Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Many Flowers Make Honey

Honey varies in color and flavor as a result of the different flower nectars that the honey bees bring into the hive. Honey is often labeled according to its principal nectar source. Florida’s orange blossom, honey is quite popular as is tupelo honey from South Georgia and sourwood honey from Appalachia. Each honey is known for its distinct flavors. These honeys are harvested by removing the honey supers from the hives after the bloom of the citrus, tupelo, or sourwood trees. When we harvest honey, it may have the appearance and flavor of a particular floral source; however, the honey is probably the sum of dozens of different flowers.

In the Arkansas Delta, the principal nectar sources are agricultural crops, mainly soybeans and cotton. However, the Delta honey is made up of numerous wildflowers as well. The diversity of nectar sources adds to the complexity of the flavors of honeys that he hives produce. Having a diversity of plant life is very important for good honey bee nutrition. It insures that there will be a continuous flow of nectar coming into the hive throughout the spring, summer, and fall. A diversity of plants also insures that there will be high-quality protein food for developing honey bee brood. The protein, as well as vitamins and minerals, is contained in the flowers’ pollen. At Peace Bee Farm, we encourage many native wildflowers to grow in open and wooded areas. The bees will choose which flowers to forage according to the amount of sugars in the nectar and the availability of the flowers. Today’s picture shows a common plant in the understory of woods, poison ivy. Poison ivy, a plant with sticky, skin-irritating oil on the foliage, has a delicate flower. At times, honey bees collect nectar from poison ivy and produce good, edible honey. After bee pollination, poison ivy produces berries and seeds which are distributed by song birds. Deer browse the foliage.

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