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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Bee forage

Plants are essential to the honey bees' life. The production of honey depends on an abundant supply of nectar and pollen producing plants within easy flight range of the bee colony. Nectar forms the basis of honey, the energy rich (carbohydrate) food that honeybees need to sustain the life of the colony while pollen provides the protein, vitamins and other nutrients needed for the developing larvae. Without sufficient carbohydrate the colony will die of starvation quite quickly; without pollen the colony will die out slowly as it will not be able to produce new bees to replace old ones as they die. Propolis is collected from the resinous exudations of a range of trees. This is used to strengthen the comb, to keep the hive clean and free of infection and to seal up holes keeping out leaks and draughts as well as robber bees and damaging intruders.

Bees and flowering plants have a long relationship, developing together over the millennia in away that benefited both the plants and the insects and enabling both to survive better than they would have done alone. Bees are important to humans, not only for the production of honey and wax but particularly for their role in the pollination of plants including some important economic crops.

Worldwide, about 40,000 plant species are of value to bees while about 4,000 are the source of most of the worlds' honey. Among a long list of important economic crops, bees have been shown to increase the yields of sunflower, oilseeds, peaches, almonds, kiwi fruit, coffee, avocado, mango, pumpkins and beans.

Beekeepers who have acquired a good knowledge of the floral sources in their locality will be able to maintain their colonies in the best places for getting honey. Part of the skill of beekeeping is to enable the maximum population of foraging bees at the time when there is the maximum number of flowers. This will give the bees the best chance of collecting as much nectar as they can - and of course for the beekeeper to utilise the resulting honey crop.


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