Developing Your Own Floral Calendar

Thursday 20 May 2021

Briefly interrupting the queen raising series that began in last week’s blog, this week’s blog continues and concludes the short series on floral calendars that was introduced a few weeks ago. In blog #44 we highlighted the practical value of floral calendars and how they are used in understanding the availability of floral resources on the landscape to support both native and managed pollinators. In this blog, we are revisiting how floral calendars can be used as an informative beekeeping tool and how you can work towards creating your own floral calendar for your specific beekeeping area.

Many floral resources are useable and beneficial to both native and managed pollinators, but some floral plant species provide greater resources to foraging bees than others. By identifying and incorporating these good quality floral blooms on the landscape, we can offer support not only to our own bees, but also to the native pollinators that share these floral resources with our managed honey bees. 

Developing Your Own Floral Calendar

A floral calendar is a valuable beekeeping tool, and as with any tool, is most effectively used when it has been carefully calibrated to suit the specific purpose and environment for which it is being employed. To review from blog #44, a floral calendar is essentially a time table for floral blooms in a specific area. Making a floral calendar takes some time and fine-tuning, but it can be well worth the time if developed accurately. A well-developed floral calendar is a compilation of observations that are used to determine the approximate bloom timings and durations of important nectar and pollen plants. The accuracy of these observations ultimately determines the practical value of the floral calendar. Some of the key types of observations that go into the development of a floral calendar include:

  • Seasonal changes in flowering vegetation
  • Foraging behavior of bees
  • Interactions between floral blooms and bees

Making a floral calendar begins by simply spending some time making and recording observations within these three categories. Considering the general flying distances of foraging honey bees, observations can be made in a radius of approximately 3km in all directions from the hive(s):

  • Throughout the seasons, record what flowering plant species are present within this radius and take note of the timing of their blooming and how long they remain in bloom with available nectar and pollen.
  • Make observations throughout the seasons regarding if/how bees interact with these plant species. Are the bees collecting pollen? Nectar? Are there many bees consistently visiting the plant species? What types of bees are foraging from these flowers; native pollinators and/or managed honey bees?
  • Monitor and record changes in hive food stores while making the above plant and bee foraging observations. Does the quantity of food stores in the hive fluctuate? When and at what capacity? Does the timing of these changes correlate with the timing of any particular changes observed in floral blooms?

By reviewing the details and timings of these observations, connections can be made to determine which floral species’ blooms provide bees with the best foraging resources. Compiling and organizing these observations in the format of a floral calendar helps beekeepers to more accurately anticipate and track nectar flow and dearth periods throughout the season and plan beekeeping activities accordingly. Making a floral calendar takes time, so remember, it is okay to start small and build up records of observations over time!


Floral Resources in the Atlantic Canada Region

Through the information provided by a well-developed floral calendar, high quality/quantity resource producing plant species can be identified and then incorporated into the landscape to increase the forage value of the area for managed and native bees. As highlighted in blog #44, there are some pre-developed floral calendars available that are also useful in identifying what plant species produce good foraging resources for bees and what types of environmental conditions they are able to thrive in. ‘Honey & Pollen Plants for Canada’s Beekeepers: An Annotated Electronic Floral Calendar’ is a great resource for beekeepers and is available ONLINE.

Based on information provided by this resource, some examples of high-quality bee forage plants that are suitable for various environmental conditions in Atlantic Canada include:

  • Phacelia
  • Hyssop
  • Tickseed
  • Vervain
  • Boneset
  • Vetch

Beyond their value to foraging pollinators, it is also a good idea to consider some other plant characteristics before planting, such as:

  • Ease of establishment
  • Tendency to become weedy
  • Perennial vs. annual

Over time, a landscape can be transformed into a resource paradise for managed and native bees!

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can: