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How many different forge types for a healthy bee colony

 
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ALifeLessSimple
New Bee


Joined: 17 Jun 2011
Posts: 3
Location: Gloucestershire

PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2015 7:15 pm    Post subject: How many different forge types for a healthy bee colony Reply with quote

I’m not completely sure if this is classed as a ‘beginner’s question’ but it is something I am wondering about so as to give any bee colony I get a good start.

I’ve recently been to a really good introduction to natural beekeeping day and whilst we were talking about things such as heather honey the question of if bees would be able to survive on only one plant e.g. heather. I guess the answer to this is that there probably isn’t a plant that would flower for long enough to provide enough stores to get a colony through the winter but this has got me interested the question of what is the minimum number of plants a bee colony can survive (ideally in a healthy state) on?

Is there any information anywhere about how many different plants bees need to visit during a season to keep the colony healthy?
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1576
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2015 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi and welcome to the forum

You are right that the flowering period of any one flower would not be long enough to sustain a colony, but it's also important to have pollen and nectar from a variety of plants for a balanced healthy diet and different flowers will provide different nutrients and trace elements which are all needed in various proportions for a strong healthy immune system. So it's not a question of how many plants they need to survive but the more diverse, the healthier they should be.

Unless you live up on the moors where there is very little other than heather or in a monocrop agricultural desert, although even in this country there are still hedges and raod verges, then you probably don't need to worry too much as your bees will go out and find whatever they need. It is of course good practice, particularly as a beekeeper, to plant bee friendly plants, but many of us find that out bees forage elsewhere for most of the time.

Trees are a very extensive source of both pollen and nectar that many people don't even realise produce flowers because either they are so high up they don't see them or don't conform to what people think of as flowers ... for example catkins and pussy willow. Bees can also harvest the secretions from aphids that drink the sweet sap of trees and turn this into honey dew, which is a dark type of honey. One big tree is probably as good a source of forage as half an acre of flowers, so when you are thinking forage for bees, you have to remember to think in three dimensions rather than just ground based plants and shrubs.

Hope that answers your question.

Regards

Barbara
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ingo50
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Joined: 30 May 2014
Posts: 311
Location: Newport, Gwent, Wales, UK

PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2015 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you would like to know which plants your bees are using for forage, you would have to examine your honey for all the different types of pollen in it. A study looking at over ten years of honey collected throughout Finland showed 116 different plant pollens found in these. It will obviously vary from season to season and area to area. Identifying pollen requires expertise.
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Tavascarow
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Joined: 24 Jun 2008
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Location: UK Cornwall Snozzle

PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ingo50 wrote:
If you would like to know which plants your bees are using for forage, you would have to examine your honey for all the different types of pollen in it. A study looking at over ten years of honey collected throughout Finland showed 116 different plant pollens found in these. It will obviously vary from season to season and area to area. Identifying pollen requires expertise.
It requires a microscope & a good book to get started. Expertise comes with time.

Pollen Identification for Beekeepers By Rex Sawyer
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trekmate
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Joined: 30 Nov 2009
Posts: 1125
Location: UK, North Yorkshire, Bentham

PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Barbara wrote:
..... It is of course good practice, particularly as a beekeeper, to plant bee friendly plants, but many of us find that out bees forage elsewhere for most of the time.,,,,


I'd add that those plants are still important for feeding pollinators that you have potentially displaced by introducing honeybee colonies into an area. "Wild" pollinators are currently struggling far more than "managed" ones.

You can also encourage others to plant for pollinators in places where your bees may well forage.
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