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figs and honey bees

 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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Since I started keeping honey bees a couple years ago, I've noticed that if I let a fig or two get too ripe and split open, the insects seem to get the "word" that free sugar is available to be had.  Once that happens ants, wasps and honey bees will make their move on the most ripe fruit.

I usually only have about a 10% loss due to these fig fruit predators.  Last year my hive was quite strong and I watched several dozen honeybees take apart a large fig in a pretty short period of time, leaving only the skin when they were through (the few sterile seeds may have fallen to the ground).

The fig variety I observed this the most frequently on was Lattarula, AKA, Italian Honey Fig (ironic).  This may have been because the tree was closest to the hive (~40'.

It occured to me that figs could be intentionally planted for this purpose if figs were a decent source of food for the bees and honey yields may significantly increase if enough trees were available for them to use.  In the southeastern US, the main fig crop season runs from July and into August for Lattarula.  Could fill a gap in food supply for the bees?

I haven't found any info about this from my searching, anyone know of any details on the impact on the health of the bees and amount of honey produced?
 
tel jetson
steward
Posts: 3356
Location: woodland, washington
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I don't have any experience or hard data, but I'm good at unfounded speculation...

I would guess that figs are great bee food.  lots of minerals in figs, yes?  lots of sugar, too.  both things that bees need, particularly if there isn't nectar available from flowers at the time.  I would also guess that there is more sugar in an overripe fig by weight than there is in nectar in flowers, so it may be a higher quality food source even if nectar is available.

I can imagine the arguments that might ensue if you were to sell fig honey.

how are the Lattarulas, by the way?  I've got one planted, but haven't had any fruit mature yet.
 
Kay Bee
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
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The Lattarula's are by far our favorite fresh eating fig!  They don't dry quite as well as the black mission, IMO, but they still are very good dried.  We use them for fresh eating, drying and fig butter preserves.  the fruit are also much larger than many other varieties and don't crack or split as badly.

I agree with your hunch that they would be a good nectar substitute, but, no data other than a healthy hive that has had no treatments/medication since it was started from a 5 frame nuc.

If I follow through with planting an extra tree or two per hive like I am thinking, i think it would definitely be best to disclose to buyers of the honey that the figs factored in to the summer honey production.  I'm curious how the taste will turn out!
 
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