Honey Bees, Oak Trees and Forest Honey

Due to a friend mentioning to me that he has honeybees in his oak tree, I have been doing a bit of research as to why they would be there! Turns out, the oak tree is host to a gall producing wasp. When temperatures warm up, the larvae inside the gall begin feeding on nectar produced by the galls. Honeybees and other nectar hungry critters feed on this honeydew, protecting the larvae inside from other parasitic wasps.  Now, oak trees themselves are wind-pollinated so no nectar is produced by them.

The honeydew that seeps from the galls on the oak tree is very high in minerals and other non-digestible particles.  So, honeybees that feed on this oak nectar are more likely to develop a case of the “runs.”  Some types of forest honey (as it is called) is actually produced by honeybees collecting honey dew from aphids on trees and by sap being secreted by the leaves of trees.  This honey is said to be less sweet, less acidic and much higher in vitamins and minerals than flower honey.  It’s also more popular in Europe and in Australia and not much in the United States at all.

This doesn’t happen every year.  I’m guessing that the extremely cold winter we are having, coupled with the recent rise in temperature accounts for this unique activity in the insect world.

SOURCES:
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02907941#page-1

http://beeinformed.org/2012/09/spotlight-on-valley-oak/

http://www.cnps.org/cnps/publications/fremontia/Fremontia_Vol30-No3and4.pdf

http://www.beesource.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-225220.html

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