The beekeeper’s calendar follows the honey bee’s life cycle more closely than our calendar on the wall which is based on dates of the year. Activity in Peace Bee Farm’s hives in the Arkansas Delta leads those of our beekeeping friends in New England by about seven weeks, and it lags behind our New Zealand friends’ hives by about six months. Since honey bee activities are timed differently in various areas, beekeepers watch the bloom of certain flowering plants to help predict events in the bee hive. One of the significant observations for many is the bloom of the black locust tree. To them, the black locust tells when to expect the queen to be at her maximum egg laying production. This can mean that the beekeeper can rear new queen bees in cell builder hives. It can also mean that swarm season is rapidly approaching. At this time, colonies often replace their queen through supersedure or create a new queen and divide the colony through swarming.
When in bloom, the black locust is easily recognizable along the margins of woodlots or suburban landscapes by its large clusters of fragrant, bright white blossoms. These trees, which reach 80 feet, may attract large numbers of honey bees as well as other bees; however, the black locust nectar flow is not consistent from year to year. In some years the relatively weak black locust nectar is not as attractive as other plants blooming at the same time, and few honey bees are seen working the locust flowers. In other years an abundant surplus of tasteful, light-colored black locust honey may be harvested. The black locust is a member of the legume family. The legumes are important bee plants because they produce ample amounts of nectar and pollen. The honey locust, another legume, is similar in appearance, and it produces flowers with the fragrance of honey. However, the honey locust, which sports eight-inch thorns, usually does not produce a surplus of honey.