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Asclepias tuberosa is a species of milkweed native to eastern North America. It is a perennial plant growing to 0.3–1 metre (1 ft 0 in–3 ft 3 in) tall, with clustered orange or yellow flowers from early summer to early fall. The leaves are spirally arranged, lanceolate, 5–12 cm long, and 2–3 cm broad.

This plant favors dry, sand or gravel soil, but has also been reported on stream margins. It requires full sun.

It is commonly known as Butterfly Weed because of the butterflies that are attracted to the plant by its color and its copious production of nectar. It is also the larval food plant of the Queen and Monarch butterflies. Hummingbirds, bees and other insects are also attracted.

I have a field that has hundred of these plants in them with plenty of action from the bees as well. I'm wondering if anyone might know how good the nectar source is on them? I'm trying to find as many native plants as i can to seed around here on this 24 acres to feed bees.. :)

Here's a photo of them...

View attachment 11922
 

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I was (am) a gardener -- and a native one at that -- before I was a beekeeper. And while I don't know the, say, production per acre of butterfly weed I do know a really neat trick that I just love. Go pick a single flower. Get the tube of the flower and everything. Then squeeze the flower from the bottom up, like a tube of toothpaste. See the nectar? You will. If you see, say, a small drop full; enough to lick. It's a good nectar source. What we consider to be a drop is a LOT to a bee, as you well know.

Honeysuckle is a good plant to try this with, as is periwinkle. But butterfly weed will not dissapoint.

From Wikipedia...
F Milkweed [5][4] Asclepias spp. 55 species 7 8 feral All species are great for honeybees. Nectar is so abundant that it is possible to shake the blossom and actually see the nectar fall. major 120 - 250 pounds honey, depending on soil and if good fertilization Asclepias syriaca has the highest honey yield.

If you haven't seen this list already, it's a good reference:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_American_nectar_sources_for_honey_bees

Favorite natives of mine for bees include ceanothus, pussy willow, and penstemon. Oh my heart for Palmer's Penstemon <3
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
lilhouseonprairie - Thanks for the trick as well as the new info.. I didn't find that bit when i was searching.. Looks like this ole fart is gonna be collecting some seed pods from all the milkweed plants around this year.. Got some seeding to take care of :)
 

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Glad to help! I've only been at my place a year, but I have 10 acres of desert sand that I am first covering in manure (compost) and then covering in plants for my bees! So, this is sort of my "thing" and I vote -- Plant more Milkweed! I planted some this year too. I will save every single seed I can find and plant more next yea!

Oh -- if you go for honeysuckle it climbs fences really well which can help reduce wind and cover up ugly fences. But find a native -- usually called Trumpet Honeysuckle. Many colors and sizes available - around 80? The Asian based sister plants are invasive and illegal in some states.

Rocky Mountain Penstemon is also native, very cold and drought tolerant, and easy to grow by seed. Grab a few fists fulls, spread it in with your milkweed, and cover lightly and water. You'll get continuous blue tubular blooms alternating with your pretty orange red clusters. And happy bees. I have some of that as well, love it. Various native Lupines and Larkspurs are also easy to find, easy to grow in fields from seeds, and good for the buzzers.
 

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Butterfly weed is native to our area. We have a master beekeeper who recommends it in her "Pollinator Garden" presentation. Wikipedia lists it as a "minor" forage source for honeybees.

Just checking around, I noticed one pollinator garden page says to plant forage flowers in clusters. This confirms what I see. A flower or two in your garden, or a thin scattering of them, does not get the scouts excited. Foragers generally stick to one species of flower on a given trip, and it is not worth their time for one or two flowers. A thick patch may attract where a few flowers barely get a passing glance.

That was brought home to us this last week. While bumblebees love Crown Vetch, a lot of folks here will tell you that honeybees find it too much bother. Well, our girls are working crown vetch like crazy, but only where the patches of it are lush. They're ignoring Viper's Bugloss and some other honeybee favorites ... just too few of those other flowers.

Go big or go home when it comes to planting forage? I suspect a "minor" forage source goes major if there is a lot of it and pickings are otherwise slim. Drlonzo's field sounds like a good candidate.
 

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Butterfly weed is native to our area. We have a master beekeeper who recommends it in her "Pollinator Garden" presentation. Wikipedia lists it as a "minor" forage source for honeybees.

Just checking around, I noticed one pollinator garden page says to plant forage flowers in clusters. This confirms what I see. A flower or two in your garden, or a thin scattering of them, does not get the scouts excited. Foragers generally stick to one species of flower on a given trip, and it is not worth their time for one or two flowers. A thick patch may attract where a few flowers barely get a passing glance.

That was brought home to us this last week. While bumblebees love Crown Vetch, a lot of folks here will tell you that honeybees find it too much bother. Well, our girls are working crown vetch like crazy, but only where the patches of it are lush. They're ignoring Viper's Bugloss and some other honeybee favorites ... just too few of those other flowers.

Go big or go home when it comes to planting forage? I suspect a "minor" forage source goes major if there is a lot of it and pickings are otherwise slim. Drlonzo's field sounds like a good candidate.

Really good advice here. Plant lots. Once the bees find it, they will stick around if it is worth their time. It's harder when there is only, say, 1 bush or vine or clump of flowers. I'm covering the ground floor in my orchard in milkweed as a weed deterrent - and something to keep my bees in the area after the orchard blooms! Milkweed is full sun, but I have long hot days so even things planted under my trees - which run North to South - end up with six hours+ of sun from the East, and later, the West.
 
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