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planting for honey?

 
tel jetson
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I'm wondering if anybody has planted a honey forest, or something like it. there might be an established term for what I'm thinking of, but I'm not aware of it. basically the same main idea as a food forest, but with the focus heavily weighted on honey production. I read recently that black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) can yield 800-1200 lbs of honey per acre per year. got me thinking that I should find a piece of land to dedicate to honey. it would, of course, yield other products as well.

some things to plan for:

-the honeybee worker population has to be there to take advantage of any potential nectar. brood production only starts in the spring after some nectar starts coming in, at least in temperate regions. the tropics are a whole other ballgame. from the queen laying an egg to the pupa emerging from a cell as a worker takes 10-12 days. workers generally only start foraging after 22 days. so there needs to be reasonably abundant nectar available for more than a month for the bees to be ready to take advantage of a large flow like black locust. an alternative is to feed to induce laying, but I personally find that distasteful and disrespectful.

-one strong hard bloom, like black locust, isn't enough to sustain a large bee population and honey yield. if the population booms during a strong flow, but there's a dearth afterward, the bees will just consume all the honey they've stored. around here, black locust blooms around two to three weeks before the rampant blackberries, which is pretty handy. after the blackberries, there isn't a strong nectar source that I'm aware of until ivy in the Fall. there are many minor nectar plants here, and there are quite a few species that could span that gap, but they would have to be planted as they aren't locally abundant.

-pollen is easy to overlook. many good nectar plants also produce a lot of pollen, but many don't. I don't personally know the ratio of pollen to nectar that bees need, but colonies will fail without enough pollen. neglecting to provide pollen also increases the odds that bees will look for pollen elsewhere and find it in dangerous places. I'm thinking of genetically modified plants, and plants treated with neonicotinoids, both of which can destroy a colony, and both of which could easily be present in agricultural areas.

-weather can dramatically impact nectar production. wet and sunny weather is the best in most cases for the best nectar production. deep-rooted and locally appropriate plants are most likely to produce nectar in adverse weather. flowering trees and weedy plants appeal for this reason.

-there's no reason to believe that other folks' or feral bees won't find my honey forest. I would guess that hives placed in such a forest would dominate the closest nectar sources, but I'm not really sure about this. competition for even abundant honey is a possibility.

-bees are vulnerable. I believe my beekeeping practices are aiding the resilience of my bees, but they forage in a much larger area than I'm able to control. further, even if my practices are selecting for reduced pathogen and parasite pressure, other beekeepers in the area might be inadvertently selecting for pathogen and parasite virulence. I hope that it's unlikely, but the chances of my colonies collapsing exists. alternative products reduce the economic risk if that came to pass. the plants selected would likely improve the dirt and accumulate organic matter over time, so if bees fail, the land will be primed for other appropriate uses, maybe transitioning away from the locusts and toward fruit and nuts.


what I'm imagining is a mixed coppice of black locust, Korean evodia, and other flowering trees as the overstory. an understory of many flowering plant species will provide nectar while the larger trees are maturing, and again when a section is coppiced. some fruit and nuts could be harvested, but the focus here is on low labor input and honey production. medicine could also be harvested, but I'm imagining leasing or purchasing a somewhat remote (because remote is cheaper) piece of land that will mostly be left alone apart from annual coppicing once things are established. I'm generally opposed to tilling, but I think I would probably plow and disc the land in question to in order to drill a mixed groundcover of perennial and annual flowering plants, and plant the trees into that. clovers, phacelias, lupins, salvias, mints, et cetera.

so, I'm sure nobody has read this far. apologies for the tome of a post. I guess what I'm looking for from permies is problems with this plan. best to try to figure some of those out in advance, though I'm sure more will show up along the way.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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I just posted your question to a lady on Facebook that seems to be a Bee expert. I'm hoping she'll answer because I am interested in what she might have to say on the subject.
 
John Polk
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Both buckwheat and clovers are excellent bee crops. Clover is often the first bloom of the year, which is a big plus for beekeepers.
Buckwheat is a very fast grower - 30 days from seed to mow - you could fit in a crop just about any time of year except winter.
With those two cover crops, you could help recover some good soil.

