This first year of keeping a beehive was one of discovery for me. An outline of this new personal knowledge is:
- There are a lot of different flower varieties growing around me.
- I can’t possibly grow enough flowers to feed my hive
- Estimated 80-100 pounds of honey
- 2 million flower visits per pound
I seeded my hive with a package of bees in mid-April. he queen began laying eggs almost immediately and with about a month’s delay, the hive began growing.
There are all kinds of flowers in my neighborhood.
Through the entire summer, I kept watch for the honeybees on the flower blossoms in my yard. I only found the honeybees in large numbers on three plants: Holly bushes, Raspberry plants and Hyssop flowers. The honeybees favored the Hyssop herb, a woody perennial, while bumblebees favored the mint-like Anise Hyssop.
My property abuts town-owned watershed, with a stream and wetlands and a great diversity of trees and plants. I believe my honeybees lived off of the flowers that were produced by a variety of trees from April through early July.
I’ve always been fond of maple syrup, but I have a newfound respect or maple trees. Prior to last spring, if you had asked me the question ” Do maple trees have flowers?”, I would have responded with a simple “No, they do not!” and I would have been incorrect. And the sheer volume of flowers a mature maple tree produces is amazing to me. There must be nearly as many flower buds as the amount of leaves the tree produces.
Some maple varieties flower very early in spring when few other flowers are available. While a maple tree may only have flowers in bloom for a week or two, different varieties of maple trees bloom at different times, such that in my neighborhood, there was a succession of flowering maple trees over a 6 to 8 week long interval. I’ll try to document this a little better in the spring of 2017.
I speculate (this is pure speculation, I haven’t the facts to back this up) that my honeybees used(favored) maple tree pollen and nectar to produce honey for about 6 weeks and this is one of the reasons that local spring honey is lighter in color and sweeter than summer honey
Bees can be fussy about their food
I have a 30 year old chestnut tree in my back yard that flowers every 4th of July. The flowers are very aromatic. Pungent might be a better description as the scent bothers my neighbor 100 yards away. In previous summers, when the chestnut tree is in bloom, it sounds like I’m standing under a sewing machine, as there are hundreds, likely thousands of bees working the flowers. Knowing this, I placed the hive to the southeast of the chestnut tree such it was shaded from the late afternoon sun. This year, I invited other beekeepers to witness and hear the collection of bees for themselves. This year, my bees and most other bees ignored the chestnut flowers as they bloomed. I have no idea what other pollen source could have diverted the honeybees from this usually desirable flowering tree on their doorstep, but something did. And the hive as a whole ignored the bloom.
By early August, my bees filled three medium-sized supers with honey, approximately 100 pounds of honey. Then a severe drought set in and honey production all but ceased. According to the national honey council, it takes approximately 2 million flower visits to collect and create one pound of honey. Nominally, I benefitted from 200 million flower visits in about 60 days. The numbers are staggering. The hive averaged about 3 million flower visits each day. If there were an average of 10,000 bees foraging,