Forage for bees

You may not know that honeybees forage for 4 things.

1) Nectar – the sweet liquid from flowers

2) Pollen – vital to plant reproduction, it provides the bees a source of protien

3) Water – hydration is important!

4) Propolis – resins from trees are gathered by bees for many purposes …it is antibacterial!

So when we start to think about planting things in our gardens for bees we have these for things to consider.  Perhaps you dont have much space but can place a birdbath or shallow vessel in your garden that will provide access to water for bees.  Or maybe you own lots of land and are able to get a grant for planting trees and want to know which varieties are best? In the middle somewhere you might have a garden with some bedding area that you can plant vital sources of nectar and pollen. Whatever you have you can help!


Lets start with flowers, everyone loves to see the colours and smell the fragrance on the breeze, there are many types to choose from but we will concentrate on a few really beneficial varieties for bees:

Snowdrop and crocus – important early pollen sources for bees after winter

Borage – annual herb with edible leaves (and flowers for your pimms) bees love it! (not pimms)

Dandelion – you may see it as a weed to rid your lawn of, but this flower is so important to bee forage all season!

Poppy – a symbol of rememberance, you can remember the bees by planting this great pollen source

Clover – white clover, or trefoil, is a wonderful nitrogen fixing green manure for your garden and its great for bees

Phacelia – another green manure and probably one of the longest nectaer sources available!


Trees are great if you have the space but even some smaller varities are good too. Here are a few trees that are great forage for the honeybee (and other solitary bees too):

Pussy Willow – a great early pollen source

Lime trees – belfast streets are full of this amazing source of nectar and pollen!

Hazel – another early source of pollen for honeybees and lovely nuts later for you

Chestnut – Lovely red pollen is distiguishable to beekeepers when their bees are foraging this tree

Thorn – many types and good for hedging so even a utility plant can be helpful for bees

Thinking along those lines bramble is really good for hedgerows and who doesn’t love picking blackberries!  The bees need these type of ‘weeds’ to survive when many other traditional sources of forage are gone!


We hope this has been of use to you. There are plenty of good sites out there that will go into more detail of seasonal planting for pollinators, so don’t be afraid to search google “til yer heart’s content”!


Mail Online article

Here is the article – Keeping bees in cities could actually be BAD for them: City hives run the risk insect starvation | Mail Online by @UC Browser

The shock headline for this article is meant to draw your attention, what should have been made more prominent is the actual meaty goodness in there about the need for bee friendly planting! The inner city can be fairly sparse so rooftop gardens, balconies and window box gardens are needed all the more.  We are lucky in Belfast to have such a wonderful forest of street trees maintained by the city council.  The main variety we find is lime, which gives a beautiful tasting honey, but there are many species of tree across the city which supplement the nectar sources available to the honeybee.

So keep on planting people!

What is Belfast City Bee?

The world has changed and, like it or not, beekeeping has changed.  There are some who would carry on regardless, doing the same old things that traditional beekeeping has set in stone, unfortunately for us (and more importantly the bees) we need to break the mould and adapt to the changes around us in order for survival.

The idyllic picture of a country garden with a beehive or two is perhaps a dream for some.  However, the changing agricultural practices mean that not all country sites are suitable for the honeybee.  Setting the pesticide debate to one side we notice that farming has become largely monoculture which gives a short window of booming nectar flow for the bees and then a famine for the rest of the season.  However, in the city and its suburbs people grow all types of flowers and plants in their gardens/window boxes and even the parks and recreation land have great variety of flora on offer.

That’s where City Bee comes into play.  We are a not-for-profit organisation that wishes to link urban landowners with beekeepers for mutual benefit and ultimately an environmental positive.  Habitat lost through the development of cities can be reclaimed in many ways in the urban environment! From rooftop garden apiaries, window boxes planted with bee-friendly flowers, unused sites housing hives, to scrub land being reclaimed for nature, all can have an impact on the noble honeybee.

Whether you are a beekeeper in the city of Belfast, have a property that may be suitable, or even just a guerilla gardener then please get in touch to join with us in reclaiming the city for the bee!