I haven’t purchased a packet of sunflower seeds in a couple years. I just keep harvesting seeds from one or 2 saved heads and replant. It works really well and I’m getting the hang of creating a nice, small field of sunflowers. I thought my bees would go nuts for this offering. Everything I’ve read and heard leads me to believe that bees love sunflowers. They produce both nectar and pollen in abundance. However, my bees have consistently bypassed my sunflowers as they flew to greener (or yellower?) pastures. Far be it from me to tell my honeybees what they should eat, but somehow I felt a lack.
Whatever used to taste better than sunflowers, apparently doesn’t any more. Or at least not for a half-dozen (plus or minus 100) of my bees.
Notice how the bee above is quite golden and the one above that is very black. I obviously have a bit of genetic mix in my bee hives.
Luckily my bees don’t seem to mind sharing. Here are 2 bees on the same flower. I’ve yet to see 3 at once on a flower but I suspect it happens. These flowers are huge compared to a tiny bee and each sunflower seed is really a flower all its own, so one sunflower head has scores of flowers to satisfy a greedy little bee.
I think I have a critical mass of flowers and so the bees are keen. Since bees can only collect pollen and nectar from a single flower-type on each flight, they must prefer visiting an area where they can do all their collection without having to fly further afield.
Whatever it is, anytime I go down to my sunflowers now, I find half a dozen bees circling. No more lack here: I love watching my bees feed off my flowers, it’s just that little bit more satisfying than watching them fly into my neighbour’s tree. I’m going to do my best to sow sunflowers to maximise their season next year so my bees can eat up for months on end.
Of course it’s not just bees that like sunflowers. Birds love them too. Here is Bronwyn trying to steal some seeds from one of the smaller flowers which has tipped over. The flower bobbed up and down dramatically and I don’t think Bronwyn actually harvested anything – not at this attempt anyway.
Some wild bird has already discovered my sunflowers even though the seeds aren’t yet ripe. I can tell the birds are testing the waters because one of the heads (the biggest, of course) has been nibbled. I want to save the seeds from the largest head for next spring’s sowing so I put a little sack over the top. It’s worked for me before, unfortunately it looks pretty awful and seriously detracts from the aesthetics of my little sunflower patch. Such is life, I’ll opt for bounty over beauty every time.