View Full Version : Soybeans for Honey

Myron Denny
12-02-2009, 02:16 PM
We have lots of soybeans grown in our area, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean Website indicates soybeans are a major source of Pollen and Nectar, later in this same website it indicates soybeans are a minor producer of nectar and pollen. I checked my beans regularly this summer when they were blooming, I never saw or heard any bees working them, the beans were constantly adding more blooms. These beans were not "Genetically Modified" they were conventual beans.

Were the bees not working them because of bloom maturity or do some varieties of beans not attract bees with the kind of nectar and pollen they like?

Is there a more reliable source for nectar and pollen production?

Some of the literature I have read says bees do very little toward pollinating soybeans.

Any opinions?

Myron Denny

The Honey Householder
12-02-2009, 03:26 PM
The two big crops we get is from the soybean and the basswood. I find that the bees don't start working the beans until after 3 pm. It might be went they start producing. Each plant has it's time to bare it sweet stuff!:D

Radical Bee
12-02-2009, 08:12 PM
Soybean varieties, like clover will have differences in attractiveness to bees. That said, soybeans are a major nectar source here. Are they irrigated, did it rain yesterday, has it rained in the last 3 weeks? Lots of possible reasons for variation in nectar gathering in soybeans.

Soybeans do quite well without insect pollination. There was some years ago a USDA pamplet out saying bees could add 5%to soybean production. It assumed 2/hives per acre, hardly relevant in an area like this where an hours drive in any direction could put you within sight of hundreds of thousands of acres. Also at the time of that article soybeans were grown in a rotational pattern just to prevent fields from being cottoned or riced to death, the farmers were just hoping for any profit, certainly not enough to pay hive rent.

The place to check for bees working soybeans is not in a 2000 acre field, but at the hive entrance.........foragers will be coming out fast and furious and on line.

12-02-2009, 10:04 PM
Here in Cape Girardeau County of SE Missouri, we tend to dismiss soybeans as a nectar source because they are "hill beans." (The fields here are rolling and heavily clay).

Just south of here in Scott County, the fields are flat, the soil is much lighter, even sandy. The water table is also higher, closer to the surface. We call them "bottom beans." And they are an excellent source of nectar.

Does soil type and topography make a difference? I watched the honeybees, in late afternoon, work the soy beans planted in a flood plain so hard they were like a cloud hovering over the blooms.

Back in the good old days, prior to GMOs, I remember beekeepers talking about white blooms versus purple blooms, but I can't remember which one was valued for honey production.

Jackson, MO

12-03-2009, 07:02 AM
Here on the sandy-loamed coastal plain with its high water table the purple-flowered soybean definately puts the bees to work. I would have had no honey this summer if it were not for the soybean. It was an amazing sight to me to watch the low cloud of bees working the SB. The SB are about to be harvested and I am interested in asking the grower of these fields if he notices an increased yield in these fields.

jim lyon
12-03-2009, 08:04 AM
If there is an enigma among honey producing plants it has got to be the soybean. It seems that reports of surplus honey off of soybeans always tend to be more south and east and they never seem to be accompanied with yield averages or reports of large lots of soybean honey being sold. I have been in commercial beekeeping longer than i would like to admit in the Dakota's, Minnesota and Iowa. I have walked a lot of soybean fields and rarely have I even seen a bee working in them nor can I attribute any production them. I'm not saying it dosen't happen it just dosen't seem to happen in this part of the country. If there was really much to be made off of them up here the prime farmland of Iowa and Illinois, where there are millions of acres of soybeans, would be full of commercial beekeepers.

Myron Denny
12-03-2009, 08:52 AM
I am reasonablly sure the beans I planted were white blossom, they were planted on very fertil soil, the bees were not that far from them. I was mostly checking them at noon, next year I will check later in the day. I intend to set the bees right at the edge of the fields and watch them, if there is a known bloom color of blooms or variety preference the bees prefer please let me know.

My beans were planted in early June, it was extremely hot and dry through June but July on was very favorable for the beans.
Myron Denny

Radical Bee
12-03-2009, 08:12 PM
This year the farmer with the two fields across the road switched to a indeterminate var. of soybean. It has a blue flower and being indeterminate lends to a longer blooming period. Worked out well for me.

In years past the ABJ always carried a local soybean honey price quote in season.

