From this blog post and here, and a further map of honey bee plant lists can be found here

I haven’t really written about this per se, I think some people know that I’ve been working on this since I was in Senegal (2012) and found “Plants for Arid Lands” published by International Bee Research Association on the bookshelf which had a small chapter Bees and Honey in the Exploitation of Arid Land Resources by Eva Crane. Through more and more literature review and a cross-referencing local plant databases/writings with known nectar sources, I’ve gotten to have a pretty comprehensive list going.

 

So a little background. There are 7 species of the 200,000 bees that specifically produce honey in massive amounts. These we call honey bees or Apis mellifera. There are races of these that have been breed over time. Much like we have races of humans, we are all still people, we all come from certain places making us identify with those locations and in some cases even have specialized characteristics. Example of races in honey bees would be Italian (A. mellifera ligustica), Carniolan (A.  mellifera carnica), Caucasian/Russian (A. mellifera caucasica) and African (A. mellifera adansonii)

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From Tropical and Subtropical Apiculture (1986) FAO
So of these 7 honey bees in the world, many of them are region specific. As you can see from the map bee originated in a few place and migrated into others. Typically assisted by humans, bees there were able to colonize and survive. This is due to a few factors, one being food or fodder resources, second being habitat, and third would be climate. All of these factors are interconnected.
 
52837-bee2bbreeds

 

Not scientific based, but an idea on differences between race characteristics
Honey bees are generalist when it comes to plants, meaning they will touch many different flowers for a multitude of reasons. Some for nectar, others for pollen, some for propalis, but few plants can provide more than one of these. The plants themselves are specialized. Also the bee will follow the bloom of one plant until it’s finished. So if a mango tree is in bloom it will continue to look for mango flowers until the bloom has ended.
 
Pollinator Syndromes Traits Table

 

Color is also a major part of how pollinators find food
Evolutionary plants have created flowers to attract pollinators to increase fertilization and thus dissemination of themselves. Nectar within the flowers assists in attracting certain pollinators, such as honey bees, to visit the flower taking pollen and transferring it to the stigma, or female part, in order to create a seed. Nectar us a sugar-rich liquid produced by glands called nectaries. Bees use nectar, mixing it with an enzyme in their ‘honey stomach’ to create honey once it’s stored in wax comb, water content is evaporated to below 18.2 percent and is capped with wax. Honey is the main food source for bees in the hive.
 Bees also use pollen, plant’s male gametes, as a food source. Pollen is the protein source needed for rearing one worker bee from larval to the adult stage requires approximately 120-145 mg of pollen. An average bee colony will collect about 20-57 kg (44-125 pounds) of pollen a year. By natural instinct, bees will collect only the best entomophily pollen grains that are higher in nutritional value.
 
Propolis often referred to as bee glue, is used in the hive to seal cracks, crevices or encase carcasses that cannot be removed from the hive. Typically collected from the sap or resin of certain trees and a small number of flowers. Propolis has been used medically for its antimicrobial, immunostimulant, and antioxidant properties which vary due to location in which it is procured based on plant sources in the area.
So based on region, in any given place there are bees (everywhere except Antarctica and the South Pole) there are only 250-300 plants that bees are able to take nectar, pollen, and propolis from. And given you need approximately one million blooms to produce one cup of honey, you need many many blooms of those given plants.
 
Looking at plant phenology (the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life) the way in which these 250-300 plants’ blooms appear is also quite amazing. Many of them do not overlap and if they do, there is one in which the bees prefer due to either quantity each bloom produces or more likely the amount of sugar in the nectar. Much like if oranges are in season you’d eat them, but if mangoes came in to season you’d prefer the mango as it’s sweeter and juicer.
Typical Flowering Seasons NC
Great example of nectar source calendar for Western North Carolina
Due to climate change and the change of priorities when it comes to research, little has continued to be documented on these ideas (nectar, pollen and propolis source plants and their phenology). Many of the cited literature I have found is from the 60’s and 70’s. Also at the local level internationally, many host-country nationals are aware of this and have a vast knowledge of these plants. The names they known them by are local names rather than the scientific, but capturing this information and further researching to find the Latin names and some times specific varieties I believe will be instrumental to maintain and increase honey bee habitat.
Bee Plants-Ethiopia [Compatibility Mode] - Word 080915 121804 PM.bmp
Example of local nectar source list per Beekeeper Richard Underhill from his trip with Winrock International to East Africa

So I have started collecting lists (some of these lists you can find on the map here), as many as I can find and cross-referencing them. Most are through scientific literature. Dr. Eva Crane (foremost researcher on honey bees) was no slouch, her Trust has 40,000 abstracts available to search along with her publishing 300 papers and many books over her lifetime. Others are found through beekeepers I’ve heard of or found through the wonderful place of the internet. Most beekeepers are amazing people who are willing to help out each other to further honey bees, habitat and generally overall goodness on the planet. Currently, I have reviewed many articles and journals, 22 of them have viable lists that I’m extracting, cleaning and adding to my main list. Then sorting, removing duplicates, verifying correct taxonomy (the science of defining groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics and giving names to those groups as these tend to change over time especially with plants) and adding in any bloom dates, propagation information or nuance information of the plant.

After all of that, I would love to share it on a website such as Zooniverse, to further have citizen scientists help identify where the plants grow and the bloom pattern in that location, hopefully on a global scale. This information would then assist beekeepers, landowners, farmers, environmentalists, policymakers, and others to maintain and increase habitat and food sources worldwide. Lack of knowledge is one thing, but in this day and age of information the world is becoming and smaller and smaller place. People want to help bees, I don’t believe we need more beekeepers, we need better beekeepers, farmers, stewards, with better information to make a better place for all of use. Currently, my abstract for this project as been submitted and accepted to Apimondia (the international beekeeping conference), I am looking for support in order to attend and present my abstract in Daejeon, Korea in September. I have contacted various organizations for support as well but is currently pending response. Please feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested in the information, I would love to collaborate further on it. Thank you for your time and support.

 

Literature Review for Compiled List of Nectar, Pollen and Propolis Sources for Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) Throughout the World

Wannarka. M.A.,
Grenada, West Indies, Peace Corps, United States. m.wannarka@gmail.com

Abstract

RATIONALE FOR THE STUDY: A review of various research papers, manuals, beekeeping books, and journals to acquire a full list of nectar sources throughout the world.  Dr. Crane’s work Important world honey sources and their geographical distribution. In Bees and Beekeeping: Science, Practice and World Resources is very valuable but with more citizen scientists and new publications, more and more work is slowly being done in this area and is important to capture, share and use to create more pollinator habitat and to inform public and private partners.

METHODOLOGY: Literature review and research documenting nectar, pollen, and propolis sources from world sources (i.e. Eva Crane) to location specific plants, trees and shrubs. If given bloom calendar information was provided also documented. RESULTS: Many publications have been found, researched and of those 22 have been used and sited to comprise a list of 1600+ plants that are sources for nectar, pollen, propolis, and honeydew. Some geographical and bloom calendar information has also been captured along with some local plant names.  CONCLUSIONS: Ongoing research into this topic of plant sources of honey, pollen, propolis, and honeydew for bees is important to educate public, farmers, and government in conserve, create and increase honey bee habitat. Through identification, seeds can be saved, cuttings were taken and education on how to best propagate for location-specific uses. Local common names and bloom calendar will vary based on region, usage and language need to be taken into consideration. I have also written a blog post further on this idea.