Although this pollinator guide is not just about honey bees, it does cover them well.
It is written specifically for your region. Both pollinators, and flora localized to the Pacific Lowlands of OR/WA

http://pollinator.org/PDFs/Guides/PacificLowlandrx9FINAL.pdf

 
Amedean Messan
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YES, I would love to engage in this discussion! Have you ever had the privilege of sampling sourwood honey? I have fallen in love with this wonderful honey, it tastes slightly buttery and is a wonderful mild honey which comes from the sourwood tree. So far it is my favorite.

Anyways, the trouble for me besides developing the palate of flavors is timing of the flowering. The way I envision a honey forest is that an assortment of plants are placed in perhaps a couple acres and the species bloom flowers to cover the entire spectrum of the year so that the bees have a steady supply of select nectars year round.

My crude plant list. (I still need to work on this)
  • Fireweed
  • White Clover
  • Sourwood Tree
  • Linden Tree
  • Black Tupelo Tree
  • Knotweed
  • Acacia Tree
  •  
    tel jetson
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    John:
    that's a great pdf. I think you posted it elsewhere on here, because I'm pretty sure I've seen it before.

    clovers are great, but I've got a couple concerns with buckwheat. first is that my sister hates buckwheat honey. obviously not an issue for everybody, but I like my sister. more seriously, I'm led to believe that modern buckwheat varieties are bred to be self-pollinating and have small flowers that are inaccessible to honeybees. suggests to me that just planting the buckwheat I've been buying in 10-lb bags like I've been doing might not do the trick. but maybe it will. might just be a matter of finding older varieties, but that might not be easy or affordable. or it might be easy. I haven't looked into it.

    the other issue is that it grows so fast and dense. it's frequent use as a smother crop makes me wonder how well it would get along with other annuals and perennials that I would try to establish at the same time. the obvious solution to this is to seed it at a lower rate, which should work fine. my previous experience with buckwheat as a cover crop is hard to shake, though.

    if those two issues are resolved (really just the one issue, I guess) buckwheat would likely be a great first honey crop in the succession. it's an indeterminate flower, so it's got a long flowering season. and, as John pointed out, it's quick.


    Amedean:
    I think I have had sourwood honey. part of a single flower honey taste test a few years back. I only remember the really weird or sort of nasty flavors, though, and sourwood wasn't one of those. manuka was weird, as was carrot. looks like it will grow here, but I'm not certain if it would flower reliably.

    fireweed is a big nectar source out here. it really likes volcanic soils, which we've got plenty of. if I could find a reasonable supply of seed, I would definitely include that in the mix. might just be a matter of spending a day up on the mountain collecting seed myself.

    I like your list so far. apart from the tupelo, I think I could include all of those here. since it's fast, black locust would be the first tree to provide nectar, and it would nurse other species along to better round out the year. do you know the species of acacia you're thinking of? I know that black locust honey is frequently sold as "acacia honey."

    as with other purposes, I really think the trees will outshine the herbaceous plants for reliable nectar production. just have to deal with the lag before they start flowering. I'm trying to work out a lease on six acres right now. it's owned by a natural gas company, so development isn't an option and the land is just sitting there. they were fine with a grazing lease, but planting trees is a whole other matter.


    Jeanine:
    I've only been keeping bees for a few years, but so far I've only heard about placing hives in proximity to good nectar sources. I've heard a couple of mentions of folks letting an alfalfa crop flower for the bees, and lots of folks are intentional about planting a variety of nectar plants on a small scale in their gardens. the idea of a honey forest seems pretty obvious to me, but maybe that's because we're familiar with this sort of thing around these electronic parts.

    I think it's unwise to plan for achieving the published honey yield potentials I've seen, but they sure do inspire daydreams.
     
    John Polk
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    I did post a link before, but the one I posted here was for your specific region.

    If anybody wants a copy of the book for their region, go here:
    http://www.pollinator.org/guides.htm
    Type your ZIP code into the box, and it will direct you to your region's book.

     
    Saybian Morgan
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    A couple of things to note, adult bee's eat honey, nectar makes honey once capped, juvenile bee's eat pollen. Young bee's will starve without pollen, and hives need propolis like carpenter's need nails.
    If your in washington you're close enough to me that what i'm suggesting will be relevant. There are a couple of things about apiculture forestry that you need to remember and it mainly has to do with flight lines, bee's will not enter forest to any great depth they work the edges where things like blackberry naturally occur.