JohnK and Sheri
12-03-2009, 08:41 PM
I concur with Jim. We lose more pasture and woods every year to corn and soybean. Neither seem to give us a crop up here. Must be further south?

12-03-2009, 09:56 PM
Yea, It must be further south than central missouri because that is all we have here is soybean and corn, no honey from it. I don't think they will even fly over it.

Allen Martens
12-04-2009, 05:09 PM
Soybeans has to be one of the most unpredictable crops around for honey. Some years, when the conditions are just right (and I haven't figured out what those conditions are), we get a decent haul of soybean honey in Manitoba. Those years it bridges the gap between canola and sunflower flows. Then we will go several years with no soybean honey.

In a year like the last one where canola bloomed late in many fields and summer temperatures were very late I don't think we got a drop of soybean honey.

12-04-2009, 09:33 PM
Allen, here in the texas panhandle, they grow a fair amount of sunflowers. The down side is they spray the hell out of them with aerial applications of pesticides to kill some kind of moth that lays eggs in the heads. Do you see the same kind of aerial application of pesticides up there on sunflowers? What kind of losses do you see in your bees?

12-05-2009, 08:04 AM
In years past the ABJ always carried a local soybean honey price quote in season.

And the question posed to me as I go about selling varietal honey has always been, "How do you know YOUR bees were gathering nectar SOLELY from that crop."

My answer is usually a shrug and I explain, "Bees forage a lot of nectar from a lot of different blooms, but it's my strong hunch that with such a large planting of XYZ crop, I conclude that the majority of this honey was made from that crop."

I had one field this year flooded by the backwater from the Mississippi River. The bees still made 1-1/2 supers of honey from somewhere, probably roadside weeds. Then the water dropped, and the farmer planted soybeans. Toward dusk, when the sun was low on the horizon, I obseved the bees flying over the soybeans and working the blooms. Later in September, they produced about 2 supers of honey, presumably from those soybeans.

Jackson, MO

Allen Martens
12-06-2009, 09:08 AM
The down side is they spray the hell out of them with aerial applications of pesticides to kill some kind of moth that lays eggs in the heads. Do you see the same kind of aerial application of pesticides up there on sunflowers? What kind of losses do you see in your bees?

There is some spraying here, but often times before the flowers are open. This year notice the spray planes out in the middle of the day on two different occasions near my bees. In both cases, the canola was still blooming and the bees will choose canola over sunflower. No damage from those situations. Sometimes if I know the farmer, I've been abe to get them to spray early morning or late in the day.

I haven't ever lost bees to spraying--however in a bad year where bug numbers are up and the farmers sprays in the middle of the day, could be very painful.

Our brutally cold winters do have a benefit in that they freeze out a lot of bugs and disease.

12-13-2009, 08:44 AM
I am in NW Ohio (Hancock Co) and can not say I've seen any activity or increase in honey production due to soybeans, but then looking for bees in hundreds of acres of SB seams :scratch: Any idea of pollen color?
Another huge crop here is corn, field. I have not seen any reference to bees working field corn, I have seen them on my sweet corn in the garden.

12-21-2009, 12:09 PM
If the beans were not GMO's I would be suprised. I would agree with the other replies that if there was a big benefit from soybeans more would there.

Those that raise soybeans, the ground usually is so devoid of trace elements the honey is not as healthy as crops such as fruit.

Ted n Ms
12-28-2009, 09:32 AM
My observations have been that it takes a high ph soil and hot night those nights when it don't get below 80. Hot days above 95 degrees before the bees start working SB.

12-28-2009, 10:09 AM
My observations have been that it takes a high ph soil and hot night those nights when it don't get below 80. Hot days above 95 degrees before the bees start working SB.

Yup - that could be it. Sounds like here - High pH (Acid) - Hot nights, Hot days - right when the SB bloom. When they started to bloom my supers started filling up - when the stopped blooming - the honey stopped - that was about it this year - Soy Bean Honey.

07-13-2010, 02:02 PM
Just an update to what I found out this year in the Delta country. I had good honey gathering on the following Indeterminate Beans:
Group 4 Asgrove 94B73
Group 5 Hornbeck 5525
Group (unknown) Pioneer 95

07-13-2010, 02:48 PM
"Sounds like here - High pH (Acid) - Hot nights, Hot days - right when the SB bloom."

