Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Clover in Bloom

In today’s photo we see a bumblebee foraging for nectar on white clover. White clover probably can be considered the most important honey plant. When the temperatures range between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, clover is a prolific nectar producer. Though the blossoms have been observed for quite a while, clover requires warm days to secrete large amounts of nectar. Clover is a member of the important family of bee plants, the legumes. Like a number of legumes, clover serves an important role in fixing nitrogen into a usable state in the soil. Even though the atmosphere is largely comprised of nitrogen, it is not available for plants to use. Bacteria growing on the roots of the clover plants are the active agent for converting the nitrogen. The result is increased soil fertility. Along with the clovers, the legume, or pea, family includes a number of important bee plants: peas, beans, peanuts, alfalfa, soybeans, lespedeza, vetch, kudzu, redbud, mimosa, locust, and Kentucky coffeetrees. Many of these plants provide food for wildlife and animal forage. Clover, alfalfa, and lespedeza are used as pasture crops for cattle; while soybeans are processed into feed for livestock and poultry.

Beekeepers plant clover around bee yards and in spare patches of land. The plant has a hearty root system and is easily propagated by seed. The seed is produced when honey bees forage the flowers. I often find the foot prints of deer in stands of clover around bee yards. As well as being an important forage plant for honey bees, it provides high-quality food for wildlife. Clover honey is light in color and mild in flavor, making it one of the favorites with the public. Bumblebees, like the one shown, are dwindling in many areas due to the loss of habitat. The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is attempting to make people aware of the potential for pollinator habitat restoral along the nation’s roadsides. You can read more at: http://www.xerces.org/pollinator-conservation-roadsides/.

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