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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Trees bees use

No trees - no bees: no honey - no money

Honeybees collect everything they need for life from plants.  In other parts of this website the vital role of pollination is explained together with its clear links with increased crop yields and improved food security. Bees give people such a good deal from their services that it is always a surprise when these benefits to the wider community are not recognised. 

Forests worldwide are of priceless ecological value; they prevent soil erosion, control flooding, affect rainfall, store and recycle nutrients, and provide habitats for vast numbers of plant and animal species. Bees are important to forest conservation and protection not just for their vital pollination function, but because bees can collect a crop from the trees without destroying them. People benefit, not just from improved yields and greater biodiversity, but also from the useful and saleable products that can be harvested from beehives. Beekeeping offers even better income generating potential when it can be integrated into a farmers cropping system. For instance farmers may consider growing additional crops that can benefit the household as well as providing a food source for the bees. Sometimes, where live fencing is used, carefully chosen melliferous plants can be included in the fence so that there is food for the bees for as long as possible during the year without any extra land being required. Attention to bee forage to give a long period with flowers providing nectar will help to reduce colony death or the loss of colonies by absconding. 

In addition, management of farm areas that includes multipurpose trees may also be a way forward for those not within reach of forest systems. Many multipurpose agroforestry trees are also good nectar or pollen sources, may provide shelter for wild bee colonies or give materials for beehive production as well as providing people with a useful or valuable crop. As well as natural species some important commercial species such as avocado, carambola, cashew, macadamia, coconut, coffee, kiwi, litchi and citrus depend on honeybee pollination. Some fast growing energy crop trees such as eucalyptus also produce copious nectar. As well as adding soil fertility in the form of nitrogen from their root nodules, all acacia species provide nectar; so do some of the oilseed trees such as Jatropha and oil palm while fodder trees such as Calliandra and Leucaena can be useful additions to a diverse agroforestry system. The choices are extensive and will be a constrained by the local environmental conditions so indigenous knowledge and experience is essential in selecting suitable agroforestry species. However, care needs to be taken with the introduction of non native species to ensure they are not damagingly invasive.

There is a wide range of information about which tree species have multipurpose uses. Bees for Development run an occasional series of Trees Bees Use which spotlights specific tree species. If there is an especially useful bee tree in your area please submit an article to tell us about it.  We may be able to share your information with many other beekeepers.


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