High pH #'s are Base (alkaline), Low pH are Acid...

07-13-2010, 04:51 PM
pH is an inverse logarithm..... so a pH of 1 is actually a bigger number than a pH of 14 - strange isn't it...

07-13-2010, 05:41 PM
To further explain pH....7 is neutral, above 7 alkaline, below 7 acidic.

I wonder what plant growth factors impact soybean nectar production. Acidity/alkalinty will impact plant growth which should impact nectar production. Genetics/variety will impact it. I'm not sure there would be a direct correlation to GMO/non-GMO. Soil-type, fertility, available moisture would certainly impact nectar flow. Just a few factors that might impact nectar flow.


07-13-2010, 06:02 PM
I think soybean is across rd from me not bloomed yet.Im in south ga never heard of soybean honey here.My bees need pollen right now hope beans make some for them good luck to rest of you with it.

07-13-2010, 07:24 PM
Are the soybeans you are using a genetically modified variety? They use pesticides on them don't they? How is the health of your hives while in the soybeans?

The Honey Householder
07-13-2010, 07:42 PM
We only produce an avg of 100 lbs per hive from the soybean here in NW Ohio. With the wet spring a lot of the beens didn't get planted until late. I look for the soybean flow to be a long one this year.:applause:

07-13-2010, 08:33 PM
Are the soybeans you are using a genetically modified variety? They use pesticides on them don't they?

Use of pesticides has NOTHING to do with a variety being GMO or not. Some GMO plants allow you to use different spray packages, but there are chemicals you can use on conventional varieties too.

07-14-2010, 09:17 AM
The Beans I was on were Roundup Ready, they flood the fields if they do not get enough rain. Farmers said it was getting close to the end of the blooms and would be time to spray for stink bugs soon so I had about a week to week and a half to get the bees off. I only had 5 hives (from spits), they had 2 mediums of brood and that was it....they drew 2-3 supers of comb from plastic foundation and created usually 1- 1.5 supers of honey each. Now they are all at 3 supers of brood. Bees were there 4 weeks.

Skinner Apiaries
07-14-2010, 09:32 PM
Good flow here. Just starting

07-17-2010, 02:59 AM
Can anyone give more information on the varieties that produce honey. I have blue or purple flowers and have had plenty of moisture. Im not going to expect anything but I would be nice to know if there is even a remote chance I could get some honey from it.

07-17-2010, 07:07 AM
From what I understand soybeans in WI don't produce surplus nectar.

07-17-2010, 07:09 AM
soybeans can be tricky to get honey from. They can be great producers if the conditions are right. They produce best when the night time temps are above 70 degrees. I just walked a field and the bees where all over them. But we have third crop and some second crop alfalfa blooming also so it should be a great year in N. IL

07-17-2010, 11:44 AM
Well we have nice warm weather and lots of rain for onece. I imagine beeslave is right but I know weather plays a big role. Our nights usually are in the sixtys so if you need 70's or 80's at higt and 90's in day it would only be on rair ocasions you would get a flow here.

Dont really matter to much to me. I more or less achived my goals this year already anyway.


Radical Bee
07-20-2010, 01:54 PM
Soybeans do not have the pesticide spray programs that are as serious as say cotton. Sometimes late in the season the bean grower may spray for worms/bugs, however, this is often after bloom so no harm no foul. Our county agent always has good numbers on the infestation levels, last year less than 15% of the beans were sprayed for worms. The year before it was more but still less than 50%. A concern is beans planted close to milo, midge spraying is highly toxic to bees. Milo is not that attracive to bees if they have any alternatives, so location is most important to avoid the midge spray program.

07-21-2010, 04:11 AM
Soybeens for honey? I'll take that trade.

07-23-2010, 07:52 PM
Killer flow here in Michigan. The conditions are perfect. Soybeans everywhere around all my girls.

07-23-2010, 08:16 PM
It's not coming in as quick as the basswood did, but it is coming in. Hives are packed and I'm swapping out frames of honey from my 5 frame mating nucs just about every time I pull queens. Only yard not putting away honey now is next to a field that was planted late and isn't quite blooming yet. It does have me worried, every frame I own with foundation is on hives now (many of the most recent only have starter strips). Will have to try foundation-less frames next...