How can I help the honeybees in my yard?
Lots of way. You can support local beekeepers by buying local honey. You can limit the use of pesticides. Plant a pollinator garden. And if you find a colony of bees, don't use poisonous sprays to get rid of them, call us instead.
One of the simplest ways, and our favorite, is to cut your grass less often, later in the spring, and selectively - allowing flowers to bloom.
Here in the North Carolina piedmont, early spring means that bees are starting to forage, but nectar can be sparse. Those "weeds" you see flowering in late February are important sources of nectar and pollen. Here are some of our favorite bee plants that intermingle with the grass in your yards. Let these low-growing lovelies flower and feed the honeybees.
Speedwell, veronica persica, (above) has delicate little blue flowers. The plant sprawls along the ground in a gentle way. While it is a less important food source than some of the other plants here, I often see bees on it when nothing else is blooming. It is one of the first plants to bloom each spring.
Henbit, lamium amplexicaule, (at right) has pink blossoms with leaves that seem to encircle the square stems. When large patches of it are allowed to grow in early spring, it appears as swaths of purple from a distance. It is a good source of both pollen (dark red) and nectar for honeybees. And while it is not a native plant, it is easy to pull from garden beds, and is edible for humans as well. Henbit always dies back once it gets hot, but it will return from seed in the spring.
Red Dead Nettle, lamium purpureum, (at right) has purple or pink blossoms on a square stem as well, but the lobed leaves grow in layers from each side. It is commonly mistaken for henbit, and as you can tell by the latin name, they are closely related. But red dead nettle often has a "hood" of leaves at the tip of the stem, from under which the blossoms poke out. It also has red pollen.
Dandelions, taraxacum officinale, (at left) may be the bane of some yard guards, but it is a favorite of the honeybees. The yellow flowers offer ample nectar, orange pollen, and a sunny disposition to your yard. Dandelions also make a delicious mead (honey wine).
White Clover, trifolium repens, (below) is probably the best known of these yard flowers. Clover is well-behaved in yards, mixing right in. The fields of white flowers in the mid-spring are a bountiful source of nectar. When it is blooming in your yard, it is fun to cut the grass around it, leaving patches of clover to bloom. It never gets higher than about 6" high. And clover honey is a favorite of many people. Clover is one of the few plants listed here that you can buy seed for at the garden store. It's a good cover crop, adding nitrogen to your soil.
Hairy vetch, vicia villosa, (below) with its bunches of purple flowers on long stems, is often found in ditches, along road sides, or climbing fence lines. It is another plant that you can buy seed for, as like clover, it add nitrogen to soil. And these purple flowers yield a brilliant, and surprising, orange pollen.
Hairy vetch photo: By Homer Edward Price; uploaded by Amanda44; CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.