    The problem's in bee's are the early and late season forages, don't even worry about the middle until both ends are managed. They decide your hive strength prior to the nectar flow and your winter stores after you've harvested.
    This year has been my best so far, I inherited a few forages at the place I'm at and i've been building up to fill the gaps as many trees flower for such a short period like apples that I don't really look at them as a forage but as something I need bee's for.

    The year start's with Alder pollen, it really start's with witch hazel but it's too cold for the bees unless we get a freakishly warm day. Alder goes off like mad late april as do the dandelions.
    Fruit tree's in may, scotch broom, laurel, arch angel mint, salmon berry, pine pollen, cotton wood marsh marigolds, vetch, chives, creeping buttercup, indian plumb, comfrey, bugle weed, wild rose.
    Most of those carry on into june but now you can add sage, pussy willow for pollen, thimble berry, lupine, bolting vegetables like broccoli, more mints, kale, lemon balm, turnip, watercress. The blackberry starts in june and goes till august, so does the linden.
    Going into July your mid season and there is no shortage of flowers from assorted ornamental tree's, even terror vines like wisteria and bind weed.
    August is micro climate dependent this is where things can go dry just when things were going great, now your looking at potatoes, cucumber vines like pumpkins, squash, beans starting to finish, your honey locust is coming to a close, evening primrose goes into september.
    You've also got your classics groundcover's in bloom starting from june-july, alfalfa, clovers, more legume beans of different types like pole beans. There's more than you need to worry about unless drought is a major issue in your region.
    September things get hard, flower's from non invasive species are hard to count on, this is where your primrose, giant hogweed and your Japanese knot-weed really come into form before their turned to winter mulch.

    There are more even in my yard but I can't remember their names without asking my wife, there is so many plant's I havn't had the right timing to add, but the scotch broom makes a huge difference and fixes nitrogen like the alder. You can dig large broom and knotweed plants in march, and it jumpstart's your system before the climax tree's are up. The thing about these invasives is there all dependent on being on the forest edge of systems, once your forest shoot's up from in between them they phase down rather than become rampant.

    If you don't have that september flow for when the last of the summer bees give their life working to secure the colony with stores, the winter bees won't be old enough to do it as they live the six months keeping the hive warm. So without that in place you have to curb your nectar flow enthusiasm because they can't replace it in time. My neighbor has allot of flowering tree's that arn't for fruit so i don't know their names but it only takes 5 of those per acre to beef up april/may and september/ october. Oh I almost forgot the hazel nut pollen, maple and creeping cranberry in april/may


     
    Saybian Morgan
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    Oh an tea tree / melaluca, i paid 20 dollar's for a small jar of that stuff.
     
    John Polk
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    Two of you mentioned alfalfa. honey bees will drink the nectar, but do NOT count on them to pollinate alfalfa.

    When a pollinator gets into the pollen, a mechanism causes a part of the flower to thump the pollinator on the head.
    I guess honey bees are like humans...they don't like getting thumped on the head at meal time, or while working.
    They quickly learn how to get the nectar without triggering 'the hammer'.

    Farmers who raise alfalfa for seed use a different kind of bee for pollination purposes.

     
    Leila Rich
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    I was about to mention tagasaste, and I realised it's not really talked about on permies. It looks as if it's pretty restricted, due to invasiveness. True?
    If it is ok to plant, it's an amazing nitrogen-fixing, early blooming pioneer. And one of the fastest-growing, coppicing animal forages.
    Bees go crazy for acacia. Over here they flower in winter and they're a real winter staple
     
    tel jetson
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    alfalfa:
    I just read a story about this. seems that "saturation pollination" is used. the idea is that if there are enough young honey bees around, the alfalfa still gets pollinated, because it takes a few knocks on the head for them to get the picture.

    forest edge:
    I think I would plant a honey forest so that it's roughly all edge. the trees would be at a relatively wide spacing, so there would be plenty of gaps for sun to reach the ground. it would be good for the flowering trees, and good for understory plants, and good for the bees.

    and ivy (Hedera helix) is our good late nectar source around here. plenty of it around, and it provides nectar well into November. the honey isn't any good, but as the last honey of the season to be cured, it's the first the bees consume, so we never have to deal with it. it would be easy to plant some ivy to grow up established trees. it could be cut periodically to prevent damage to the host tree. I could also see building a trellis for ivy, so it could be left alone to flower year after year. or just let it completely consume a few trees.

