Some Of Tthe Better Honey Plants To Know


So, what honey crops are you looking for? Seasoned beekeepers generally know the major nectar crops their bees make honey from, but a surprising number of beekeepers don’t know just how many good crops are out there. Too often, honey shows up and they don’t know the source. These mystery sources fall into the fol-lowing categories:

  • Tree crops (such as black locust or citrus)
  •  Field crops (such as soybeans or alfalfa)
  • Major land-use crops (such as sweet clovers on government reserve land in the United States, or heather in northern Europe)
  • High-value annual crops (such as borage in Canada, or sunfl owers in Russia) Most beekeepers know the major wildfl owers that emerge during the season, such as dandelions, willows, privets, Russian olives, and the like. But there are so many different plants that bees can harvest a crop from, beginning very early in the spring and lasting to the very end of the season. Of course, in the near tropical and tropical regions, there is seldom, if ever, a dearth of blooming plants, and bees are able to work nearly all year long.Included here are scores of plants benefi cial to honey bees that provide nectar, pollen,  or  both.  For  the  purposes  of  this  book,  the  primary  focus  is  plants  that  produce  nectar,  the  source  of  honey.  The  lists  have  been  grouped  into  several  rough  categories,  but  there  are  many  that  overlap—apples,  for  instance,  are  an  agricultural crop, an ornamental in urban landscapes, and an escape from orchards and yards. These lists are provided in, very roughly, bloom sequence order, earliest in the season to latest, but it is best to determine for yourself when they bloom in your region. The same species of plant grown in different environments can be unpredictable, and only fi rsthand observations can confi rm exact growing degree day information

These lists are by no means all-inclusive of the plants honey bees visit. Regional and  continental  differences  exist,  and  you  may  have  all  or  only  some  of  these  where you keep your bees. Plants not listed may provide all or most of your crop. The core message is to fi nd the plants, then observe your bees visiting them when they are in bloom, note the plants’ abundance, verify bloom time and duration, try to identify the type of honey that is produced, and note when that honey is ripe and ready to harvest. These are the golden rules of producing varietal and artisan honey no matter where you are.These lists provide the common name, genus and species (if only one), and the usual color and fl avor of the honey the plant or family of plants produces. Keep in mind that these descriptions are generalizations because the same species of plant can produce different types of honey in different locations due to weather, soil type and quality (which affects nutrition, moisture availability, and a host of other phys-iological functions), and other environmental factors. Plus, the same plant in the same  location  may  produce  a  different  honey  year  to  year  depending  on  the  weather during any particular year. Dry years tend to concentrate nectar fl avors, while wet years tend to mellow those same fl avors.Moreover,  different  species  of  the  same  genus  can  produce  vastly  different  kinds  of  crops.  A  good  example  of  this  is  privet  (Lingustrum spp.). One  species  that is commonly used as a hedge in northern U.S. home landscapes, common privet produces a bitter, strong, and basically unpalatable honey, while its Chinese cousin  that  is  primarily  a  wild  shrub  in  the  southern  United  States  produces  a  mild, sweet, and very popular honey. These differences are not unlike the subtle but distinctive differences in wine made from the same grape varieties, but grown in  different  locales.  Beekeepers  can  and  should  use  these  differences  to  distin-guish their local honeys from products produced in other locations. Your place is special. Capitalize on that fact.These lists are not plant keys. These lists are for honey type information, notes on the plants, and very general bloom dates in the United States where they grow. Countries  in  the  Southern  Hemisphere  can  adjust  the  dates  by  six  months  to  account for the “reversed” seasons. Some plants do not grow in harsher northern climates, while others cannot survive in tropical areas. .

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