The importance of knowing the species of honey plants in a region cannot be underestimated, especially if a beekeeper moves his bees from one area to another. A beekeeper also needs to know the color and quality of the honey from each species. A fine-flavored, light-colored honey should be carefully removed before a flower producing a strong-flavored, dark honey comes into bloom.
A farmer-beekeeper can often plant crops which will be equally valuable to his farm but will be infinitely more valuable to his bees, such as sweet clover instead of red clover, or vetch instead of lupine. When trees are to be planted, he should plant those that secrete nectar such as locust, tulip-tree, willow, or basswood rather than the wind-pollinated, hay-fever causing oaks, hickories, or elms.
Most of the honey sold for table use in the United States and Canada comes from the legumes such as clovers, sweet clovers, alfalfa, vetch, etc. However, in certain areas there are other species more important, such as gallberry in southern Georgia, tupelo in western Florida, sages in parts of California, huajillo and whitebrush in west Texas, sourwood in the southern Alleghenies, sweet pepperbush in southeastern Massachusetts, thyme in the Catskills of New York, blue thistle in northern New York, and raspberry and fireweed in recently cut-over areas in our northern forests.
Here and there special crops are cultivated and should be carefully watched by the alert beekeeper. For example, spearmint is cultivated in northwestern Indiana, lavender near Olympia, Washington, cotton in many southern states, oranges in Florida, southern Texas, and California, and crimson clover particularly in Tennessee. These crops are a heavensent blessing to the beekeepers in these areas.
There are many ways in which a beekeeper can improve the honey flora in his neighborhood. The scattering of the seeds of sweet clover and hairy vetch along roadsides or in odd corners can be very useful. Some beekeepers furnish nearby farmers such seed free if they will plant it instead of some plant which would be useless to bees. In some states beekeepers have prevailed upon road departments not to cut the shoulders of the roads when honey plants are in bloom.
Harvey B. Lovell,