10 degrees below zero. The winds are high and the summers cool. A beekeeper at Thomas writes that he has kept from 20 to 60 colonies, and that in some years he gets no honey, in others as much as 60 pounds per colony. In Barbour County the honey plants are wild blackberry, tulip tree, black locust, sumac, basswood, sourwood, white clover, fruit bloom, and aster. Many farmers have from 1 to 6 hives. This is a poor country for commercial beekeeping. There are hundreds of locust trees in the pastures; and, while they bloom in some years profusely, they bloom irregularly. In the southeast corner of the state most localities in Greenbrier, Monroe, Summers, and Fayette counties would sustain probably from 20 to 50 colonies. Sixty pounds per colony is regarded as a good crop, 40 fair, and 20 poor. In Mercer, McDowell, and Wyoming counties the honey flora and the number of colonies are about the same as in the above counties.
In Marshall County, in the Panhandle, the largest apiaries range from 20 to 50 hives. The surplus comes from white clover and basswood; but fruit bloom, black locust, tulip tree, aster, and sometimes buckwheat, are all of considerable value Near Wheeling poor results are reported. At Pennsboro, Ritchie County, is located Grant Luzader, West Virginia’s largest commercial beekeeper; he has never failed to produce a crop of honey.
In the eight counties along the Ohio River there are many thousand colonies of bees, which in a single year produce several hundred thousand pounds of honey. In Wood County, around Parkersburg, there are about 35 yards, the largest of which contains 50 colonies; but the apiaries are usually of small size. Small apiaries are numerous around Charleston, ranging from 1 to 40 colonies. Heartsease and white clover are abundant, and usually reliable in the valley of the Kanawha River, but goldenrod does not yield well. Of Gilmer County, W. D. Zinn, one of the most progressive farmers of West Virginia, writes: “Never have I seen a country where white clover grows more luxuriantly.” According to the replies of many beekeepers, small or medium-sized beeyards are numerous in West Virginia, but there is comparatively little commercial beekeeping.
The disappearance of many farm apiaries during the past 15 years has resulted in an annual loss to the state of thousands of dollars from the imperfect pollination of fruit bloom. “No farmer,” says Reese, “can afford to be without five or more colonies of Italian bees; and no livestock on the farm will pay a greater percentage of profit.” If the bees receive proper care there can be no question that they are a great benefit. Unfortunately they are often wholly neglected.
The honey flora of West Virginia is varied, and there is a nearly continuous flow from the first spring flowers until frost. The whole state lies within the deciduous-leaved or hardwood forest belt, and 16,000 square miles are covered with forest. There is a wealth of shrubs, as Rhododendrons, Kalmias, and Azaleas. The more important nectar-producing trees are basswood (3 species), tulip tree, sourwood, sumac, black locust, redbud, maples, black gum, holly, willows, and a great variety of wild and domesticated fruit trees.
“It seems that no plant stands out as the most important nectar-producer anywhere in the state,” says C. A. Reese. “In some localities, especially along the Ohio River, the different clovers are probably most important. White clover, where it occurs in quantity, produces an excellent honey in color and flavor. Alsike clover is now being generally grown, and is an excellent nectar-yielding plant. Sweet clover is becoming more abundant every year, especially in the extreme eastern counties. Sourwood is rather widely distributed, and yields nectar in large amounts. Blue thistle is important, especially in the valleys of the eastern counties.”