Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bees in High Clover

honeybee working white cloverThe nectar flow ended here between two and three weeks ago, though we still have many flowers in gardens doing their best to keep the girls busy. One thing I have been taught to look for, but which has eluded me in the three beekeeping Springs before this one, is a secondary nectar flow from white clover.

Beekeepers tend to be unpopular neighbors in the suburbs: we like many of the broadleaf weeds, like dandelions and clover, that mar the upper middle class ideal of plushy green turf. In the city we aren't so picky about our greens, glad to have the photosynthesis that nature can push between the cracks. This photo shows a bee working a plentiful bloom of white clover that was all over the historic cemetery where I walk my dogs.

Often, a lack of rain or too much early summer heat dries up the clover: you can see some browned-out blooms in this photo (another fine example of cell phone photography!) So clover is an unreliable source, from opportunistic places, wiped out too easily by excess sun, a shortage of rain, or an enthusiasm for Roundup.

Interestingly, the bees were not working the purple clover at all. At a state beekeepers' lecture, I remember hearing that the purple ones are only good during their second year. Hmmm. Well why were there no second year blooms around?

street planting of Russian Sage/PerovskiaSadly but predictably, just today it appears that the mowers came to the cemetery, and wiped out at least an acre of bobbing white heads of clover. Well, it is mostly a cemetery, not a dog park and nature lab. Besides, there are still many millions of plants all around the neighborhood, though not where I could so easily visit with them. The picture at right shows one of many stands of Russian Sage that are already delivering the goods to the bees, and they are likely to keep doing so right through August.

street planted with lavender and salviaThis year the lavender is very bloom-y here in the neighborhood as well. I wonder if this year's honey will have additional sharp sweetness from the clover, and some extra floral dimension from the lavender. Hey, I like it just fine in its basic Tulip Poplar, Black Locust, and Basswood formulation, but life always rolls out a new angle.