The Pacific Northwest climate is mild enough that plants grow almost all year long; and many of them are good pollen sources for honey bees. Good sources of nectar are much less common though – in fact there are really only 3 major nectar-producing blooms in Seattle. That means just 3 short windows of opportunity for the bees to gather all the nectar they need for an entire year … and hopefully a little extra for the beekeeper. A week of rain at the wrong time can make all the difference between a bumper crop and starving hives. No wonder beekeepers are so obsessive about the weather.
Big Leaf Maple
Maple blossoms signal the end of the winter dearth and the beginning of the bee season. Most people don’t even notice them, because they are mostly high above the ground. But once you’ve learned to identify them, you see them everywhere. A single tree can have an incredible number of blossoms. No wonder this is such an important nectar source. Unfortunately, the maple flow is also notoriously unreliable, as the weather is often too cold or wet for bees to take advantage of it.
Himalayan blackberries are an invasive weed in the PNW (as opposed to the native creeping blackberry), fervently hated by gardeners and environmentalists alike. But beekeepers love them for being a prolific and dependable source of nectar in the late spring and early summer.
The last major nectar flow of the year is knotweed. As the name implies, it’s another invasive weed that grows prolifically along road sides and other untended open areas. Its unassuming appearance belies it’s importance to beekeepers. Knotweed is the last chance for the bees to stock up before the long wet months of fall and winter. Knotweed honey is dark and slightly bitter, like molasses – typically, people either love it or hate it.