    tagasaste:
    I had always assumed it was too cold here for tagasaste. looks like it isn't. might be too wet, though.
     
    tel jetson
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    as I wandered out to check on my bees this morning, I was reminded of another issue particular to my climate: excessive rain at just the wrong time.

    there was plenty of dry weather for foraging this Spring, but June is frequently entirely soggy, and this year appears to be no exception. my bees still venture out in the rain, but not in high numbers. and while showers aren't generally a problem, solid rain all day is. with the blackberry bloom starting now, there's rain in the forecast for weeks. that is likely to slow down nectar collection substantially.

    July through the middle of September and sometimes into October tend to be pretty dry, though. that's when deep roots help. especially in the sandy flood plain I'm in.
     
    tel jetson
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    the quality of various honeys is worth thinking about, too. while I think that there's likely a market for most single flower honeys, a particular honey's tendency to crystallize could be important.

    I don't personally like to heat honey, which makes crystallization more likely for me. it's said that limiting exposure to air during extraction can help. so there are steps that can be taken. black locust honey is said to be very resistant to crystallization. sunflower honey is said to be very prone to rapid crystallization.
     
    Kay Bee
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    great topic... a few other plants to throw in to the mix would be asian pear and peaches for early flowering. They also start flowering within a year or two of planting, if you are using grafted trees. Both peaches and asian pears flowered at least two to three weeks ahead of the black locust in my area this year.

    Asters are another popular bee plant that flower for a long period during the warm season. Caragana (pea shrub) is supposed to be a popular bee plant as well, but mine have not flowered yet.

    Another option for fall is fruit. In the past, my bees have been aggressive in joining the yellow jackets in devouring over-ripe figs and plums. A decent size fig can really produce a lot of excess fruit with zero work, once it is established. I put in 9 types of figs last year, so I am hoping to have figs ripening from July through October starting in a year or so. If my new bees like the fruit, I will scale up my plantings especially for them.
     
    tel jetson
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    Kay Bee wrote:great topic... a few other plants to throw in to the mix would be asian pear and peaches for early flowering. They also start flowering within a year or two of planting, if you are using grafted trees. Both peaches and asian pears flowered at least two to three weeks ahead of the black locust in my area this year.

    Asters are another popular bee plant that flower for a long period during the warm season. Caragana (pea shrub) is supposed to be a popular bee plant as well, but mine have not flowered yet.

    Another option for fall is fruit. In the past, my bees have been aggressive in joining the yellow jackets in devouring over-ripe figs and plums. A decent size fig can really produce a lot of excess fruit with zero work, once it is established. I put in 9 types of figs last year, so I am hoping to have figs ripening from July through October starting in a year or so. If my new bees like the fruit, I will scale up my plantings especially for them.


    ume plums are the earliest flower I see. way too early for honeybees, in fact. apples, plums, pears, cherries, Sorbus, and a whole bunch of other fruits flower nice and early, too. the trouble with those for this application is that they're slow and/or expensive. I would definitely add things like that over time, though.

    my caraganas haven't flowered, either. six years old now, and maybe three feet tall.
     
    Corky Love
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    John Polk wrote:Although this pollinator guide is not just about honey bees, it does cover them well.
    It is written specifically for your region. Both pollinators, and flora localized to the Pacific Lowlands of OR/WA

    http://pollinator.org/PDFs/Guides/PacificLowlandrx9FINAL.pdf



    WOW! Thank you for this resource!

    thank You!

    Edit: Oh, and the overall thread is Golden!
    I feel like I hit the jackpot!
     
    Kay Bee
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    tel jetson wrote:
    ume plums are the earliest flower I see. way too early for honeybees, in fact. apples, plums, pears, cherries, Sorbus, and a whole bunch of other fruits flower nice and early, too. the trouble with those for this application is that they're slow and/or expensive. I would definitely add things like that over time, though.

    my caraganas haven't flowered, either. six years old now, and maybe three feet tall.


