Even though it's September and autumn is right around the corner, there are still lots of flowers in bloom for the bees. Here's what's in bloom in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario in the last days of summer.
Goldenrod is the big bloomer across our region in late August and early September, blanketing meadows with its bright yellow flowers. Goldenrod is rich in yellow pollen, that the bees pack into the honeycomb and store as 'bee bread' to eat over winter and to feed to young larva in the spring. The pollen from these flowers is so yellow and bright that it stains the honeycomb and frames yellow. Some varieties of goldenrod are also good sources of fall nectar, making a stronger flavoured honey than typical wildflower, most of which is left for the bees for winter. A strange thing about goldenrod honey: when the bees ripen the nectar, it makes the beehive smell like old cheese. The honey doesn't taste or smell like cheese...just the beeyard.
This much-maligned invasive species is, however, popular among bees. It grows in wet swampy areas. Purple loosestrife honey is very sweet, almost like cotton candy, with an iridescent green tinge.
New England Aster
Asters are the longest blooming flowers in our region. The New England variety is common along ditches, with its little purple daisy-like flowers. Even after frost, the bees will bring aster pollen back to the hive.
Most of the crops that bees pollinate have long finished blooming, but not buckwheat. This late season bloomer is often planted by organic farmers to enrich the soil, in preparation for next season. When in blooms, fields of buckwheat will dance with pollinators visiting the delicate white flowers. Buckwheat honey is very dark, almost black, with a rich malt flavour and characteristic earthiness. We call it the Guinness of honeys.
Anise Hyssop is the showiest flower in our pollinator gardens this time of year. In the mint family, it is also an aromatic herb. The leaves have a mildly sweet smell and taste, like a combination of anise, licorice, and mint. Its purple flowers are very attractive to bees.
We have a lot of sedums on our farm and the bees start visiting them just as they start to blossom and long before they are in full bloom. Honeybees, bumblebees (and ladybugs) are crawling all over ours, drinking up sweet nectar.
What's in bloom in your garden?