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Pasturage




Some blossoms yield only pollen, and others only honey; but by far the
largest number, both honey and pollen. Since the discovery that rye
flour will answer so admirably as a substitute, before the bees are able
to gather the pollen from the flowers, early blossoms producing pollen
alone, are not so important in the vicinity of an Apiary. Willows are
among the most desirable trees to have within reach of the bees: some
kinds of willow put out their catkins very early, and yield an
abundance of both bee-bread and honey. All the willows furnish an
abundance of food for the bees; and as there is considerable difference
in the time of their blossoming, it is desirable to have such varieties
as will furnish the bees with food, as long as possible.

The Sugar Maple furnishes a large supply of very delicious honey, and
its blossoms hanging in drooping fringes, will be all alive with bees.
The Apricot, Peach, Plum and Cherry are much frequented by the bees;
Pears and Apples furnish very copious supplies of the richest honey. The
Tulip tree, _Liriodendron_, is probably one of the greatest
honey-producing trees in the world. In rich lands this magnificent tree
will grow over one hundred feet high, and when covered with its large
bell-shaped blossoms of mingled green and golden yellow, it is one of
the most beautiful trees in the world. The blossoms are expanding in
succession, often for more than two weeks, and a new swarm will
frequently fill its hive from these trees alone. The honey though dark
in color, is of a rich flavor. This tree has been successfully
cultivated as a shade tree, even as far North as Southern Vermont, and
for the extraordinary beauty of its foliage and blossoms, deserves to be
introduced wherever it can be made to grow. The Winter of 1851-2, was
exceedingly cold, the thermometer in Greenfield, Mass. sinking as low as
30 deg. below zero, and yet a tulip tree not only survived the Winter
uninjured, but was covered the following season with blossoms.

The American Linden or Bass Wood, is another tree which yields large
supplies of very pure and white honey. It is one of our most beautiful
native trees, and ought to be planted much more extensively than it is,
in our villages and country seats. The English Linden is worthless for
bees, and in many places, has been so infested by worms, as to make it
necessary to cut it down.

The Linden blossoms soon after the white clover begins to fail, and a
majestic tree covered with its yellow clusters, at a season when very
few blossoms are to be seen, is a sight most beautiful and refreshing.

"Here their delicious task, the fervent bees
In swarming millions tend: around, athwart,
Through the soft air the busy nations fly,
Cling to the bud, and with inserted tube,
Suck its pure essence, its etherial soul."
_Thomson._

Our villages would be much more attractive, if instead of being filled
as they often are, almost exclusively with maples and elms, they were
adorned with a greater variety of our native trees. The remark has often
been made, that these trees are much more highly valued abroad than at
home, and that to see them in perfection, we must either visit their
native forests, or the pleasure grounds of some wealthy English or
European gentleman.

Of all the various sources from which the bees derive their supplies,
white clover is the most important. It yields large quantities of very
white honey, and of the purest quality, and wherever it flourishes in
abundance, the honey-bee will always gather a rich harvest. In this
country at least, it seems to be the most certain reliance of the
Apiary. It blossoms at a season of the year when the weather is usually
both dry and hot, and the bees gather the honey from it, after the sun
has dried off the dew: so that its juices are very thick, and almost
ready to be sealed over at once in the cells.

Every observant bee-keeper must have noticed, that in some seasons, the
blossoms of various kinds yield much less honey than in others. Perhaps
no plant varies so little in this respect, as the white clover. This
clover ought to be much more extensively cultivated than it now is, and
I consider myself as conferring a benefit not only on bee-keepers, but
on the agricultural community at large, in being able to state on the
authority of one of New England's ablest practical farmers, and writers
on agricultural subjects, Hon. Frederick Holbrook, of Brattleboro',
Vermont, that the common white clover may be cultivated on some soils to
very great profit, as a hay crop. In an article for the New England
Farmer, for May, 1853, he speaks as follows:--

"The more general sowing of white clover-seed is confidently
recommended. If land is in good heart at the time of stocking it to
grass, white clover sown with the other grass-seeds will thicken up the
bottom of mowings, growing some eight or ten inches high and in a thick
mat, and the burden of hay will prove much heavier than it seemed likely
to be before mowing. Soon after the practice of sowing white clover on
the tillage-fields commences, the plant will begin to show itself in
various places on the farm, and ultimately gets pretty well scattered
over the pastures, as it seeds very profusely, and the seeds are carried
from place to place in the manure and otherwise. The price of the seed
per pound in market is high; but then one pound of it will seed more
land, than two pounds of red clover seed; so that in fact the former is
the cheaper seed of the two, for an acre."

"Red-top, red clover and white clover seeds, sown together, produce a
quality of hay universally relished by stock. My practice is, to seed
all dry, sandy and gravelly lands with this mixture. The red and white
clover pretty much make the crop the first year; the second year, the
red clover begins to disappear, and the red-top to take its place; and
after that, the red-top and white clover have full possession and make
the very best hay for horses or oxen, milch cows or young stock, that I
have been able to produce. The crop per acre, as compared with
herds-grass, is not so bulky; but tested by weight and by spending
quality in the Winter, it is much the most valuable."