    The slow/expensive issue for fruit trees is one of the reasons I would suggest peaches and asian pears. They still tend to be precocious in their flowering and produce decent fruit when planted from seed.

    six years seems like a really long time for the caraganas. May be worth doing some digging and see if there are any root nodules on it for the nitrogen fixing bacteria? The change was obvious in the growth pattern for mine last year. The plant struggled for several months after planting, then took off with lush new growth all on its own. Perhaps transfer some soil from another nitrogen fixing shrub that is doing well at your place to see if there is any benefit...
     
    kent smith
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    Interesting and timely post: the east side of our place and across the road is covered in black locus trees. yesterday I dug up a couple dozen locus starts out of the pasture and transplanted them to another area. Most of the woods around here have trees that bloom early in the spring, and the locus is just starting to bloom now. This is my first year of beekeeping and I am eager to see how things go. I have not seen a large quantiy of bees here last year, but there seems to be so many flowering trees, brambles, elder berries, wild day lilies, clover and golden rod in the fall that I am hoping that our two hives do well. Opps, three hives, one was showing some queen cells and I split it last week. The new split looks weaker than the parent colony, but I am hoping that they will build up over the summer. I know that some folks look at the black locus as a weed, but I am rather fond of it. it grows fast, makes great fencing, and the nector.
    kent
     
    tel jetson
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    kent smith wrote:Interesting and timely post: the east side of our place and across the road is covered in black locus trees. yesterday I dug up a couple dozen locus starts out of the pasture and transplanted them to another area. Most of the woods around here have trees that bloom early in the spring, and the locus is just starting to bloom now. This is my first year of beekeeping and I am eager to see how things go. I have not seen a large quantiy of bees here last year, but there seems to be so many flowering trees, brambles, elder berries, wild day lilies, clover and golden rod in the fall that I am hoping that our two hives do well. Opps, three hives, one was showing some queen cells and I split it last week. The new split looks weaker than the parent colony, but I am hoping that they will build up over the summer. I know that some folks look at the black locus as a weed, but I am rather fond of it. it grows fast, makes great fencing, and the nector.
    kent


    at the risk of derailing the thread, have you considered allowing your colonies to swarm naturally rather than split them? there's evidence that swarming is a beneficial part of the colony's life-cycle. most obviously, it's a way to interrupt the varroa lifecycle because when a swarm moves into a new hive, there is no brood to host mites.


    black locust ended up out here because homesteaders planted it for fence posts. a lot of folks don't like it, but it's one of my favorites.
     
    Tasha Cass
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    I'm a new honeybee keeper, but my mother has kept bees for a few years, and her father kept them during my entire childhood.
    I would caution against buckwheat. Mom said Grandpa planted it one year and it ruined his crop. The bees will use it, and make honey, but it doesn't taste as good. Mom said it was really dark, and would be good for industrial use, like a generalized sweetener IN something else, but not so much for regular honey consumption.
    I'm a little afraid of how my honey will turn out, since my mom's honey is beautiful pale gold, and it seems a lot of local honey in these parts is super dark(think apple butter), so I'm very interested in planting, transplanting & seeding for my bees. A big job, since they can travel 5 miles. My goal is to make their immediate area so lovely that they won't have to.
     
    tel jetson
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    some folks really like the strong flavor of buckwheat honey. other folks can't stand it.
     
    Sharol Tilgner
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    If you want a light colored honey with a delicate taste, plant a lot of medicinal herbs. My bees have access to a ton of medicinal herbs on my farm and their honey is similar to the delicate, light colored wild flower honey that is so spendy to purchase. Here is a list of plants honey bees prefer. It is taken from this blog link: http://dreamingabeautifulworld.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-united-nations-report-on-honey-bees.html - there are other honey bee articles on this site also. (It is my blog.)

    List of Plants that honey bees prefer. Plant a variety of these to help the honey bees in your area. I have included Latin names in parenthesis. Use the older heirloom varieties rather than the hybridized varieties.
    Borage (Borago officinalis), Blueberries and other Vacciuniums (Vaccium spp.), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Catnep (Nepeta cataria), Dandelions (Yes, they like dandelions so let some grow - especially helpful in the early spring), Echium (Echium vulgare), Goldenrod (Solidago spp.), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifloia), All Asters, All mints (Mentha spp.), Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), Barberry/Oregon grape (Berberis spp.), All clovers, Bachelors Button (Centaurea cyanus), Echinacea (echinacea spp.) Elderberry (Sambucus spp.), Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium), Hawthorne (Crataegus spp.), Hazelnut (Corylus spp.), Heather (Erica spp.), All lavenders (Lavandula spp.), Linden (Tillia spp.), Maple tree (Acer spp), Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca), Opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), Wild Roses (Rosa spp.), Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.), Thyme (Thymus spp.), Valerian (Valeriana spp.), Veronica (Veronica officinalis (Willow Salix spp.)
     
