THE existence of all animated nature depends on the earth's yielding her fruits in their appointed seasons. The increase and decrease of every race and class of the animal and insect kingdom are governed by the same. Hence we find the bee to increase most and flourish best, where the earth yields the greatest profusion of flowers through the greatest number of months in the year.
New countries, where the natural luxuriance of plants is not checked by the grazing of domestic animals, are particularly favorable to bee culture. But as domestic animals increase and consume the herbage, bee pasture must decrease. Large tracts of land cultivated in grain also lessen the supply. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, each locality that will supply food for man will also support a certain number of bees with profit to their owners. In portions of the country the season of flowers is short, yet very rich in honey, while the balance of the year furnishes very little. In such places, bees will store largely from the flowers, but need large quantities to sustain them through the long seasons of scarcity ; hence, in such localities, bees can only be kept profitably by providing artificial pasture when the natural fails. This may be done by planting such crops as produce honey-bearing flowers. To do this to advantage it is important to know the resources afforded by nature during each month, and the time it requires for each plant or tree to mature its blossoms. The following schedule of the different trees, shrubs and plants that afford pasturage, arranged in the order of their flowering, affords valuable information to beginners.
MANZANITA, (Little Apple) Is a bush abounding principally in the mountain districts, and flowering in January and February, and is rich in both honey and pollen.
WILLOWS. The numerous family of willows affords a succession of pasturage of great value, commencing about the first of February, and continuing nearly four months ; some varieties afford pollen in great abundance, while others are rich in honey.
SYCAMORE. This well known and valuable tree is found along the banks of rivers and water courses, yielding a
CABBAGE. vast profusion of unpretending flowers, rich in honey during the latter part of March and the early part of April, and affording great attraction to bees.
TURNIP. Turnip blossoms are eagerly sought after by bees, and afford so rich pasturage during March and April as to make it a profitable crop, if but for this purpose alone.
RAPE. The summer rape resembles the turnip, and blooms a little later in the season, and affords quite a rich pasturage. By sowing it at different times, from the first of January to the first of April, a succession of pasturage will be afforded. Winter Rape, which is also valuable for bee pasture, requires to be sown during the spring or summer, so as to make a growth and be prepared to bloom early in the following spring. This variety is cultivated to a considerable extent in some countries, (particularly in Germany) both for bee pasture, and for seed. The latter is used for making oil, and for bird feed. Several tons are annually imported into California for the latter purpose.
CABBAGE. Cabbage blossoms afford a considerable amount of honey, of a fine quality and flavor.
LOCUST TREES Yield a profusion of white flowers, about the last of April, affording a very fine quality of honey.
WILD CLOVER. Of the varieties of wild clover in California, some afford pollen ; but I am not aware that any of them are rich in honey.
WHITE CLOVER. This is the great dependence for honey in the Atlantic States. It will flourish in moist lands in California.
BUCKWHEAT Is a great source of both honey and pollen. It may be sown at any time after the frosts are past. The blossoms are so that the bees commence gathering from them in about thirty days after it is sown, and it continues in bloom for four or five weeks. Buckwheat can be made to fill any vacancies that occur during the summer, provided it is sown on lands sufficiently moist to insure its growth. The honey gathered from it is of a reddish color and fine flavor, and is preferred by many persons to that gathered from white clover.
MIGNONETTE Is a great favorite with the bees. It is rich in both honey and pollen. When sown early, it commences to bloom in May, and continues until hard freezing kills it. Being a trailing, annual plant, it may be sown in orchards to good advantage. It is one of the best plants to cultivate for bees.
MUSTARD. Mustard affords a larger amount of valuable pasturage to the acre than almost any other plant. It blooms throughout the month of May, and part of June. During this time, bees increase in numbers, and store from it large quantities of honey of a clear yellowish color, but partaking slightly of the taste of the plant.
BUCKEYE. The buckeye of California is usually a large shrub, but occasionally attains the size of a small tree. It abounds in most of the mountain districts, and is also found along* the borders of streams, and occasionally on the plains. It commences to bloom in May and continues for nearly three months. It yields a large supply of honey of a superior quality.
POPLAR OR WHITEWOOD. (Liriodendron.) This noble tree is not found to thrive in this vicinity, (Sacramento) but doubtless would flourish near the sea-coast and in the mountains, where a lower range of temperature prevails. It thrives best on rich, moist lands. In some of the Atlantic States it ^s one of the principal sources of superior honey. It flowers in the month of June.
LINDEN, OR BASSWOOD, ( Tilia Americana) Is found to grow well on the moist lands of California, and affords a rich crop of honey at a time when there is a scarcity of other pasturage. It is a great acquisition. The season of bloom will be in June. (In the Northern States it blooms in July.)
SUMACH, (Rhus Cf-labra) Will flourish on the moist lands bordering our streams. It blooms a little later than the Linden, and affords a large quantity of honey.
CEPHALANTHUS OCCIDENTALS As a source of superior quality and quantity of honey, the Button-bush, Cephalanthus Occidental, stands unrivaled.
It is found in various parts of the United States, and particularly in California; abounding on marshy lands, and along the margins of rivers, and sloughs, and lakes. It attains a height of from ten to fifteen feet, and a diameter varying from one to three or four inches, there being a number of crooked, irregular stalks growing out of the same root. It propagates either by seed, layers- or cuttings, and is a vigorous grower and perfectly hardy. The wood is* short jointed, having three leaves growing out of each, forming a triangle. The leaves are about four inches long, by one and one-half wide, and tapering at both ends. The color is a lively green, of waxen appearance. The flowers are formed at the termination of the current year's growth, globe shaped and about one inch in diameter ; being composed of numerous flowerets, thrown out of the seed-vessel, of the same shape and about one-third the size of the expanded flower. These are placed in threes, opposite each other, the same as the leaves, there being generally either two or three sets, terminated by a single one, making either four, seven, or ten on each terminal branch, according as it is more or less thrifty. They are of a creamy white color and emit a pleasant fragrance. Where a portion of this shrub is submerged till late in the spring, it retards the season of bloom ; the first flowers appearing about the first of July and continuing in succession for full two months, affording an abundant supply of honey during the season it is in bloom. Strong colonies will store from one to three pounds of surplus honey per day, besides the amount deposited in the main apartment, to be consumed by the bees.
There are places where large quantities of this bush grow, that should not only be preserved, but additional grounds planted ; it will be found a paying investment, perhaps equal to a sugar plantation.