"Herds-grass hay grown on moist uplands or reclaimed meadows, and swamps
of a mucky soil, or lands not overcharged with silica, is of good
quality; but when grown on sandy and gravelly soils abounding in silex,
the stalks are hard, wiry, coated with silicates as with glass, and
neither horses nor cattle will eat it as well, or thrive as well on it
as on hay made of red-top and clover; and as for milch cows, they winter
badly on it, and do not give out the milk as when fed on softer and more
succulent hay."

By managing white clover, according to Mr. Holbrook's plan, it might be
made to blossom abundantly in the second crop, and thus lengthen out, to
very great advantage, the pasture for the bees. For fear that any of my
readers might suspect Mr. Holbrook of looking at the white clover,
through a pair of _bee-spectacles_, I would add that although he has ten
acres of it in mowing, he has no bees, and has never particularly
interested himself in this branch of rural economy. When we can succeed
in directing the attention of such men to bee-culture, we may hope to
see as rapid an advance in this as in some other important branches of
agriculture.

Sweet-scented clover, (_Mellilotus Leucantha_,) affords a rich
bee-pasturage. It blossoms the second year from the seed, and grows to a
great height, and is always swarming with bees until quite late in the
Fall. Attempts have been made to cultivate it for the sake of its value
as a hay crop, but it has been found too coarse in its texture, to be
very profitable. Where many bees are kept, it might however, be so
valuable for them as to justify its extensive cultivation. During the
early part of the season, it might be mowed and fed to the cattle, in a
green and tender state, and allowed to blossom later in the season,
when the bees can find but few sources to gather from.

For years, I have attempted to procure, through botanists, a hybrid or
cross between the red and white clover, in order to get something with
the rich honey-producing properties of the red, and yet with a short
blossom into which the honey-bee might insert its proboscis. The red
clover produces a vast amount of food for the bumble-bee, but is of no
use at all to the honey-bee. I had hoped to procure a variety which
might answer all the purposes of our farmers as a field crop. Quite
recently I have ascertained that such a hybrid has been originated in
Sweden, and has been imported into this country, by Mr. B. C. Rogers, of
Philadelphia. It grows even taller than the red clover, bears many
blossoms on a stalk which are small, resembling the white, and is said
to be preferred by cattle, to any other kind of grass, while it answers
admirably for bees.

Buckwheat furnishes a most excellent Fall feed for bees; the honey is
not so well-flavored as some other kinds, but it comes at a season when
it is highly important to the bees, and they are often able to fill
their hives with a generous supply against Winter. Buckwheat honey is
gathered when the dew is upon the blossoms, and instead of being thick,
like white clover honey, is often quite thin; the bees sweat out a large
portion of its moisture, but still they do not exhaust the whole of it,
and in wet seasons especially, it is liable to sour in the cells. Honey
gathered in a dry season, is always thicker, and of course more valuable
than that gathered in a wet one, as it contains much less water.
Buckwheat is uncertain in its honey-bearing qualities; in some seasons,
it yields next to none, and hardly a bee will be seen upon a large
field, while in others, it furnishes an extraordinary supply. The most
practical and scientific agriculturists agree that so far from being an
impoverishing crop, it is on many soils, one of the most profitable that
can be raised. Every bee-keeper should have some in the vicinity of his
hives.

The raspberry, it is well known, is a great favorite with the bees; and
the honey supplied by it, is very delicious. Those parts of New England,
which are hilly and rough, are often covered with the wild raspberry,
and would furnish food for numerous colonies of bees.

It will be observed that thus far, I have said nothing about cultivating
flowers in the garden, to supply the bees with food. What can be done in
this way, is of scarcely any account; and it would be almost as
reasonable to expect to furnish food for a stock of cattle, from a small
grass plat, as honey for bees, from garden plants. The cultivation of
bee-flowers is more a matter of pleasure than profit, to those who like
to hear the happy hum of the busy bees, as they walk in their gardens.
It hardly seems expedient, at least for the present, to cultivate any
field crops except such as are profitable in themselves, without any
reference to the bees.

Mignonnette is excellent for bees, but of all flowers, none seems to
equal the Borage. It blossoms in June, and continues in bloom until
severe frost, and is always covered with bees, even in dull weather, as
its pendant blossoms keep the honey from the moisture; the honey yielded
by it, is of a very superior quality. If any plant which does not in
itself make a valuable crop, would justify cultivation, there is no
doubt that borage would. An acre of it would support a large number of
stocks. If in a village those who keep bees would unite together and
secure the sowing of an acre, in their immediate vicinity, each person
paying in proportion to the number of stocks kept, it might be found
profitable. The plants should have about two feet of space every way,
and after they covered the ground, would need no further attention. They
would come into full blossom, cultivated in this manner, about the time
that the white clover begins to fail, and would not only furnish rich
pasture for the bees, but would keep them from the groceries and shops
in which so many perish.

If those who are engaged in adorning our villages and country residences
with shade trees, would be careful to set out a liberal allowance of
such kinds as are not only beautiful to us, but attractive to the bees,
in process of time the honey resources of the country might be very
greatly increased.





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Previous: Honey Pasturage Overstocking



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