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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
One of the farmers next to my bee yard in North of Sacramento, planted about 100ac of sunflower, which bloomed in stages. The bloom is already gone this year, but to my surprise bees did not do very well as I was expecting. The number of bees increased just little bit on some hives, on some stayed probably at the same level as they were in spring about 10frames of bees. In May I put 2-3 new foundations frames in each hive in the upper level. In many hives those foundations stayed intact as I placed them. Just the frames with drawn comb got filled with honey. I don't see at least one dead bee next to the hives either. I was blaming some birds blue in color or maybe ground squirrels for cleaning the dead bees, but in front of one hive there is dense grass, where normally would be dead bees, not noticed by these creatures. It is a mystery for me.
I am trying to guess: if bees did not have enough food (30hives in yard), or farmer used chemicals poisonous for bees or of other problems. What are the pros and cons being next to sunflower? I try to decide what to do next year if they plant it again. Thank you.
 

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I read an article that said sunflower isn't very nutritious for bees. Might not have anything to do with it though.
 

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I have had other beekeepers tell me that sunflower makes a fine honey and that bees do well on it - and yet, I have also heard that bees don't do much with sunflowers at all.

I do know that there are a wide variety of sunflower 'types' - both that get planted for agriculture and as ornamental plantings. Perhaps that is responsible for the differences of opinion, some being good for bees and others being less valuable?

The agricultural sunflowers here are in the middle to end of their bloom. I have at least six hives that I know are within 1/4 mile of a large tract of sunflowers. I will pull the supers in a couple of weeks (2nd and 3rd alfalfa are also going crazy right now at other locations, so I am going to give the bees all the time they need) and let you know what they did.
 

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You may want to speak to the grower about his sunflower raising techniques. Think of head moth and the other various pests which are likely to be attacking this crop. Then consider what the common chemical treatments do to bees and other pollenators when applied during flowering stage. We get mixed results from sunflower crops near by.
 

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My bees have done great on the wild sunflower bloom out here, but I've heard that some types used in agriculture are hybrids that don't produce pollen. I'm sure one of the more experienced folks would be able to confirm or deny... but I've read it on the forums before. No pollen, nothing for brood to chow down on.
 

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Exactly. Most sunflowers on the marked are F1 hybrids. They are pollenless. Most honeybees will leave them alone. All sunflowers have abundant nectar weather pollen of pollenless. I planted a large amount of pollenfull sunflowers in a field near the hives. I have these little black/german feral honeybees that are gaga of the pollen. Basically, they are little orange fuzzballs while working the sunflowers. My honeybees are very attracted to them aslo but seem not to be interested in the pollen....they are sucking up the nectar, which there is a lot of.
 

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If planting sunflowers strictly for bees, plant the annual Lemon Queen variety. This is the best sunflower for bees that I have found. This sunflower has multiple blooms per plant and bees love it.
 

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Keeping in mind that not all sunflowers are created equal, here is a quote cut and pasted out of "Fat Bees Skinny Bees" a publication from Australia which discusses the nutritional variances of pollen sources and the need for good pollen for bees. A copy of this publication in PDF format may be gotten here...
https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/downloads/05-054.pdf

When a pollen source is of doubtful
quality, the decline in population may be
delayed or subtle. Examples include white
box (Eucalyptus albens) on the Northern
Tablelands of NSW, or mallee in the
Goldfields region of WA. Agricultural crops
such as lucerne (Medicago sativa) and
sunflower (Helianthus annuus) provide
pollen low in protein and deficient in
essential amino acids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Someone told me that the hybrid sunflower used in agriculture produce sticky flowers. Bees get stuck on the flowers and this way most of the foragers are lost. Is it true?
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
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