Fall forage: Goldenrod

Probably the most wide-spread and important fall forage in North America, Goldenrod is essential for winter survival. Learn more about this unique plant and know what to look for in your area.

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honey bee foraging goldenrod
What a beauty! Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Today’s fun information is brought to you by American Honey Plants by Frank C. Pellett and also from my own experience. Get your own copy of my favorite beekeeping book below!

Apparently there are over eighty species of Goldenrod but only three or four of those belong to North America.

Here’s the plant-nerd facts:

  1. It’s one of our most widely distributed native plants; from Canada to Mexico and from the Atlantic Coast to California.
  2. Not all species are of equal value to the bees and beekeeper
  3. Nectar secretion from this plant is greatly influenced by soil and climatic conditions.
  4. And less known, the temperatures need to be at least in the lower 80’s before honey bees can be found foraging on it.
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Goldenrod usually shows its blossoms sometime in August with and continues blooming through October until the first frost kills it off for the year.

Early Goldenrod is one of the first to bloom, hence the name. But one of the best species for honey is the Tall Hairy Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa.)

honey bee foraging goldenrod
Bee booty loaded down with pollen from Goldenrod! Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

What it means to beekeepers

Fortunately for beekeepers, this plant is not too picky about where it grows. But one of the challenges is that it often grows in cow pastures and is cut down since it offers nothing of value to the cattle farmer.

When you see Goldenrod blooming in your area, you can kinda relax knowing that your bees have incoming nectar for the remaining of the year as long as freak weather doesn’t end the flow too soon.

In 2017, a hurricane coming up from Florida actually effected us here in North Georgia. The temps dropped, bringing winter early and putting a stop to Goldenrod 4 weeks too early.

It’s at this point your bees will be gathering as much as they can for winter preparations. And of course, this is usually in conjunction with other plants such as Asters, Coneflowers, vining flowers like Clematis and others that I cannot think of at the moment.

In general, beekeepers do not harvest Goldenrod, leaving it on the hive so that their bees are sure to have the most food stores as possible till spring.

Depending on how much is available within range of your apiary, the bees can work it very diligently and the honey can be stored rapidly.

However, in my experience the bees take longer to store a surplus in my area than they do during the spring and summer flows.

In the evenings, standing in the apiary, you can actually smell the aroma of Goldenrod honey ripening in the hive. It kinda stinks but I like it anyway.

One of the most important things you can do as a beekeeper or as an advocate for pollinators is to learn to recognize Goldenrod before it blooms so that you don’t cut it down as a ‘weed.’

honey bee foraging goldenrod
Honey bee on Goldenrod. Photo by Jonathan Hargus©

Learn more about Goldenrod in your area from American Honey Plants.

And don’t forget, Weeds are Wildflowers and of incredible importance to our honey bees and native pollinators. Learn to recognize it, appreciate it, and enjoy nature’s bouquet!

~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee!~

Jonathan Hargus/Wildflower admirer


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