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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northampton, New Brunswick, Canada
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    13

    Default Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    I am a beekeeper in New Brunswick Canada and am considering seeding some Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) in specific baron or rocky areas on our property. Although in some states this plant is considered very invasive it is not listed that way in New Brunswick and where we have a very short season and harsh climate I am looking for plants that will be good for bees and survive. I have heard from some sources that Viper's bugloss is a very good honey plant once established and produces excellent honey. However I have also read that there has been pyrrolizidine alkaloids found in the honey and/or pollen which apparently is bad for humans. The following site takes you to information on this http://www.fzi.uni-freiburg.de/pdf/44_1.pdf . Does anybody know whether the honey from this plant is really bad for humans or whether this is something to be concerned about? Thank you for any help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Stephen,

    Echium Vulgare is something that I am trying this year in Nova Scotia. I have also posted on the boards about it and have gotten very little feedback as well. I have heard of some people knowing the flower in New Zealand, but not many in the US or Canada - even though it is a ditch flower in most of the continent. The Toronto area has a fair amount of it. We are supposed to have it here as well but I have not seen it myself.

    Thanks for the paper. Interesting stuff, and good to know, as E. Vulgare is supposed to produce huge amounts of pollen. The paper's findings could be especially important if you are selling pollen.

    Keep in mind also that it is a biennial - so it won't flower until year two.

    Adam


    Adam

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    pyrrolizidine alkaloids are present in a lot of plants - including borage.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    VA
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Hi Stephen.

    I have a good flow of bugloss/blue thistle and it makes beautiful, water-white honey. It grows in poor, rocky soil and the long tap root means it always has moisture, even in dry summers. For me that bloom is most of the month on June, far stronger than the borage flow.

    I didn't have to seed to get this stuff, in fact I used to try to get rid of it. After watching the bees make beautiful comb honey from it I decided to get out of the way.

    I've since eaten many pounds of bugloss honey and I can say it's only been good to me.

    Nicole

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Posts
    1,973

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    I've looked into this more and I don't get it. Pyrrolizidine alkaloids supposedly can cause liver damage if you ingest too much of it.

    It seems like the biggest concentration of honey from this plant comes from New Zealand. However, New Zealand also has some of the lowest rates of liver-related health problems in the world.

    It seems like adverse effects would be apparent in areas where a lot of it is made and consumed...

    Adam

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Northampton, New Brunswick, Canada
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Hi Adam,

    Thank you for the information. It sounds to me like we really have nothing to worry about at least if are just interested in harvesting honey. Having said this, we probably should not plant acres and acres of it...

    Stephen

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Lexington, Kentucky
    Posts
    39

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Bump here is a link for this flower.

    http://www.themelissagarden.com/TMG_Vetaley031608.htm

    I'm going to fill my whole backyard with this plant along with lavender, buckwheat. Maybe just all echium vulgare.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Battle Ground , Washington, USA
    Posts
    747

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    I planted about a 1/2 acre of purple tansy and 1/2 of borage. The borage bloomed all summer till hard frost and got worked hard. The purple tansy was alot shorter span around 5 weeks but the bees loved it and worked it till they browned out.
    I'm not tense, Just terribly, terribly alert!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Killarney Manitoba
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    was just wondering if anyone has planted vipers bug loss in a field and how much honey was harvested per acre.
    Quote Originally Posted by ImaNewBeeToThis View Post
    Bump here is a link for this flower.

    http://www.themelissagarden.com/TMG_Vetaley031608.htm

    I'm going to fill my whole backyard with this plant along with lavender, buckwheat. Maybe just all echium vulgare.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Upper Kingsclear, NB, Canada
    Posts
    74

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Well this is very interesting. Having determined that I still have viable colonies after winter (well, it's not really over, but getting there) I have been planning out this year's bee pasture experiments and just yesterday was searching for a supply of echium seed - it's not easily found, certainly not in any sort of bulk amount, although I did find one source:
    https://www.horizonherbs.com/pilot.asp

    $2.95 for 100 seeds.

    I thought I might get a few packs. It does grow around here. I marked down a few decent plants along highway 102 just west of Fredericton last summer but the highways people shredded them before I could get to collect any seeds.

    Not long ago I was in Australia where a similar echium has become invasive of pastures on a grand scale, whole hillsides of blue, incredible for bees, but hated by pastoralists as browsing livestock will not eat it.

    It should be possible to collect and develop a reasonable seed supply over a few years?

    Last summer I grew anise hyssop and from one pack saved a pound jar full of seed. Hope it will germinate!

    Rob

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Killarney Manitoba
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    I would like to hear from anyone that has had success with vipers and what you can expect with nectar flow. My goal is to plant 320 acres and run my 800 hives on it with 250 pound average. Average around here is around 175.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Upper Kingsclear, NB, Canada
    Posts
    74

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Further to the question about the potentially troublesome alkaloids in echium pollen, nectar and honey, this advisory comes from the Aus/NZ food standards people, where they have whole paddocks miles wide full of echium. Down there it's commonly known as "Paterson's Curse" for ruining horse pastures.

    Paterson's Curse/Salvation Jane honey
    (Last updated October 2011)

    Some types of honey contain high levels of naturally occurring plant toxins, known as pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which may cause adverse health effects.

    The toxins may get into the honey when bees forage on the flowers of Paterson’s Curse, also known as Salvation Jane.

    FSANZ has established a safe level of intake for these alkaloids of one microgram per kilogram bodyweight per day based on the known toxicity in humans.

