Flowers For Bees in Late Summer

Still A Lot More

Autumn will be here in a week; September 22nd is the first day to be exact.  I don’t really go by the date when I think of autumn.  I depend on the temperature and plants in the garden to tell me that fall is coming.  The same goes for spring when I’m prompted to start sowing seeds by the sprouting of weeds.

I know I have a few flowers that bloom until the first frost, but haven’t been concerned until this year when I acquired honey bees.  I want to make sure that they have enough natural food to last the winter.   The temperature has been down below 50F in the last couple of nights, but has gone up between 70F and 80F during the day.  The honey bees won’t come out foraging until the temperature is above 50F, but the resident Bumblebees have been very busy from early morning until last light.  There doesn’t seem to be any competition between them.  They seem to co-exist pretty well, unlike the wasps.

There are still plenty of flowers in the garden, Garden phlox, Coreopsis as well as herbs and vegetables flowers.   I let the Goldenrod (Solidago) grow and set seeds.  I know it is a weed but what constitutes a ‘weed’ anyway.  On the other side of the globe, Goldenrod is a cut flower and being sold in the market.  Farmers Markets in NYC also sell them.  I guess the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” still rings true.  I like them for the bright yellow flowers when there is not much else blooming, and for how much the insects and birds love them.  Our resident honey bees can also forage on them from mid-summer to fall.

Honey bee and wasp sharing the Goldenrod for a moment, before the bee was bullied out.

Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’ (Clematis turniflora) really has a perfect name.  As soon as the temperature cools down, it starts to blossom.  It is a sign of autumn approaching.  They create a cluster of small white flowers so dense that they look like snow from afar and they are lightly but beautifully fragrant.  A plus side?  Bees love them.  A minus side?  It can grow to 30 feet in one season.  I cut everything down to a couple of feet off the main branch in spring; it grows right back on to our roof by the end of summer.

This bee has a lot of pollen to carry back, but still adding more to her load from Clematis ‘Sweet Autumn’.

Another autumn flower is Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.  It’s great for full sun and dry areas, and it’s hard to kill.  As soon as the flower blossoms, the whole mop head will fill with all types of insects.  I’ve never really liked it much, but it came with the house so I keep it.  I keep dividing them and replanting them in an area that doesn’t need much care.  I may look for a different variety next year since I want to provide a variety of food for my resident bees in fall.

Taking nectar from Sedum

Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) is another staple for mid-summer to frost blooming.  This compact shrub with dark green leaves provides little white cluster flowers with a light fragrance.  I don’t have to do much aside from cutting some old stems off at the base in spring so it doesn’t get too crowded.  Mulching with compost once a year keeps it in good health.

No bees on this one, but Bumblebees and day-flying moths are frequent visitors on this Abelia.

I can’t leave this last one out, Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii).  This lovely shrub can be very invasive if I let the flowers set seeds.  But it makes up for the down side by providing a lot of beautiful and fragrant flowers.  They are still blooming in our garden in September, though less than a month or so ago, but still providing scent for the garden and food for the insects.

Honey bee taking nectar from a Butterfly bush. Notice the little, pink tongue.

5 thoughts on “Flowers For Bees in Late Summer

    1. It’s great on the fence, if you have a very long fence. You’ll see nothing else but green until late summer. Clematis ‘Montana’ is also good for the fence. It’s a spring bloomer with lovely scent. We have it on our pool fence. Both of them are fast growers once they are established.

  1. Well this is a first! I’ver NEVER seen a bee tongue before. Wonderful shots all. These bees have great eyes. Fascinating creatures.

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