David Binner wrote:
Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:
If you are a beekeeper [and that is what got me interested in black locust first, [as black locust gives a very fragrant honey that never crystallizes]. Well, I discovered from talking to other beeks that some years they love it an some years they won't touch it. We don't know why.
I am curious: how many Black Locust trees do you need to yield a significant amount of honey (say, 1 cup)?
That is pretty hard to say. There are lots of different kinds of honey. Here, where the season is short, I'm not going to disturb my bees several times to harvest a specific kind of honey, plus I do not have many hives to make such disruption pay. I just thought I'd give you a few pointers if you want to have a pollinator garden/ harvest honey.
Bees pack the nectar from one type of flower roughly in one frame at a time, starting from the bottom center, then going to a higher frame in the hive, but a frame may have many different kinds of flower nectars
depending on how many blooms and the length of the season. and that is good for the bees too: their 'larder' will have many different things, enhancing their life/ sustainability
, their immune system.
You have to look at the color of the frame to figure out which honey you really have, and maybe taste it to figure it out. I cringe when I see honey billed as "cranberry honey"[cranberries do not produce any nectar, so there is no such thing, but you will see some on the shelves!].
When you choose plants for a pollinator garden
, There are many factors to consider:
Palatability to the bees, abundance of nectar, taste, crystallization and super important: length of the blooming season
. They eat 365 days in the year, but no flower lasts that long. You have to work for constant overlapping of blooming times.
You may not want to plant acres of a flower that blooms only one week!
is one of my favorites because I can "time" the blooming period to coincide with a dearth of nectar in the environment. You can be pretty sure that about 70 days after planting, you will have blooms. The flavor is very rich the honey is very dark and good for a cough, but not everyone like the strong taste. [I do. That is *my* honey].
are profuse bloomers but bees seem more interested in the pollen in the spring, when our colonies are depleted. They will also bloom twice, once in the spring and a few more blossoms can be had in the Fall, when the temperatures cool off.
make gorgeous blooms, but bees are not interested in neither the pollen nor the nectar.
of other flowers are made to look pretty but you will not see a honeybee on them: they care neither for the pollen nor the nectar, or they cannot get to the nectaries because of too many petals in the way.
Black locust is in bloom 7-10 days
, but depending on how dry the season is, honeybees may be interested... or not. Their interest seems to coincide with a drier season. [Could it be that they have to do more work to concentrate the nectar into honey? I don't know.] It makes a delectable, transparent honey, and does not crystallize, which is a very good feature to any honey producer.
The common milkweed
blooms from June to August, profusely and nectar availability is all day
, which is an oddity: [most flowers have nectar in the morning but dry out in the afternoon. The nectar is so sweet and so abundant that if you shake the flower vigorously, droplets of nectar will fall off. The honey from it is light, with a yellow tinge, and it tastes just like the flower smells. Delicious. But if the days gets hot, the abundant nectar becomes sticky and entraps our bees
. If you can water a field at night, that won't be a problem.
The Ohio Spiderwort
makes a beautiful blue flower that bees really like but each flower lasts only one day. However, the many clusters last and last, so I suppose one *could* get spiderwort honey. Because there are no cultivated fields of spiderwort, I've never heard of spiderwort honey. Its nectar will be mixed with all the other nectars in the hive, and contribute to honey having a reputation as an anti-allergy substance [but only if you get local
honey, from the flowers you are allergic to].
Goldenrod is a fall flower very much liked by honeybees... but the taste is horrid according to a number of beeks. Another reason to not
harvest this honey: It comes as one of the very last flowers our bees can use here, so that is what they store for the winter. Let them have this honey.
If you plant rape/ canola
, or if a neighbor plants some nearby, the gorgeous bright yellow fields will be a buzzing magnet for 2-3 weeks, and canola can be planted for a Spring *and* a Fall harvest, greatly increasing the yields. However, it crystalizes in the hive if not extracted as soon as capped
, and then bees cannot liquify it for consumption and they will starve. You will have to destroy the combs to harvest it by melting the whole thing if you allow it to harden in the hive. It is a mess!
honey is delicious and abundant. If you can plant basswood, please do: it will greatly help your honey bees: the nectar is very abundant, and here is another thing to consider: The number of blooms per square foot.
Because it is a tree, the basswood will have an enormous number of blooms
when you consider the size of the trunk. To create an overlapping of blooming seasons, consider the height of your blooming material: Canopy
of the tree, bushes, garden crops, forbes, creeping vines can be mixed so you can get more blooms per square footage.
I selected these flowers so you get a taste of the variety of positives and negatives for each. There are many other considerations for your choice of blooms. Remember also that each pollinating insect has its favorites
and our honeybee is actually NOT a great pollinator. She is the "low man on the totem pole", so to speak, and if you plant *only* for honeybees and your weather keeps the bees in the hives, when they come out, the other pollinators will have picked the blossoms they could have enjoyed, so here again, VARIETY, DIVERSITY is important: Provide for all pollinators, not just the honey bees and you will be richly rewarded by the crops afforded by *all* pollinators.