There are 300 species of Acacia in Australia, and about 150 in other parts of the world. Some 60 species have been introduced into California, and after fifty years have become fully acclimated. Half a million trees have been planted in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. The species consist of herbs, shrubs, vines, and stately trees, which are well adapted to semi-arid regions, or the borders of deserts. They are valuable for tanbark, gums, dyes, medicines, and fiber.
Leaves two-pinnate; flowers generally yellow, in globose heads or spikes. They are not usually rich in nectar, but are wonderful pollen-producers. Wherever the species will thrive, they will furnish a wealth of pollen in spring, which is exceedingly rich in proteids. Many of the acacias are of no practical value to the apiarist.
Silver wattle (A. dealbata) and black wattle (A. decurrens) are extensively planted for ornament in California. When in full bloom during the winter months the golden-yellow clusters of flowers present a most beautiful appearance and are very fragrant. On bright days in January and February bees are always at work on the feathery bloom. If planted extensively, black wattle will assure a valuable supply of pollen for early brood-rearing. See Catsclaw and Huajilla.
AGARITA (Berberis trifoliolata). — A much branched shrub, 6 to 8 feet tall, with evergreen, leathery leaves of three leaflets, the teeth spine-tipped. The small, fragrant yellow flowers are in clusters, and bloom from January to April. The bright-red berries have a mild acid flavor. It is abundant in southern Texas, where it yields a large amount of pollen and nectar. A super of light - amber honey of good flavor is reported to have been stored in a favorable season, but usually it is chiefly valuable for building up the colonies. There is only one blooming period, but that is of long duration. Bees also gather the pink juice of ripe berries, which have fallen to the ground. See Barberry.
AGAVE. — This genus comprises over 100 species, all native to America, but most abundant in Mexico. In this country it is limited to the southern and southwestern regions. The most familiar species is the century plant or maguey (Agave americana). The plant consists of a rosette of fleshy leaves from the center of which, after a number of years, there grows up a stalk which may reach a height of 40 feet and produce as many as 4000 densely clustered flowers. The flowers are yellowish, and secrete nectar copiously, attracting great numbers of bees and other insects. Many gallons of sweet sap may be collected by cutting out the flower stalk and collecting the liquid, which flows into the cavity thus formed amid the leaves. Also called American aloe. Several species are valuable for fiber.
ALFALFA (Medicago sativa). — Alfalfa honey is white to amber-colored, with a pleasant minty flavor which has long made it a favorite with the public. The body is heavy, running 12 to 13 pounds to the gallon, while the weight of other honeys seldom exceeds 12 pounds. It granulates soon after extracting, forming a creamy solid, which is often retailed in cartons and tin pails. The color of alfalfa honey varies from water-white to amber, according to the character of the soil, latitude, altitude, and the season of the year. In the intermountain country of Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Idaho, the honey is white; while in Arizona, New Mexico, and Imperial County, California, it is amber-colored. An analysis of alfalfa honey differs from that of white clover chiefly in the higher percentage of sucrose, or cane sugar, a slightly higher percentage of dextrose, or grape sugar, and in the lower percentage of dextrine, or gums.
While alfalfa is grown in every state in the Union, it requires a fertile lime soil and a compact seed-bed. The largest surplus of honey is obtained in arid and semi-arid regions, where irrigation is practiced. With ample moisture in the soil, the largest surplus is obtained when there is a hot dry atmosphere, and the temperature ranges from 80 to 100 degrees F. In Colorado, honey is seldom stored from the third crop of alfalfa, owing to cool nights. At a high altitude the temperature may be so low that it checks the flow of nectar; but a moderate elevation may favor its secretion. A beekeeper at Grand Junction, Colorado, states that three apiaries, in 1919, were in that locality barely self-supporting; while three others, 40 miles away and 1800 feet higher, produced a good crop of honey.