When most gardeners or farmers think about bee-friendly crops, bee-balm; borage; buckwheat, clover and alfalfa come to mind. Here in the gulf islands, we rely on road sides covered in Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) to feed our honey bees with enough nectar to produce a honey crop. In our agroforestry project, we’ve incorporated a subtle undertone of bee-friendly trees to our beescape. We’re trying to source out varieties of trees that produce copious amounts of pollen or nectar, during times when our the diversity in either product is low. Our hazelnuts are wonderful emergency pollen providers in the quiet month of February when brood rearing kicks in. The chestnuts vibrate during the month of May from dawn till dusk with every nectar craving insect and bird around. Our trials with the yellow horn tree (Xanthoceras sorbifolium) will be interesting, as this Chinese beauty produces nectar rich blooms and oil rich edible nuts that are also making waves in the bio-fuel industry.
The importance of our small apiary isn’t just to satisfy my (insatiable) sweet tooth during our cold wet coast winters. The honey bees, along with our native bees, pollinate our fruits, vegetables (and to a lesser degree the nut trees), and no doubt our neighbours’ gardens too, so that we can all eat well. So the more we weave pollinator paths through our agroforestry landscape by using trees to compliment our annual crops, the more I can shed my food-insecurities! And that’s a good thing.