    For most people who eat small amounts of honey, the levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids would be well below the tolerable daily intake and not a cause for concern.

    But it’s recommended anyone who eats more than two tablespoons of honey a day doesn’t eat Paterson’s Curse honey exclusively.

    Pure Paterson’s Curse honey is relatively uncommon and is usually bought from specialty markets and online distributors. Most honey processors blend their Paterson’s Curse honey with other honey to reduce the pyrrolizidine alkaloids to a safe level.

    Source:
    http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/scie...salvat5335.cfm

    Here in Canada where E. vulgare is native I think it would be hard to establish major stands of it, even if we wanted to. There will be natural factors working against that. These are absent in Australia, so it runs amok. I would see echium as a potentially useful and interesting plant to boost around the beeyards but I doubt we'd have to worry too much about the alkaloids.

    Rob

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    239

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    For more and more specific information:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echium

    The plant Patterson's Curse is indeed an Echium, but is not E. vulgare but E. plantagineum. The Echium sold as garden plants (Viper's Bugloss) are mostly E. vulgare hybrids, most quite pretty and beloved of honeybees.

    In talking about deliberate bee forage plantings in our local bee club, we have been mindful of the recent studies on bee health, which advocate multiple pollen sources for bees, as they all have different nutritional profiles, and the more diverse their pollen sources, the healthier the bees are. So by all means plant Echium, but plant lots of other things too.

    One good page to read:
    http://www.themelissagarden.com/plants.html

    That page advocates a top five pick of plants designed to offer long season high nutrition for bees: Echium, borage, Melissa (lemon balm), tansy, goldenrod. Personally I am not too fond of goldenrod honey, so would perhaps plant mustard instead. West Coast Seeds has a nice bee friendly mix in their Go Go Sprouting blend..."A delightful sprouting mix of certified organic alfalfa, red clover, azuki beans, mustard, and fenugreek."

    I have found bees in my garden love heather (early bloom), Joe Pye Weed (late bloom), cosmos, tansy (variety "Jackpot" is a nice garden plant), Lovage, catmint (not catnip, but catmint, long season of bloom), Carypoteris (Bluebeard, a pretty shrub, very late blooming).

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Upper Kingsclear, NB, Canada
    Posts
    74

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Definitely the bees vote in drives for Joe Pye Weed. Last summer I saw four different types of bees on it at once. I collected seed and will be trying to propagate it this coming season.

    Rob

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    239

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Rob, Joe Pye Weed is one of my most favourite plants in the garden. Our clump is about 5 years old, grows around 6-7' high and 5' wide, puts out huge flower heads that bloom for weeks, and you are right, every pollinator you can think of goes for them. Like fennel, they attract all kinds of insects to the banquet. Joe Pye Weed would be fabulous planted along the back of a vista.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Toronto, ON Canada
    Posts
    91

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam Foster Collins View Post
    The Toronto area has a fair amount of it.
    This is my sixth year with bees in the Toronto area. This is the first time it caught my attention that the bees were on it. Bringing back a dark blue pollen. Not super abundant were I saw it, but here and there where nothing else was growing. Interesting to read about it.


  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    239

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Phacelia, lovage and fennels are great pollinator plants too.

    As for the Echium vulgare, I found in my garden it reseeded but very sparsely. I planted two similar sized beds, one of Echium vulgare, one of Phacelia. The Phacelia reseeded abundantly and into nearby patches. But I only got about 3 Echiums self seeded. A huge difference, so I am not too worried about Echium spread in my location (mild winter, too).

    Regards,
    Janet

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Manassas, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    878

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    We have a few blueweeds (Viper's Bugloss) within 30 feet of our hives, and the bees have not touched them. They are supposed to be excellent bee flowers. We have not even seen bumblebees on them. My conclusion is that they are too sparse. If you want to plant these, try a dense patch following the best recommendations for density you can find.

    Don't fertilize, but they supposedly like mulch. They are supposed to do well in barren, well-drained areas and don't compete well with grass. Plant 7 mm deep. They are not notably cold-tolerant and in your climate you might consider covering them with mulch in winter. They won't produce the flower stalk until the second year.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Tsawwassen, BC, Canada
    Posts
    239

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    Phoebee, I did have a patch about 4' x 6' last year and the bees were all over them! I will check my sparser plants this year, which are in a mixed phacelia/mustard bed.

    I was interested last year to see bees flitting from one kind of flower to another kind in my densely planted beeyard beds. And have since read that they will visit different species on a single gathering trip...it is not the norm, but a certain percentage of foragers do not always practice floral fidelity.

    In this page:
    http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/apiculture/...1_foraging.htm

    It says:
    In areas with great floral diversity and small plantings, a higher percentage of foraging bees will visit different kinds of plants during the same trip. This would account for the mixed pollen loads of returning bees.

    This situation is what I have in my beeyard...a small area, maybe 40' x 60', very dense plantings, with mixed bee favourites, and all very close to the hives.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Toronto, ON Canada
    Posts
    91

    Default Re: Viper's bugloss (Echium Vulgare) as a honey plant

    We just had the coldest winter here that I have ever seen in my life and it seems to be doing well.

    It's growing out of the rocks along side a railway in a valley. It's a pretty crazy time right now with milkweed, sumac, lindens, cat mint, tree of heaven, trefoil, clover all in bloom. The bees still seem to be giving the viper's bufloss lots of attention. It's sort of sporadically growing, but the sporadic growth probably goes on for quite a ways.

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