Posts Tagged: starthistle
Honey isn't always amber-colored.
It can range from white to dark brown, depending on the flowers the bees visit.
Back in 1971, a group of UC Davis bee specialists wrote a booklet, Fundamentals of California Beekeeping, published by the "University of California College of Agriculture." Although now 37 years old, it's still a good source of information in many respects.
The authors included UC Davis faculty members Harry H. Laidlaw (for whom the bee biology facility at UC Davis is named), Robbin Thorp, Norman Gary and Lee Watkins. UC Davis Extension apiculurist Ward Stanger served as the editor, consulting with Len Foote, then supervisor of apiary inspection for the State Department of Agriculture.
"Hundreds of species of California plants yield pollen or nectar, but the most important plants for commercial nectar are alfalfa, oranges, cotton, beans, sages (black, sonoma, white and white leaf), yellow starthistle, wild buckwheats, manzanita, eucalyptus and blue curls," the authors wrote. "Extensive use of herbicides to control yellow starthistle has decidedly reduced its pasturage in California. Alfalfa, oranges, cotton and beans present a hazard for bees because of pesticides used on them."
The book also mentions the toxicity of California buckeye (Aesculus californica). It blooms in May and June and is very attractive to bees.
"...bees feeding on its pollen are believed to produce larval food (pollen and honey) which results in malformed adults," the authors pointed out.
Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) deserves special mention. Growers hate it and beekeepers love it. It's an exotic, invasive weed that's well established in California. It blooms from May to October.
The honey? It's white to extra light amber and delicious.
So, buckeye is attractive to bees but bad for them, and yellow starthistle is bad for farmers but good for beekeepers.
That's something to think about when you're spreading honey on your freshly baked roll or dribbling it over your pancakes.