by F. N. HOWES
This is the first work to deal comprehensively with the bee plants or bee pasturage of the British
Isles. This may be somewhat surprising to those who realize that plant nectar is the "raw material of the honey industry" and that those plants that secrete it in a manner available to the hive bee constitute the very foundations of apiculture. The writer is a member of the scientific staff of Kew Gardens, and has a long experience of bee-keeping,
not only in Britain but in other lands. The appearance of such a book, written by a competent authority, is vital at the present time in view of the great increase in beekeeping that has taken place among all classes of the community, in town and country districts alike.
This increase of interest has come to stay.
The book is written for the general reader in a pleasingly simple style, and technical terms are largely avoided. It should appeal not only to beekeepers, but to all interested in plants and plant life.
I can wholeheartedly recommend this authoritative book to beekeepers and growers alike, and I am convinced that it will deservedly become the standard work on the subject in this country.
Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture
This excellent book has the stamp of authority, the writer being a botanist of repute as well as an expert beekeeper. It should prove of great interest to both the beekeeper and the more general reader.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Formerly Botanist, Agricultural Department, Union
of South Africa, and Economic Botanist, Agricultural
Department, Gold Coast. Expert, British Beekeepers'
Association and member of the Apis Club
of those plants, wild and cultivated,
of value to the hive bee,
and for honey production
in the British Isles
F. N. HOWES, D.Sc.
FABER AND FABER LIMITED
24 Russell Square
First published in June mcmxlv
by Faber and Faber Limited
24, Russell Square London W.C.1
Second impression April mcmxlvi
Third impression January mcmxlviii
Printed in Great Britain by
Latimer Trend & Co Ltd Plymouth
All rights reserved
This book is produced in complete conformity
There has been a marked increase of interest in beekeeping
and the production of honey throughout the country in
recent years. This may have been initiated by the Second
World War, with the consequent shortage of sweetening materials,
and partly by other considerations, such as the better understanding
of some of the major bee diseases that now prevails. The number
of beekeepers has been doubled or trebled in many localities
according to the statistics of Beekeepers'Associations and doubtless
the total production of home-produced Honey has been stepped up
considerably. It is to be hoped this increase in the Nation's annual
honey crop will continue, and, what is of even greater importance,
that this increase in the nation's bee population will also be maintained,
for it has been proved that the main value of the honey bee
in the national economy is as a pollinator for fruit, clovers, and
other seed and farm crops. Its value in this respect far outweighs
its value as a producer of honey.
Plant nectar has been described as the 'raw material of the honey
industry' and those plants that produce it, in a manner available
to the honey bee, constitute the very foundations of apiculture.
They are obviously of first importance to the beekeeper, whether
he or she is a large or small scale beekeeper or belongs to the
hobbyist class. A knowledge of these plants and their relative
values, for nectar or for pollen, is likely to add much to the pleasure
and the profit of beekeeping. An attempt has here been made to
deal with the more important bee plants in the British Isles as well
as many others that are only of minor importance. Among the
latter are to be found both wild and garden plants. Although not
sufficiently prevalent in most cases to affect honey yields to any
extent such plants have been purposely included in the knowledge
that their presence is always beneficial, especially as they so often
help to maintain or support bees between the major nectar flows.
Much of the pollen collected by bees, so vital for the sustenance of
their young, comes from such plants. Furthermore, beekeepers are
often keen gardeners and nature lovers and interested in any plant
that proves attractive to bees. This no doubt accounts for the present popularity of bee gardens or gardens devoted exclusively to the cultivation of good bee plants, to which a chapter has been given. From the earliest times gardening has been closely associated or connected with beekeeping and the two are obviously
complementary and well suited for being carried on together.
Many owners of gardens and flower lovers with no special interest
in beekeeping derive great pleasure from observing bees
industriously at work on flowers and are fond of growing some of
those plants which they know will prove a special attraction, even
though they may not always be in the front rank as garden plants.
Indications are given as to what plants are likely to be most suitable
in this connection and special emphasis laid on some of the
newer plant introductions.
Among the minor bee plants will be found quite a number of
introduced trees and shrubs that are grown to a greater or less
extent for ornament. Some of these are important for honey in
their native land and where this is known the fact is mentioned.
As some of these plants, especially among those from the Orient,
are of comparatively recent introduction, they may become more
generally grown and therefore more useful as bee fodder at some
future time. It is for this reason they have been included.
The more serious-minded beekeeper and honey producer may
be interested only in those plants that fill or help to fill his hives.
These will be found described at much greater length in Section 2.
Some of the major honey plants of Britain such as the clovers,
lime, heather and fruit trees are also important for honey in other
countries. It is hoped therefore that the book may not be without
interest to beekeepers and those interested in such plants in other
The writer is indebted to colleagues and fellow beekeepers for helpful suggestions in the preparation of this work, which has been in the course of preparation for many years. During this period much time has been spent in observing the behaviour of the honey bee towards various wild and introduced plants at different seasons of the year and in different parts of the country. Thanks are due to the Bentham Moxon Trustees, Kew, and to Messrs. Flatters and Garnet, Ltd., Manchester, for some of the photographs.
F. N. Howes
14 Nylands Avenue
Preface ................. page 5
PLANTS AND THE BEEKEEPER
Nectar and Nectar Secretion
Honey in Relation to Nectar Source
Notes on Unpalatable and Poisonous Honey
The Hive Bee and Pollination
Artificial Bee Pasturage or Planting for Bees
Garden Flowers and the Honey Bee
Apiary Hedges and Windbreaks
Honeydew and Propolis
THE MAJOR HONEY PLANTS
Mustard and Charlock
OTHER PLANTS VISITED BY THE HONEY
BEE FOR NECTAR OR POLLEN