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.


Anonymous said...

Hi City Bees,

I just started keeping bees this spring. I'm working with a Top Bar Hive, plans from, and I live in the middle of a city. Richmond, VA. All my neighbors so far are fine with bees but I don't advertise their presence.

We still seem to have a good flow of nectar and pollen coming in but I can see things starting to dwindle down. Just curious, if you don't mind, what city/area are you in?


Unknown said...

Hey Toni:
Your lookin' very nice from pov Pittsburgh's bees. The farmers market & apple grower has a nice glass inside bee display hive and Mr. Sorgal's bees are jam packed this year!
I must say that I wanted pigions on my city garage rooftop for most of my childhood but you have changed my mind. Bees are better. :) Jo Anne & I usually go to Sorgal's Mkt on Mondays but not today... maybe next week?
Stay well, ~(:-_))-kfh

Abelisto said...

An in-town beekeeper here (can't really call Winona Minnesota a city...:-)) I've been meandering around my neighborhood trying to figure out what my bees are bringing in. More often than not, they are there foraging white clover.

Anonymous said...

Beekeeping in the city is wonderful for the bees. There is so much flora and fauna in the city. I have some friends that live in the city that got an amazing honey crop this year. Good luck with your beekeeping!

Ian said...

Hi there,

I run Farm Blogs From Around the World ( and I thought you might like this as you are on my blog roll.

I'd really like to do a posting about your blog, so would you be interested in the following?

a) sending me some text about your blog and your bees.
b) giving me permission to use up to five photos from your blog to accompany your text so I can make a posting about you.
c) very importantly, send me your 5 favourite farm/food/bee blog recommendations. Farm Blogs is all about Farm Bloggers (if you produce food or natural fibre - in your case honey, I call you a farmer) that I can add to my blog roll - check out what's already there - so that I can then add them and contact them for their recommendations.

If you could drop me a line at info AT that would be great.

Kind regards,