    John Polk
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    Yes. Borage Borago officinalis is also known as 'bee's bread' in the UK.
    Bees are greatly attracted to its long season of nectar. It can fill many of the gaps.

    In a temperate climate it will flower from May/Sept - nearly year round in warmer climates.
    It is an annual, but with its indeterminate status (long flowering) it will readily reseed itself.
    Grows well in fields AND woodlands.

    An added bonus for those with cows or goats: it will greatly increase the milk flow.
    As a companion plant for tomatoes, it will eliminate, or reduce hornworm problems.
    Also a nurse plant for beans.
    Many medicinal uses as well.

    Borago.JPG
    [Thumbnail for Borago.JPG]
     
    jacob wustner
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    Planting a food forest specifically for honeybees is admirable, but unnecessary. Most food forests designed with lots of biodiversity will have plenty of plants for honeybees.

    Many tree species are good nectar and pollen sources. Basically it is up to you to decide what kind of trees you want.

    But I feel there is a list of plants that are the most beneficial to honey bees as timely food sources. I will suggest, that for a food forest, you should plant fruit and nut trees because a whole lot of them are good sources of nectar and pollen. And having many kinds of trees will give the bees more choices.

    My suggestion is that apple trees grown from seed for making cider will produce huge amounts of nectar and pollen, and the honey tastes like apples. Next I would suggest sugar maples as a source for honeybees and for humans to tap for making syrup. The honey tastes like maple. These are on the top of my list.

    There is a lot of information on honey plants, many of them trees. Dadant has a publication that lists all the important honey plants in the U.S..

    In the pacific northwest, many of the native shrubs provide excellent pollen and nectar sources. I suggest planting things you want to harvest fruit or seeds from. In this way there is food for many other species as well.

    Ok. That being said, here is my list of what people should plant in a permaculture system for honeybees in order of most importance according to me):



    -Dandelion - the most important plant for honeybees all around the world. Provides lots of pollen and nectar. Blooms early when bees need it the most. Has many uses for food and medicine. Its value should never be understated.

    -White Clover or Alsike Clover - Besides making fine honey, these clovers bloom throughout the spring, summer and sometimes even into the fall, providing a long term food supply for honey bees. Its value as a nitrogen fixer and as a food source for animals is unparalleled in the world.

    -White and Yellow Sweet Clover- Makes delicious honey, blooms later and can provide nectar when most flowers have dried up (of huge importance in the arid west). Nitrogen fixer and pioneer species that helps condition soil and adds biomass. Valuable as human food, medicine and animal food.

    These three types of plants are not only efficient at spreading on their own, but are perennial and provide honeybees with BOTH pollen and nectar. Add they serve multiple functions in the permaculture system.
    When starting a food forest, I would plant these heavily as they will help improve the health of the soil and the health of honey bees.

    IF you want varietals of honey, you must be very aware of the time of blooms and be able to harvest honey flows quickly. Otherwise honey gets all mixed together in the comb if your harvest comes once or twice a year. Monocultures procure honey of one variety, like buckwheat or alfalfa. But in a food forest, you will have a blend. The only honeys IN POLYCULTURES that can be separated by floral source are usually from flowers that bloom before everything else, like dandelion, apple, maple, etc., or after everything else like fireweed and knapweed.

    After sharing our knapweed honey with people from all over the world for the last decade or so, I am convinced that knapweed honey is one of the finest tasting honeys in the world (IF NOT THE FINEST!). In order to get knapweed honey, you must have wild, unsprayed land in a polyculture (with knapweed of course!), and must have fresh honey supers on the bees when it starts coming in to bloom. I look forward to the day when raw knapweed comb honey sells for $100 per pound, and people start to see the value in every living thing. And pesticides will be a thing of the past.
     
