Bees and Trees    edniz
   Aug 20, 2003 04:35 PDT 

            I recently came across a brief article in an agricultural
newspaper extolling the benefit of bumblebees. Honeybees have been under
attack by a parasitic mite. This has significantly reduced the number of
colonies and apparently has reduced wild bee colonies as well.   Bumblebees
have helped fill in the pollination gap.

            One of my summer jobs back in 1967 was with a local beekeeper.
It was quite a remarkable experience. One of my first encounters was going
into a bee yard when basswood was in bloom. You got the impression that the
various colonies were in a contest to see which one could produce the most
output. When bees are this busy you can work them with a minimum of stings.
Basswood honey is also very light. Pulling up frames laden with this
crystal honey left such an impression on me that I have requested to have a
basswood tree planted over my grave in my will.

            Honeybees play a significant role in the pollination of
commercial fruit orchards. My question for the list is this: are there any
forest trees that have been affected by the demise of the honeybee
population? Also, for those of you that climb trees, have you had any
encounters up in the canopy?

Ed Nizalowski

Newark Valley, NY
RE: Bees and Trees    Lee E. Frelich
   Aug 20, 2003 07:05 PDT 

Ed and Bob:

In MN we only have two major tree species that are bee pollinated, American
basswood and black cherry. Since the honeybee is not native in North
America, I assume that basswood and cherry trees are able to get along with
bumblebees as pollinators, since that must have been the case for millions
of years before we brought European honeybees over here. Basswood pollen
is not very aerodynamic like the other tree species that are wind
pollinated. Without the aid of a bee, it falls straight down to the ground.
It is attractive pollen under the microscope, since it looks like a flying
saucer from one of those 1950s outer space movies, even though it can't fly.

There are a lot more bee pollinated trees down south (in MN we define down
south as 43 degrees latitude or less), and I don't know a lot about their
pollination ecology. These would include magnolias, locusts, catalpa,
flowering dogwood, redbud, tuliptree, etc.

Re: Bees and Trees
   Aug 20, 2003 20:01 PDT 

In the forests of West Virginia we have several tree species that honey bees
will work hard.

Yellow poplar flowers are large and can be flowerings like we had this year
can be intense enough to give the canopy of stands a yellowish white tinge.

Many people in Appalachia place their bee stands in the woods to coincide
with the flowering of both yellow poplar and basswood.

The basswood flowers are small, but extremely fragrant and the hum of bees
working a full bloom basswood can easily be heard from more than 100 feet away
from the base of the tree.

The honey produced by basswood has a distinctly different taste from that of
poplar honey and the variation in the color of the honey from the different
tree species can be significant.

Serious bee keepers will try to prevent their bees from making honey when the
oaks are flowering.

Since the arrival of the mites, my encounters with wild honey bees has
dropped from a weekly experience to now, not at all.

There seem to plenty of native pollinators to pick up the slack because we
still get lots of seed and mast.

Russ Richardson
Re: Bees and Trees
   Aug 21, 2003 03:54 PDT 


From the time you first noticed the decline in honey bee populations until
you saw them no more was what kind of time period?

Re: Bees and Trees
   Aug 21, 2003 04:27 PDT 

It took only two or three years for the mites to pretty much wipe out the
wild honey bees. At Crummies Creek, we had at least one bee tree for every 100
acres of forest with the locations of many individual bee trees specifically
known by local residents who would often cut down the trees for the bees inside
if the trees died.

We once had a very tall, 46" DBH buckeye that fell down in a windstorm that
had housed wild bees for the living memory of neighbors in their 60s.

I don't think we ever had a lot of serious competition between honey bees and
other native wildlife.......if there is one thing we seem to have plenty of
in WV it is hollow trees and cavities.

Re: Tree Symbiotes   edniz
  Apr 17, 2006 04:51 PDT 
        I don't have much new to add to the discussion, but in a recent visit to Barnes & Noble I was surprised at the number of new books that have been published regarding honey bees and honey.

        I have also read that because of the parasitic mite and cheap honey from other countries, the number of colonies in this country is way down. This has led many farmers whose crops depend on honey bee pollination to pay more money to have bees brought in. Honey bees are now much less common in my part of New York State.

Ed Nizalowski
Berkshire, NY