pavements and sidewalks.
    Honey locust can be thorny, produce long fleshy pods full of sweet pulp (the source of the name) and can be very messy. Also a very short lived tree.
    Black locust is very thorny and is very prone to sucker and form thickets.
    Hackberry produces a honeydew that drips onto cars and items underneath them discoloring them.
    Sycamores are large trees prone to shedding limbs, self pruning, as well as leaves. Not the strongest of trees and susceptible of losing large limbs in windstorms. Never observed a bee using one for anything other than a home when hollow.
    Tulip poplar, probably the best North American honey tree. Readily reseeds and is a pioneer species, can form pure stands given the opportunity. Rapid vertical growth, pale smooth bark creates a very attractive landscape. Much to be praised. Few liabilities.
    Oaks, as a group is little used by bees save for the tendency of many species to go hollow creating cavities for swarms. Some like water oaks (Quercus nigra) are heavy producers of acorns which sprout readily. Water oaks also tend to go hollow and shed limbs excessively. The willow oak (Quercus salix) is a very similar species minus the drawbacks.
    Georgia Wildlife Services, Inc

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Philadelphia, PA
    Posts
    250

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Thanks! warrior. That's the sort of info I've been looking for.

    For whatever reason, the City of Philadelphia plants lots of maples and sycamores along the streets. They do heave the pavements (sycamores more than maples, probably), but they survive the urban environment pretty well.

    I'm not sure how much the sycamores lose their limbs, more than other trees. Anyway, we have a lot of them and part of our mission at this point is to get the city to plant less of them and more Tulip Poplars, Goldenrain trees, and Maakia, and to get the Japanese Pagoda tree on the 'approved street tree' list.

    Hackberry was a false trail, as far as I can tell. I asked about them, and the responses here went along with what I got from other sources. I thought "Big tree, lots of flowers, must be good for the bees." But now I think probably not.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Stockholm, NJ, USA
    Posts
    160

    Default Re: Trees for bees, Mid-Atlantic region, especially street trees

    Quote Originally Posted by Kofu View Post
    Thanks! warrior. That's the sort of info I've been looking for.

    For whatever reason, the City of Philadelphia plants lots of maples and sycamores along the streets. They do heave the pavements (sycamores more than maples, probably), but they survive the urban environment pretty well.

    I'm not sure how much the sycamores lose their limbs, more than other trees. Anyway, we have a lot of them and part of our mission at this point is to get the city to plant less of them and more Tulip Poplars, Goldenrain trees, and Maakia, and to get the Japanese Pagoda tree on the 'approved street tree' list.

    Hackberry was a false trail, as far as I can tell. I asked about them, and the responses here went along with what I got from other sources. I thought "Big tree, lots of flowers, must be good for the bees." But now I think probably not.
    Check with NYC's park and recreation department. They plant Japanese and American Linden all over. Japanese Pagoda is basically the only tree blooming at the end of Summer in NYC. Another one tree I have heard of, is the Ben Franklin Tree. It is extinct in the wild, but it is still out there. It blooms early fall and is fragrant. It's name originated in Philly. There is a famous botanical garden in Philly that has it. You can search it online.

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