Foraging for the Future
No matter what demographic of beekeeper you are (urban, suburban, rural, hobby or commercial), honey bee forage should be an aspect of beekeeping you think about. I’ve often said, “Urban and suburban area honey bees generate the very best honey”! Why do you think that is? Forage – of course!
When you consider the plants these “backyard” beekeepers have literally under the bee’s noses, how can it not be the best?! So many of these landscapes include, Marigolds, Pansies, Cosmos, Coneflowers, Dahlia, Butterfly Bush, Crocus, Geraniums… just to name a few. All of which provide our bees with wonderful pollen and nectar, that together, make great honey and for the most part very healthy bees!
But what if I’m rural? Do I really have control over my honey? Maybe!
Most often those of us who live out away from cities or towns have little to do with what our large parcel neighbors do with their properties. So often many of those properties are under some sort of AG related crop and/or livestock management plan. But that in itself can be beneficial to your bees! Bees naturally forage on a variety of hays such as the well-known Alfalfa hay.
Alfalfa is a wonderful pollen and nectar producing hay that when other forage plants have played out, is still going strong as a valid resource for our bees. It’s common and prolific in rural agriculture.
What about smaller plots you do have control of?
In spring we often see the highway frontages blanketed by Crimson Clover – a very pretty and beneficial nitrogen producing legume. Clover varieties are not only good for providing much needed nutrients back into the soil, but livestock (including chickens and game birds) AND our beloved pollinator the honey bee love it as a food resource! Clover is a nectar and pollen producing plant that boasts a high protein content of 17–33%. For beekeepers this is especially beneficial as we strive to provide our bees with the highest crude protein possible. The better the pollen source the better the brood viability of our bees.
There are several types of clover available in varying quantities for the “average Joe or Josephine” land owner at very affordable prices. Some options are: Crimson Clover, White Clover and Sweet Clover. Most of these seeds are recommended to be down by late winter. Factor in “order time” and “get to it” time – I’d recommend getting this project underway!
Watching our bees flourish in plants that “we” as their “keepers” have propagated ourselves is a very sweet reward. Also providing them a good nutritious forage that not only benefits pollinators but livestock and the soil as well is a reward all in itself.
By: Chari Elam