    Sharol Tilgner
    Posts: 30
    Location: Pleasant Hill, Oregon
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    I have never had knapweed honey. What does it taste like. I am also curious about your harvest of honey. The apple trees and maple trees on my farm are loved by the bees (although they seem to like the dandelions even better than the fruit trees) but they bloom in the spring here in the Pacific NW and I don't take honey then. The honey I harvest is always late summer and definitely has the taste of late summer plants on the farm. Do you harvest honey in the spring in your locality or just sneak a little taste. No one harvests honey in the spring in my area as it would be too hard on our bees here. So, I am really curious about the taste of apple and maple tree honey. I am imagining the taste in my mind. Yummm!
     
    Nathan Funke
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    I can totally understand wanting to provide a good food supply to my bees in early spring and late fall, but I've noticed that they tend to play favorites when it comes to nectar harvesting and pollination. I would worry that if I planted all their favorite food in one area, they would ignore my garden all together. As it stands I have taken up planting lemon grass and lavender through out my vegetable garden just to get them to visit there more.
     
    jacob wustner
    Posts: 64
    Location: Western Montana
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    I wanted to clarify something before someone pointed out my mistake. The Sweet clovers are not true perennials but biennials. But you shouldn't have to replant them as they easily spread themselves where needed, so I tend to lump them in with other perennial legumes.

    Knapweed honey is indeed yummy. Next time you are in Missoula, find some Wustner Brothers Raw Knapweed honey and you can see for yourself. We are some other the only beekeepers with enough guts to label our honey correctly and point out that it is from the nectar of knapweed. Too many beekeepers dont tell their customers about where the bees are getting most of their nectar. This practice is morally wrong as we all have a responsibility to share good information and to educate each other.

    As for harvesting honey, it is a delicate balance as the beekeeper never wants to take so much honey from the hive that it starves to death. But an experienced beekeeper can harvest all kinds of honey at different times of the year if she or he is observant enough to know when. Use shallow supers to get the bees to fill faster if you are trying to sort out varietals. Apple-Dandelion honey is delicious without a doubt. So is maple. The combinations of floral sources to create a unique type of honey are endless. Honey is the true terroir.

    I would be cautious about planting too much specifically for honey bees as they will fly right over your garden if there is a lot more of something better on the other side. That is why I suggested the plants above. They go in the garden and in the food forest, to help attract bees and to build the soil. Many people use white clover and dandelion as an understory for growing grains as both Holzer and Fukuoka have done.
     
    Amedean Messan
    pollinator
    Posts: 928
    Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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    I would exercise caution with some knapweed. I have read some types are renown for toxicity to livestock and their roots produce toxins that stunt or kill neighboring plants.
     
    jacob wustner
    Posts: 64
    Location: Western Montana
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    There is no need to be cautious of knapweed. There are many wonderful types of knapweed, but none of them will jump out of the ground and bite you. It won't kill your livestock and will not kill off all the other plants around it. Many plants produce toxins through their roots or in their leaves to kill other neighboring plants. This is a common way in which plants, including perennial herbs and trees, make more room for themselves to grow. Usually knapweed spreads very slowly, but tilling and disturbing the soil will accelerate it. This wouldn't be a problem in a permaculture system. Try to see knapweed as a plant that is slowly elbowing out a niche for itself in order to make the pollinator world a little happier.

    In no way is knapweed toxic to honeybees, which is what we are discussing here. And further more, the honey is not toxic to humans. Also I didn't suggest people plant it, I was pointing out the fact that it makes the best honey.

    A true permaculture perspective sees the value in everything. Poisonous plants serve very important roles in ecology, and often have value as medicines. I have heard that knapweed honey is a good remedy for herbicide poisoning, which today is a widespread problem, mostly because some people tend to overlook the value of all plants. Usually it is in the conventional agriculture perspective that people forget their objectivity and go along with the war on plants.

    We would be better off to let all plants live regardless of what you read about it. Knowledge should make you more appreciative of something, not fearful of it. Ignorance makes us fearful.

    I did not suggest that people plant knapweed for livestock or as companions in their garden. There are so many plants that are toxic to livestock, but as we have learned, it is good to have them in your pasture. Like all of the plants on earth, knapweed is a great teacher, showing us how a plant can be the lowest on a cow's list of favorite foods, but on top of the honeybee's favorite food list.

