Goldenrod: a late-summer feast for the bees

Goldenrod is one of those plants that everyone knows, but no one can identify—or so it seems. The genus Solidago—to which all the goldenrods belong—is extremely variable. The flowers, the leaves, even the general silhouette of the plant can vary markedly depending on where you live. The ones here on the west coast have baffled me for years.

But there is one thing you can be sure of: the bees love it. The one small patch I have is absolutely loaded with bees—mostly bumble bees, but also small native bees and butterflies. I’ve seen each inflorescence heavy with five or six large bumble bees at once. I never get tired of watching them.

Goldenrod belongs to the Asteraceae family—the very large plant family that includes dandelions and daisies, tansy and thistles, artichokes and sunflowers—along with about 22,750 other species. Although most are herbaceous plants, some are shrubs, vines, and even trees.

About 100 species of goldenrod are native to North America. Since they flower late in the summer, they are an important source of both nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and some wasps. Nectar is most plentiful in years when there is abundant moisture before bloom time, and when bloom time remains warm and sunny. The honey is said to be light to medium amber with a spicy taste.

If you want to attract a variety of bees to your pollinator garden, goldenrod is a perfect choice. Use a tall species as a back border or a shorter species mixed in with Russian sage, purple agastache, or blue asters. Goldenrod likes full sun but is not picky about the soil as long as it drains freely and does not remain wet.


Foraging bumble bees. Photo by the author.
Bumble bee on goldenrod. Photo by the author.

Sipping sweetness through a straw. Photo by the author.



I can confirm that honey bees love goldenrod; local beekeepers have 4 hives in our garden. The link is my flickr site where I have just uploaded some photos. If the link doesn’t work, search on flickr for titles bee 1, bee 2, bee 3 or bee 4

Hans Gutbrod

We heard that goldenrod provides honey that crystallizes quickly, so that it doesn’t help bees to get through winter and needs to be replaced. Can someone confirm?



I don’t know why these rumors persist. Bees were on Earth many millions of years before humans, and somehow they muddled through with their crystallized honey. No one was around to replace it. In fact, since they evolved with crystallized honey, they know precisely how to handle it.

What do I do when my own honey crystallizes? I use it for bee feed. I just take the lid off the jar, turn it on it’s side and lay it above the brood boxes. It will be gone in no time. Same thing with honey crystallized in the comb: I just arrange it directly over the brood nest, and next time I look, it’s gone.

Also, beekeepers routinely feed their bees crystallized sugar in the form of fondant, candy boards, or sugar cakes. If the bees can handle crystallized sucrose, they can certainly handle crystallized honey.

Hans Gutbrod


This is hugely helpful, thank you. We are writing from far away, from the Caucasus. We have bees as part of our kiwifruit orchard, but unfortunately there are very few experienced beekeepers left where we are working, so we are trying to learn as much as we can. We heard this from one of the beekeepers here, and also were puzzled. Thank you for helping to clarify.

Thanks for your great site, it’s very useful!




Good. I’m glad you asked!


You can heat the crystalized honey in a pot of hot water and bring it back. Feeding sucrose is cheaper than feeding honey.