MEXICAN CLOVER (Richardia scabra). — Also called Florida clover and Spanish clover. An annual herb which springs up in fields as soon as cultivation stops. It also grows along railroad tracks and public roads, but it is often found in pastures in southern Alabama. It blooms from May until late in the season, or in Georgia until frost. In Volusia County, Florida, it fills in the gap between orange bloom and partridge-pea. The honey is light amber in color, and has a peculiar tart flavor. Mexican clover grows in sandy soil in the Gulf States from Florida to Texas, and also in Mexico and South America. (Fig. 82.)
A smaller species (Richardia braziliensis) is found in the pine woods as well as in the fields of Florida. While the bees visit it more or less, it does not secrete nectar as well as the larger species. Both species belong to the madder family (Rubiaceae) and are not allied to the true clovers (Trifolium).
MIGNONETTE (Reseda odorata). — Honeybees visit frequently the very fragrant flowers of the garden mignonette both for nectar and pollen. This genus contains about 55 species, but they are all natives of the eastern continent. Besides the garden mignonette, three species have been introduced into the United States and grow in waste places. If more common they would be valuable. (Fig. 83.) In California mignonette has been reported to be visited by thousands of bees, and to be a valuable honey plant giving a great abundance of flowers and a very long period of bloom. The honey has a most pleasant odor and flavor. Tested at the Michigan Agricultural Station it proved a failure, as it was visited by very few bees. In Maine likewise it is not attractive to bees.
MINT (Mentha spicata). — Spearmint. In Sacramento County, California, it yields an amber-colored honey. Naturalized from Europe and common throughout eastern North America. Small, odorous, purplish flowers in close clusters or whorls. The nectar is sheltered completely by a ring of hairs; but, as the floral tube is short, it can be gathered by flies as well as bees.
There are many other species of mint, as peppermint (M. piperita), water mint, and field mint, all of which are of more or less value to the beekeeper. Peppermint was formerly cultivated chiefly in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio; but more than 2000 acres are now grown in southwest Michigan. The oil is used in flavoring candy, and in medicine as a carminative.
MILKWEED (Asclepias syriaca). — The extracted honey is so light in color that it is usually classed as white, but it not unfrequently has a yellowish tinge. The cappings of the comb honey are pearly white. The flavor is excellent with a slight tang, but it becomes milder with age. In hot dry weather it is so thick and heavy that it can not be extracted until the combs are warmed. In most localities it is mixed with the honey of other flowers blooming at the same time.
In Michigan the honey flow lasts for about thirty days, between July 1 and August 15, varying somewhat with the season. The nectar is secreted very rapidly, and a large colony has gathered from 13 to 17 pounds in a single day. An average of 11 pounds for 10 successive days has been obtained. At Bellaire an apiary will average 50 pounds per colony annually. The pollen grains are bound together in waxy masses called pollinia, and are useless to bees.
As a honey plant milkweed is of most importance in the northern part of the Southern Peninsula of Michigan, in the counties of Emmet, Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Antrim, and Grand Traverse. It grows on any kind of soil from white shore sand to heavy clay; but, as with clover, the clay soil gives the most nectar. In localities it has taken almost complete possession of the land, and is steadily spreading over a larger area. It is regarded as a noxious weed; but it is difficult to eradicate, as the roots go down into the soil for a depth of six to ten inches. The chief honey plants of this section of Michigan are fireweed, raspberry, and milkweed. After the forests have been lumbered, large areas are soon covered with dense thickets of raspberries; and in sections which have been burned over there springs up a rank growth of fireweed or willow-herb. But in a few years these plants become less vigorous and other forms of vegetation begin to take their place; thus the time must come when the raspberry and the fireweed will no longer be the chief reliance