Making of a region specific bee fodder plant list

Isn’t that a mouthful?! And is what I’ve been doing for the last 3 months specifically for Grenada. I’ve been gathering for most of the year, finding little gems (like actual island specific plant books-which are very hard to come by on the island due to all the libraries being closed after hurricane Ivan due to damage and $$). And talking to many beekeepers to get their knowledge on paper. I’m sure I’ll still miss a few plants but this is a good start.

While doing parts of a very tedious, monotonous job I listen to podcasts. One specifically (Min 16) with Derek Sivers, reminds us to “document the process” not only for ourselves but for others to be see how the “how the sausage gets made”

So without a due…here’s what I’ve done to create a bee fodder plant list in Grenada:

My time in Senegal I was able to stumble upon Plants for Arid Lands which happened to have a list of Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources, written by of course well known honey bee researcher Eva Crane.

Also the Senegal Peace Corps Agroforesty Manual also had a list of trees listed as bee fodder, not all of them are “true” but also no one could tell me where the information had come from even though the author was still on staff. And Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel is a awesome book for the West Africa region in general.

Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel, luckily the copy I found was in English not French

So between these two lists I combined them and started adding the local names I knew in Wolof, the local language I had learned and worked in. Senegal has 36 languages (per Wikipedia) but Peace Corps Senegal trains volunteers in one of 9 languages (Wolof, Sereer, Mandinka, Malinke/Jaxanke Fulakunda, Pular, Pulla Fuuta, Pular du Nord,French, Bambara)

Senegal Honey Bee Fodder List

This list is currently 171 species using only 4 references (see below). Luckily I had great agriculture volunteers with wonderful language ability to help fill in some of the names as much as they knew. Sadly though this list has never been used for more than personal use. The idea was to create a simple identification booklet for beekeepers to learn terms and identify plants. Similar to this below

Booklet from Mali to teach French vocabulary to beekeepers
Crane, E. (1985). Plants for Arid Lands. In Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources. International Bee Research Association.
Sidibe, D., Djitte, C., Constant, A., & Blass, C. (2012). Peace Corps Senegal Agroforestry Manual (Second.). Theis, Senegal: Peace Corps.
Traucht, M. (2009). Working with Bees in The Gambia. The Gambia.
Von Maydell, H.-J. J. (1990). Trees and Shrubs of the Sahel. Weikersheim: Margraf.

After I came home November of 2014 after my Peace Corps service was finished I kept looking for honey bee fodder lists. Not all lists would be pertinent as there are multiple breeds of honey bees and they are location specific. For example, African bees that were in Senegal, can not survive in my native Minnesota due to the cold, but also African bees are 10% smaller than Apis mellifera we have in northern climates, therefore some of the plant fodder might be different too.

Apis distribution map via Apimonda (@apimondiabees)

twitter September 17, 2015

So each list needs to be looked at from a location and Apis breed to see if a world bee fodder list can be made, which from what I can find has not been made, documented, updated, or put online. Which with all the technology we have there are many applications for this information.

Currently I have 49 literature reference sources for nectar, honey dew, pollen and propalis sources that I have started a new list specifically for Apis mellifera (honey bee) with around 2800 plants. Now what to do with the list.

Spring of 2015 I traveled to Grenada to work with beekeepers and kept my eyes open for any references specific to Grenada/Caribbean that I could find on bee fodder as well as what the beekeepers could tell me of plants. Many names are in local common names, not Latin/scienctific names. Also what do I do with all this data which is plant nomenclature, which changes over time. So my list might have duplicates due to name changes from having references sources from 1945 to present day.

Again I was luckily to stumble upon Entomological Society of America‘s 2015 conference that did a wonderful job of putting all of the sessions online. At the beginning of the conference Entomological Collections Network presented for the first day. The stress was putting your data sets online so they can be found, used and added by others. I contacted a presenter for more information, but since it was entomology not plant based it only pushed me to do more research.

Encyclopedia of Life website screenshot

Somehow I had a link from Encyclopedia of Life, I believe was from a conversation from the Bee College from May of 2015 when it was mentioned. Luckily I looked around and figured out that the website not only has common names in multiple languages the entire site is very easy to use with information pulled from various sites, integrating information.

