other region in which they are grown on a commercial scale is in the Island of Madagascar. In California they are adapted to a coastal strip 20 miles in width extending from Santa Barbara County southward to San Diego County, which is subject to heavy ocean fogs. Cool sea fogs and the absence of protracted hot spells are required for the maturing of the plant, which otherwise is apt to blight; but the dense fogs often retard the flight of the bees.
The Lima bean is a twining vine with racemes of small white flowers, and compound leaves of three pointed, ovate, entire leaflets. The pods are scimitar-shaped
with a few large flat seeds. A bush variety has been very extensively planted during
the past few years. It is grown a little farther away from the ocean under irrigation. In 1920 thousands of acres of this variety were planted in the San Fernando Valley, which was the haven of many migratory beekeepers. Nectar was yielded in abundance by the bush Lima bean fields, while bees dependent on pole varieties were starving. The vines bloom in July and August and yield a heavy, white, mild honey which has a pleasant flavor. Most of the honey is secured during the first two weeks of bloom. It granulates quickly. The crop of honey from this
source is rather uncertain, as it is greatly influenced by weather conditions. If
there are many days of hot sunshine little nectar is secreted, and too much fog prevents the flight of the bees.
In Ventura County whole farms comprising more than a thousand acres each are devoted to growing Lima beans, and there are rows a mile in length. In no other county is there so large an acreage under cultivation. The crop of bean honey is usually fairly reliable, and an average of 50 pounds per colony is secured in a good season, but as much as 150 pounds per colony has been obtained. Twice the crop has been a failure. Some years ago a hot wind literally withered the bloom, and again in 1920 the bloom was reported as nectarless. After the honey flow from the sages is over, many beekeepers move their colonies to the bean fields. There have been as many as 2000 colonies in a radius of three miles, and it has been estimated that nearly 500 beekeepers migrate to the bean fields.
As a rule the beans never receive a drop of rain from the time of planting to harvesting. The ground water and the ocean fogs furnish all the moisture they require. All weeds are destroyed by cultivation and hand-weeding. As there is no rain, the vines do not require poles but can lie on the ground without rotting. After the bean crop is removed the fields are so bare that a sheep would starve on a hundred acres, and there is no pasturage left for bees.
In reply to a special request M. H. Mendleson, one of the most prominent and successful beekeepers in California, describes his experience in the production of lima bean honey as follows:
“I have had over forty years’ experience in the bean fields, and was the pioneer in moving on an extensive scale colonies of bees among the beans in southern California. In Ventura County, following wet winters, there are over 100,000 acres planted with beans, mostly with the vine Lima bean. In the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles County, the Henderson bush Lima bean, which also yields a white honey, is largely grown; but in California the surplus of bean honey is obtained chiefly from the tall or vine variety. Ventura’s rich valley lands formerly produced as much as fifty sacks of beans of eighty pounds each to the acre. One ranch alone of 1900 acres furnished a big trainload of beans each year. A warm damp atmosphere causes the best secretion of nectar. On a Lima bean range in a frostless belt, at an elevation of some twenty-five feet, about three miles from the ocean, where the heavy fogs hung low, I secured 140 pounds per colony of Lima-bean honey of superior quality. Irrigation does not produce results as good as those which follow rainy winters. When irrigated, the twining Lima bean grows too much to vine, and, as it is difficult for the bees to visit the limited bloom, they store much less honey. Sometimes a hot east wind, continuing for three days, will cause the bloom to drop and bring the honey flow to an abrupt end; but fortunately we seldom have these winds from the deserts during blooming-time,