Re: What varieties of clover encourage the bees?
You need to check for your area.
Here the most dependable surplus clover honey crop is crimson clover, but it blooms early [Begins blooming early April to mid April [on grazed pastures] and ends about 3 weeks later] and colonies must be built up early to fully utilize the flow; but with proper management this can be accomplished.
White Dutch also yields good but blooms mid March which is to early to have maximum colony strength to fully utilize the flow. The heat will kill it out later, but I have read where in the north it will bloom all summer long, I suppose because it is not as hot.
Sweet Clover will also produce good flows, especially on heavy soils, and if found in sufficient quantity is the best producer of the clovers. My understanding is that the white sweet clover [Hubam, melilotus alba] is an annual see site below: http://websearch.cs.com/cs/boomframe...er%2Ftypes.htm ; And apparently some of the yellow sweet clovers are also annuals.
From the American Honey Plant the following is a description of some of the clovers [edited by me by cutting out some portions]. I hope this helps.
ALSIKE CLOVER (Trifolium hybridum). Hybrid or Swedish Clover.
Alsike clover is one of the very best honey plants of America. The beekeeper who lives within reach of large fields of this crop is fortunate, for there is no better honey, and under favorable conditions the crops harvested from alsike are such as to give little ground for dissatisfaction. Some beekeepers have estimated that alsike will produce 500 pounds of honey per acre in a good season.—American Bee Journal, page 409, 1886.
Alsike thrives on clay soil, or lands inclined to be wet, where the other clovers do not succeed. It is sown very generally in a meadow mixture with timothy or red-top. In localities where grown for seed there is a long period of bloom, which is greatly to the advantage of the beekeeper. It is good for either pasture or hay, and although by itself alsike does not yield as many tons of hay per acre as red clover, when mixed with red clover the two together make more and better hay than red clover does alone.
Alsike is intermediate in size between white and red clover. The blossom looks like that of white clover, except it has a pinkish tinge of color not found in the white clover. The stem is upright and branched and on land with sufficient moisture reaches a height of two feet or more.White alsike will grow nearly everywhere that red clover will grow, it thrives best in
the northern part of the country. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario and New York all report alsike as especially valuable to the beekeeper.
The honey is white in color, mild in flavor and is regarded as one of the best for table use. At times the yield is very heavy. In American Bee Journal, Nov. 2, 1899, are given several instances of large yields from this source. In one case a single colony of bees gathered 72 pounds in four days, or 18 pounds per day. Another report was of 251 pounds in 21 days, or 25 pounds per day, from alsike.
In number two of the first volume of the "Review," Editor Hutchinson states that ten colonies of bees gathered 300 pounds of extracted honey from alsike, with only two acres within reach. This, of course, takes no account of the honey consumed by the bees, but indicates that the yield is good for the acreage within reach. In the following number of the same journal an Ontario beekeeper reports that he had not known a failure from alsike in eight years.
CRIMSON CLOVER (Trifolium incarnatum).
Crimson clover is grown in the Southern States, but is not hardy in the North. It is an earlier bloomer than the other clovers. The blossoms are more showy than either alsike or red clover. The plant is an annual, and must be resown to perpetuate a field.
The honey yield is reported to be good and the quality similar to that of the other clovers. It is nowhere grown on the scale of the others, so is not so well known as a source of honey.
Bonnier gives it third rank as a honey yielder, while the British Bee Journal states that it is about on a par with buckwheat, and that neither is satisfactory when honey of later yield is worked for.
Niswonger lists it as a very important plant in Kentucky, and states that the honey is of a very light yellow color of good quality.
SWEET CLOVER (Melilotus).
Of these, two species, the white sweet clover (Melilotus alba) and the yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis) are valuable plants and are widely distributed. The yellow variety blooms about two weeks earlier than the white and where both are present a long honey flow may be expected.
Sweet clover reaches the highest development in the secretion of n,,ctar in the hot, dry summer climate of the plains region between the Missi ippi River and the Rocky Mountains. In the East, the surplus secured from this plant has been disappointing, and eastern men insist that sweet clover is overrated as a honey plant. However, those who have seen the big flows that are frequent along the Missouri River and westward are 'enthusiastic in its praise. In the region about Sioux City, Iowa, it is grown extensively as a farm crop. In this section an average of 200 pounds surplus per colony from sweet clover is not uncommon. On the limestone soils of Alabama and Mississippi it also yields freely and large yields are reported. In the irrigated regions of the West it is of great importance and beekeepers who ship sweet clover honey in carlots are not uncommon.
The quality of the honey is excellent. It is light in color and mild in flavor, although slightly peppery to the taste. It granulates more readily than white clover, but is regarded as of number one quality in the principal markets.
Sweet Clover as a Farm Crop
There are large areas where sweet clover is grown generally as a farm crop, in Kentucky, Nebraska and Kansas. The increased acreage of this plant will double the possibilities of honey production in most any locality, and in numerous instances will treble and quadruple.
Some additional sites for your info:
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