honeybees

Hive

A huge thank you to our friend KC Mitchell for this beautiful production, featuring our sweet bees.

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Honeybee Nectar Plants along the Gulf Coast

Well, since the weather has warmed back up, the honeybees have been in a frenzy.  Saturday and Sunday, there were energetic waggle dances on the landing board, indicating there was something good nearby.  On one of our neighborhood walks, I closely observed trees in the landscape.  Sure enough, looks like the maple has begun to bloom!  In our area, maple (red/swamp maple) is one of the earliest sources of nectar.  If you’re in a swampy area, you may also have willow available to you.  Ti-ti, willow and red maple all bloom in a range of January to March, making a good nectar flow that is perfect for sustaining the spring build-up of honey bee larvae.

Our cherry laurel is loaded with buds, meaning that it will be a huge attractant when those blooms pop open.  In years past, the tree has been alive with their buzzing.  The first major source of nectar that will also provide surplus honey in your hives is the well known Ilex Glabra, or Gallberry.  Gallberry is a type of holly native to our Gulf Coast highways and by-ways.  In fact, most hollies provide nectar for honeybees.  Last year, someone called me about a potential swarm near the entrance to their home.  When I arrived, there was a large and heavenly smelling holly bush.  The honeybees had all gone home but several solitary bees and wasps were still feasting on the sweet nectar.

Some smaller plants that will attract honeybees are: coral vine (year round blooms), redbud, abelia, ligustrum and yaupon.  If you’re on the Gulf Coast, these sources probably already thrive near your home or in your landscaping.  One trait that makes each of these plants desirable for honeybees is a mass quantity of blooms.  Honeybees favor trees and shrubs for nectar sources because they can gather a large amount of nectar or pollen without leaving the source.  One plant with thousands of blooms is better than a thousand plants spaced around with single blooms.  Our apis mellifera are efficient creatures!

If you don’t have any of the plants I’ve mentioned in your yard, don’t despair.  One reason that honeybees do so well in the urban landscape is because there is such a large variety of nectar sources.  You’re far less likely to get what is known as a “mono-source” honey, but far more likely to get a deliciously floral and fragrant blend that’s made up of the goodness that surrounds you.

If you’d like to see more nectar sources, here are some links I have gathered.  Enjoy!

http://www.fisherhoneybees.com/nectarflows.html

http://archive.org/stream/americanhoneypla00pell/americanhoneypla00pell_djvu.txt

http://www.themelissagarden.com/TMG_Vetaley031608.htm

http://honeybeenet.gsfc.nasa.gov/Honeybees/ForageRegion.php?StReg=FL_12

https://archive.org/details/beekeepinginsout00hawk

A sensory view of pollination.  How do flowers attract pollinators?

http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/Biology/botf99/flowernew/pollination.htm

Since pollinators see differently than we do, take a look at how different blooms look to the flying creatures in your landscape: http://www.naturfotograf.com/UV_flowers_list.html

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

New Macro Lens and Honeybees

Well, I got a nice starter macro lens (28-90mm) so I can get some super close bee photos.  I put it to work immediately.  Some of the honeybees were more willing to be photographed than others!

Image

This bee is totally giving me the stink-eye.

cleaning the comb

cleaning the comb

gathering wax

gathering wax

 

52-DSC_0052

hanging out

hanging out

honeybee heaven

honeybee heaven

James says this bee has personality!

James says this bee has personality!