Ohio Trees for Bees

ENT-71
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Date: 
10/26/2015
Denise Ellsworth, Department of Entomology

Many people are concerned about the health and survival of bees, including honey bees, native bumble bees and the hundreds of lesser-known native and wild bees that call Ohio home. Bees are threatened by an assortment of factors such as pests, pathogens, pesticides, climate change and a lack of nesting habitat and forage plants.

Bees and flowering plants have a critical relationship. Flowering plants provide nectar and pollen for a bee’s diet. Pollen is an essential source of protein for developing bee larvae, and nectar provides a carbohydrate source. Honey bees convert nectar into honey by adding an enzyme which breaks down the complex sugars into simple sugars. Bees, in turn, transport pollen from flower to flower as they forage, allowing for plant fertilization and the production of seeds and fruit.

While trees provide many well-known ecological benefits, the importance of trees as a source of food for bees is sometimes overlooked. Ohio trees can provide food for bees from early spring through late summer, with most tree species in Ohio blooming in spring and early summer. This fact sheet describes some of the Ohio trees that provide food for bees. Trees included in this list have been described as important by multiple researchers and bee experts.

Other trees not listed here can also provide food for bees. For example, Ohio horticultural experts have noted significant bee foraging activity on trees such as Carolina silverbell (Halesia carolina), seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides), goldenrain tree (Koelreuteria paniculata) and Japanese pagoda tree (Styphnolobium japonicum) in landscape settings.

Consider selecting from this list of trees when choosing species to plant in urban, landscape and rural settings.

 

    Latin Name
Common Name
Pollen/
Nectar
Native (Na) and/or Intro-duced Season of Bloom About This Tree
1 Acer spp.
Maple, Boxelder
PN Na,I ESP,
SP
Silver and red maples provide important early season sources of nectar and pollen for overwintering bees, particularly during warm springs when bees are flying.
2 Aesculus spp.
Buckeye, Horsechestnut
PN Na,I SP Also visited by hummingbirds.
3 Alnus spp.
Alder
P Na,I ESP Wind-pollinated but visited by bees for pollen in early spring if weather is favorable.
4 Amelanchier spp.
Serviceberry
PN Na ESP,
SP
Several species native to North America.
5 Catalpa spp.
Catalpa
PN Na SP,
ESU
Visited by bees during the day and by moths at night. Extrafloral nectaries on leaves.
6 Celtis occidentalis
Common Hackberry
PN Na SP Flowers in spring while leaves are emerging.
7 Cercis canadensis
Red Bud
PN Na SP Attractive to an assortment of bees.

 

8 Cladrastis lutea
Yellow Wood
N Na ESU Attractive nectar source but inconsistent bloom from year to year.
9 Cornus mas
Corneliancherry dogwood
PN I ESP An introduced ornamental tree with early-season flowers.
10 Corylus americana
Hazelnut
P Na ESP Wind-pollinated but visited by bees for pollen.
11 Crataegus spp.
Hawthorn
PN Na SP Many species, with wide appeal to bees.
12 Diospyros virginiana
Persimmon
N Na SU Nectar flow may be brief.
13 Fraxinus spp.
Ash
P Na SP Wind-pollinated but visited by bees for pollen.
14 Gleditsia triacanthos
Honey Locust
PN Na SP Brief nectar flow.
15 Lirodendron tulipifera
Tulip Poplar
PN Na SP Rich nectar source.
16 Magnolia spp.
Magnolia
P Na,I ESP,
SP
Many ornamental selections offer a minor pollen source in spring.

 

17 Malus spp.
Apple, crab apple
PN Na,I SP Important spring nectar and pollen source.
18 Nyssa sylvatica
Black gum
N Na SP Dioecious (separate male and female plants), good nectar source.
19 Oxydendrum arboreum
Sourwood
N Na SU Best grown in moist acidic soils. Not tolerant of urban conditions.
20 Prunus spp. (cultivated)
Cherry, Plum, Peach, Apricot, cultivated
PN I ESP,
SP
Important spring nectar and pollen source.
21 Prunus spp. (native)
Wild Cherry (P. serotina) and others
PN Na ESP,
SP
Many native Prunus species are important, such as P. virginiana, P. pensylvanica and P. americana.
22 Ptelea trifoliata
Hop tree
N Na ESU Visited by many bees for nectar.
23 Pyrus communis
Pear
PN I SP Abundant pollen producer.
24 Quercus spp.
Oak
P Na,I SP Wind-pollinated but also visited by bees for pollen.

 

25 Robinia pseudoacacia
Black Locust
PN Na ESU Rich nectar source but variable from year to year.
26 Salix spp.
Willow
PN Na,I ESP Important early-season source of nectar and pollen, including Salix discolor (pussy willow) and Salix nigra (black willow).
27 Sassafras albidum
Sassafras
PN Na SP Dioecious (separate male and female plants).
28 Tilia spp.
Basswood, Linden
PN Na,I SU Rich nectar source.
29 Ulmus americana
Elm
P Na SP Wind-pollinated but visited by bees for pollen.

When more than one species of the same genus is useful, the genus name is followed by “spp.”
ESP: Early Spring          SP: Spring          ESU: Early Summer          SU: Summer
Photo credits: Denise Ellsworth: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 15, 16, 17, 20, 23, 26, 28; David Stephens: 3; Robert Vidéki: 6, 14, 25; T. Davis Sydnor, 8, 11, 12, 13; Vern Wilkins: 10, 21; Charles T. Bryson: 18; Wendy VanDyk Evans: 19; Richard Carter, 22; Paul Wray, 24, 29; R. Scott Cameron: 27

Program Area(s): 
Ohioline http://ohioline.osu.edu