Ohio Trees for Bees by Denise Ellsworth

by Denise Ellsworth

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 factsheet 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 (Sophora japonica) in landscape settings.

Consider selecting from this list of trees when choosing species to plant in urban, landscape and rural settings: Maple. Buckeye, Alder, Serviceberry, Catalpa, CommonHackberry, Red Bud, Yellow Wood, Cornelian Cherry, Hazelnut, Hawthorne

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