Day in my life updating “the list” follow me on @mayhemmadness5 Instagram
Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) is very handy to make ever changing plant lists in and also check the most correct name. Currently I’m almost through the 2800 plants I have in my list with updating the taxonomy. Next I’ll cross reference my list with the 4 books I have been able to find on the island with Grenada flora to see how many actual bee plants are here.

What I would do without books but these specifically have been wonderful!

Once I have my short list of plants, I’ll design a small pamphlet to be used by beekeepers, farmers, and other interested people to identify bee plants but also to encourage preservation, conservation and plant more of them through out the island.

So I forget…

To write here more often, especially when I have things to write about or generally show people. I’ve been hoarding it on instagram and my facebook page. During my service in Senegal we were given a simple ‘dumb’ phone, that is instead of a ‘smart’ phone (who comes up with these ideas anyways) it was a simple nokia. Bless nokia’s heart for that phone. Something that can survive a lot. I’m not going to go into details…lets say squat toilet and leave it at that. But with iphone’s being more available now with resale of older models, they become a ‘must’ when traveling.

Due to having an iphone instead of just a camera, photos, videos, and the like simply get sent to instagram or facebook with a few clicks and addition of a caption. Instead of downloading photos to my laptop, editing, uploading to the blog or an album. Hence my blog has suffered.

I’m trying to right my wrong today but giving a better glimsp of my photo posts, my visuals captured and reasons to what I shoot.

Typically I will upload photos to my albums on facebook, simply as its relatively fast to upload,  many of my friends/people get to see them, along with I can share with a link.

I have more than a few photo albums on facebook

 So for example I have 3 albums for Grenada already. Grenada-May. Grenada-June, July, August, and Grenada-Carnival. Most of these pictures are literally taken with my iphone through out the day/week as needed. Typically no reason, sometimes to remember something, or to look something up. Mostly to capture an interesting view or thing.

I should back up a little and explain that I use Picasa to organize and edit photos. It also has an awesome ‘collage’ feature. Over all very easy to use when searching for an image as it scans (based on settings) your computer for images constantly. And drag and drop for sorting into folders. LOVE.

Screenshot of my Picasa

The other place I typically have photos is on Instagram.

Randomness of my instagram

These are much like facebook are random shots from where I’m at. I have been trying to start taking photos of themes. So far #nectarplants or #honeyplants, as of course this is part of my ongoing research here on the island but in a larger scope (see here if you missed it). But also try to find the local stories, names, and history of this wonderful place. I’ve had Grenadians abroad tell me how much they enjoy seeing my picture of the island and make them homesick.

Much of my over arching goal here on the island and the third goal of Peace Corps is: To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans. Or the way I interpret it, to help Americans get a better sense of places outside of America. Of course people reading this and seeing images I post are not only Americans, but capturing the sense of place, culture and people, giving it some context or description helps anyone better understand something.

I strive to understand the cultural context of the thing I’m taking a picture of, not just capturing it for the sake of a pretty picture. Typically I ask a few locals what the thing is, how it’s used, if it’s ‘normal’/’known’, and usually starts a larger conversation.

I have found my asking people of different ages and genders about anything will give me a much varied response. A younger generation might know the name and how it’s used. But someone older might remember using it or having it around when they are young, the object having a daily use in the household, typically more than one use and sometimes multiple names. This of course generalized and sometimes is reversed as the younger generation travels more broadly and know of more broad use or understanding of the ‘thing’ in question.

Much like ethnography, ‘the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures’ I want to better understand the ‘thing’ through the people here, rather than the ‘thing’ standing alone out of context.

Of course the ‘thing’ could be anything. From language, specifically word usage, plants, events, clothing to history. Of course some of these things can not be photographed but having the understanding helps to further understand other things. Everything is interconnected. And then try to explain my own culture, or American culture in general on top of that.  

It’s very fun capturing the nuances of a place. Lately I’ve been reminiscing of things I learned in Senegal that the locals would find ‘local knowledge’. Being a playful, teasing culture with many languages,  typically ‘outwitting’ your partner in conversation was always a goal. Having enough understanding of the culture, language and people made you a stronger player in the game.