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Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

Earlier this spring, I planted two gardens filled with native species that were supposed to be big-time forage sources for bees. They have been...as long as "native bees" were the only bees you're interested in! I don't begrudge the native bees feasting on the gaillardia all day long, but this supposed power-food source hasn't attracted a single honey bee (okay, I saw one once, only once, and never again, despite the flowers buzzing with other types of bees from sunrise to sunset).

On the other hand, I've noticed honey bees foraging on duranta (golden dew drop) on campus every day for weeks now. So, I headed over to the nursery to get some duranta, as well as cleome and salvia. While there, I noticed not honey bees, but bumble bees on the duranta and salvia, too. I suddenly realized that I had NEVER seen a bumble bee on the gaillardia! The bumbles loved the blueberries (I didn't have my bees yet, so not sure if the HBs will go for them too much, but they are rumored to be good nectar sources) and I've seen them sharing ligustrum and viburnum with other natives as well as honey bees.

So, I am wondering if perhaps bumble bees and honey bees might have larger overlapping palates than other native bees + honey bees? I live in North Central Florida, and FL is not really renowned for its inland forage sources, so it's important for me to identify what works. Has anyone else noticed whether bumblebees in your area seem to share more forage sources in common with honeybees, too? If so, that would make it easier to choose native or nativized plants by just looking in the nursery for who was foraging on what.
 

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Re: Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

Bumblebee and honeybee forage overlaps but is not the same. Bumblebees have longer tongues and different techniques to honeybees.
 

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Re: Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

The nectar situation is more complicated than just whether bumbles are collecting nectar from a given plant. Bumbles' bodies are built differently than honey bees and may be able to access nectar that honeybees cannot. Some bumbles puncture plants where they think they can collect nectar (like humans tapping a maple tree), but honey bees can't do that AFAIK. See this interesting page on bumbles:

http://www.bumblebee.org/foraging.htm
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Re: Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

Bumblebee and honeybee forage overlaps but is not the same. Bumblebees have longer tongues and different techniques to honeybees.
Yes, I've read that, too. I was thinking specifically about the "advantages" of native forage plants which have turned out to be great for native bees and not popular with honeybees (which are not native). So, in choosing plants, I was thinking that bumblebee taste buds might be similar, then you have to take into consideration the shape of the flower and its family, etc.
 

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Re: Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

Another thing to consider is, honeybees like a large nectar source. Honeybees might pass over a small tulip poplar to work a larger poplar, even though the larger might be further away.

When I see honeybees on a small nectar source, it seems to indicate a poor flow.

My uncle has a saying "bumblebees will work anything".
 

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Re: Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

I have noticed more bumblebees since I have started keeping bees. I am thinking I am just more aware now.
 

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Re: Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

Any nectar source for the honey bees the bumble bees will follow. But what's good for the bumble bees the
honey bees may not be interested in. I have more bumbles in my bee yard ever since planting borage and sunflowers.
When you goto the nursery observe what the honey bees are working on like salvia, etc. There will be more bees on
certain plants at the nursery than the other.
 

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Re: Could bumblees be a "nectar indicator species" for plants honeybees will like?

I have noticed more bumblebees since I have started keeping bees. I am thinking I am just more aware now.
This year it seems I have noticed more bumblebees than in the years past. It could be that I am more bee aware as well, or perhaps I have cultivated more bee friendly plants.
 
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