    I wish I could reach everyone, but here I have to be patient. Until people actually believe in polyculture, people will still point out the downsides of this plant and that plant. IT gets us nowhere. So much land has been polluted and so much cancer has been caused by people buying in to the scheme that mankind should eradicate "noxious weeds." Just because people forgot how to treat the land with respect and care. There is a real and gigantic difference between replanting an area because you want to get something else to grow there, and using poison to kill plants just because someone told you that it was bad for some reason.

    If a plant is meant to be in your area, it will find its way there. Through natural forces, many "weeds" found their way to Montana to help the land evolve to a higher level of fertility through encouraging the proliferation of pollinating insects, stabilization of delicate soils and accumulation of humus. I hope people can see the value in these extremely beautiful plants. Maybe we could rename spotted knapweed "Rocky Mountain Bachelor Button" or "Nectar Goddess".
     
    Judith Browning
    Pie
    Posts: 5545
    Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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    Our honey bees like wild plum, sumac, american perimmon and black locust in addition to cultivated flowering plants here.
     
    John Polk
    master steward
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    Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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    My parents had a large lavender bush (8'h x 8'w) in their yard (amongst 100+ species), that looked like a swarm from spring to autumn. I wanted to do some massive pruning. I had to wait for autumn, and then decided to do it after dark. Every bee in the neighborhood had vectored on it. Having a bird bath a few feet away probably didn't hurt either. Make certain to have plenty of bee-safe watering holes around if you want a happy bee population, as a water source will attract as many as the flowers do.

     
    Corky Love
    Posts: 63
    Location: Tacoma, WA [8B-7B]
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    As I'm now looking forward to spring, I remember that our forsythia is the first thing to bloom in our yard, followed by the unidentified (probably a hybrid) plum. I can see the pollinators on these early bloomers dense and excited. The sound as you approach is remarkable.

    Forsythia is valued in Traditional Chinese Medicine, so it layers.
     
    Jacqueline Freeman
    instructor
    Posts: 83
    Location: southwest Washington state
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    Tel, I can't believe I didn't mention this to you when I saw you earlier this week. I'm building a bee hedgerow-foodforest. Even got a USDA EQIP grant to do this. We need to talk. There are more funds available in the county for it. You should have one. I have a friend coming over tomorrow to have a look and Jahnavi and Noa have been helping get it started. We are planting a 20' wide strip of bee food forest that's 200' long on the east side, 200' long on the north side of our pasture, and about an acre of perennial bee pasture in a south area.

    I haven't done this before either so I'm learning as I go. The grant is for native plants but I'm going to supplement with some fruit trees (at my expense) and berry bushes. I'm also hoping to create more flowers blooming in the fall when we go into dearth and the bees struggle to find blossoms. Goldenrod, phacelia, brown eye susans, cosmos, blooming sedums, lots of sunflowers, lavender, and squash as long as it will bloom. What else blooms in the fall?

    Jacqueline
    SunflowerGoldBee.jpg
    [Thumbnail for SunflowerGoldBee.jpg]
     
    tel jetson
    steward
    Posts: 3356
    Location: woodland, washington
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    that is excellent, Jacqueline. we certainly should talk. you forgot to mention that, and I forgot to bring your dish back to you.
     
    Nancy Phillips
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    New member here and soon to be new beekeeper. A Warre' set-up is about to be delivered, and chemical-free, small cell bee girls have been reserved!

    Jacqueline...I would love to also hear more about your grant! I'm part of a volunteer NFP group that is developing over 100 acres permaculture, regenerative all organic etc and I've been tasked with a few things incl the bees. I'm wanting to develop a bee / butterfly / pollinator sanctuary and native plant restoration area. I'm hankering for about 3 acres edged by a creek but I need tons of help, both in knowledge and $. Our organization is bigger but we (local group) are so far pretty small.

    Have been listing desired plants for full season flowering. Where did you start? I'm in Illinois, outside of Chicago.

    Thanks!
     
    Jacqueline Freeman
    instructor
    Posts: 83
    Location: southwest Washington state
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    Find out who your local extension service agent is. That's the first place to start. They will have info about all the USDA grants and how to qualify for them. The more bee hedgerows we get up and growing, the better off the bees will be. My extension agent also sent me a list of native bee plants in the PNW. I bet your agent has a similar list. Also XERCES.org is a good place to go for more info and flower lists. Have fun!

    warmly,
    Jacqueline
     
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