This picture shows how we tend to think of hives – among flowers, because we humans tend to notice flowers at our level, and some colours ‘pop’ more to our eyes.
However, if you look up in Spring you can see lots of trees in blossom, and not just fruit trees – and the amount of nectar they produce can dwarf that from garden flowers.
Typically it is white blossom, and this doesn’t seem so noticeable to me, perhaps because it is up there with that bright sky thing.
Here’s the view from the same hives and, to a bee, those colourful things in front of the hive are relatively insignificant. In human terms it is “would you prefer a jelly bean or twelve Mars Bars?” What would be more interesting here are the lilac, apple and rowan blossom.
Interestingly, that wisteria isn’t too useful to honeybees, their tongues aren’t long enough to harvest it easily – it’s more a butterfly & bumblebee resource. The apple is beginning to lose its blossom so again the big tree, the rowan, is the dominant nectar source here. But its small, high-up white flowers are easy for our eyes to miss in this colourful view.
To a bee a tree can be ‘an acre in the sky’ and while you may not think of trees as food, they definitely are to insects. Here’s a picture of a horse chestnut tree about 100 meters from the hives. Again, the blossom isn’t that evident… but click on the image to enlarge it and you see it is covered in “candles” of flowers.
Soon the enormous lime (linden) tree in our neighbour’s garden will bloom, and hum loudly with many species. Limes are one of the most important food sources for bees here, but it’s so high I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen its flowers.
Another example of oft-ignored food sources is holly. This is a male holly (no berries) but it is a full sized tree next to our house. At this time of year it is covered with small white flowers but again, they are generally above head height and fairly inconspicuous to our eyes. Listen to the humming when it is in sun though!
At the end of summer ivy will be the last significant nectar source – its flowers resemble the holly ones here – and it is absolutely covered in famished pollinators. Not a plant we consider ornamental, but vital for insects – and, later, the berries for birds.
The other thing Up There, of course, is all those feral bee colonies in the eaves of houses, and occasional tree. A typical comment from a householder when you pick up swarms is “I never knew I had bees in my chimney”. Next time you are wandering around in a quiet area, listen for humming and look up. There’s a whole ecosystem up in that canopy.