Petersfield beekeepers are blessed by living in an area of very varied forage.  Situated at the western end of the Weald where the North and South Downs meet, soil types and landscape vary from alkaline to acid, river valley and meadow to wooded hillsides, heath, downs and agricultural land.   Settled since prehistoric times and at the junction of two major travel routes, man has also had an impact on the plants growing in our area.

Plants introduced and cultivated by man are important sources of nectar and pollen outside the flowering times of native species.  On warm sunny days in winter bees will visit gorse flowering beside the A3 and M27 and winter flowering shrubs and herbaceous plants flowering in our gardens.  A pollen guide can be found here

21st October 2020 –  Chris Clark 

This is the last of this series of Forage of the Week. I would like to thank all the people who have contributed over the past season in particular Anne-Chantal Ballard for sharing plants from her lovely garden and Andy Horton, PDBKA Website Coordinator, who has elegantly presented the material. If you do have anything of interest that you would like to post Andy would be delighted to hear from you on:

Ivy, Hedera helix, is a worthy candidate for such a lofty position in the forage season as it is one of the last significant sources of pollen and nectar for insects. Unfortunately considered by many as a nuisance, I have come to view it with different eyes since starting beekeeping. It is an evergreen, woody climber which can grow to a height of 30m. The flowers only form on mature plants of over 20 years old appearing as yellowish green dome-shaped clusters known as umbels. Interestingly the leaf shape changes with the age of the plant from lobed to heart shaped with maturity. The berries have a high fat content and are a nutritious food resource for birds.
Ivy honey is dark coloured, having a tendency to set very quickly and has, some might say, a challenging taste – Improving with age.
Wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around the head was said to prevent one from getting drunk, although I have not found this to be the case!

Useful links:
Identifying Insects on Ivy Flowers

Chris Clark

Pollen Chart

Chris Clarks’s bees foraging on Ivy

7th September 2020 – Anne Chantal Ballard & Chris Clark (Photos)

The cardoon Cynara cardunculus also called artichoke thistle is a thistle in the sunflower family according to Wikipedia. It occurs naturally but has lots of cultivated forms including the globe artichoke. Both grow really easily around here and pollinators love them.

They are beautiful, structural plants but do need staking and if anyone would like some, let me know as I need to dig some out this Autumn!

Anne Chantal .

Chris Clark

17th August 2020

The photographs of heathers below are taken from heathland approx one mile away from Chris’ garden. Heather is an important late source of nectar and pollen for honeybees and its honey is quite special.

Below are some useful links if you would like to read further on heather/honey:

Chris Clark

7th August 2020

Anne Chantal Ballard provides a little info about the Marsh Mallow; the first 3 and last photos.

Marshmallow or Althaea officinalis belongs to the large family of the Malvaceae along with common mallow, white musk mallow, cotton, okra and hibiscus.

Photos 4 and 5, lavateria, 6 and 7, mallow, 8, 9 and 10. All are insect-pollinated and frequented by bees.

High Mallow is a host plant for Painted Lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui). The Painted Lady butterflies lay their eggs on this plant and enjoy its nectar and large leaves, which give them food and protection.

The French word for mallow is ‘mauve’, which is where we get the word for the colour mauve from.

Many are used in herbal medicine. Mallow flower contains a mucous-like substance that protects and soothes the throat and mouth. Marshmallow has traditionally been used by beekeepers to calm bee stings (not a replacement for more modern treatments!).

All the beautiful photos were taken by Chris.

Tuesday 21st July 2020

This week’s forage of the week is Astrantia major which resides in Chris Clark’s garden – The great masterwort, a clump-forming herbaceous perennial, consisting of compact umbels of tiny flowers surrounded by a rosette of showy bracts.

It provides good value for money as the flowering period extends from June till September with a distinctive scent.

Astrantia major is mainly pollinated by beetles but there’s a huge variety of insects that love it. On this subject, there was a lot of love going on by the common soldier beetle (AKA the hogweed bonking beetle) as shown in the pictures. My camera lens was steaming up as there were about 100 pairs mating on different flowers!

Chris Clark

Sunday 12th July 2020

This week’s Forage of the Week is The Bramble – Rubus fruticosus as nominated by Ali Hollingbery

The Bramble, or common blackberry, Rubus fruticosus, is a common prickly shrub that grows enthusiastically in all parts of England, including the hedgerow that surrounds the field where my apiary sits. Best known for its sweet dark fruit, “blackberrying” is a common activity in late summer and autumn. During late June, July and August the blossom provide valuable nectar and pollen for our honeybees and other pollinators. The emergence of the white to pale pink pentamerous flowers often heralds the end of the dreaded, “June Gap” in bee-keeping circles – the time of year when spring flowers are over and the main flow of nectar has yet to start.

The Bramble is a member of the rose family which includes flowering roses, cherries, apples, plums, pears, crabapples and hawthorns. Like the rest of the rose family, Brambles are heavy producers of nectar and pollen and the pollen of the Bramble that appears in our hives at this time of year is a pale-grey buff colour, looking almost moldy or sludgy in the cells. Thankfully, the nectar produces a beautiful clear to amber honey.

In a strict botanical sense, blackberry is not a berry but an aggregate fruit made up of tiny ‘drupelets’.  There are over 330 species of bramble in the UK and this helps explain why not all blackberries taste the same. Humans have been eating blackberries for thousands of years as blackberry seeds are often found in the human waste unearthed at archaeological digs. Blackberries are now classified among the antioxidant ‘superfoods’ and contain a rich source of Vitamin C, A, Omega-3, Potassium, and Calcium. As well as the famous blackberry and apple pie, parts of the bramble have traditionally been used to make teas and tinctures and to treat a wide range of ailments including burns, dysentery, skin conditions, and sore throats. Brambles are also a useful tool in forensic botany due to their prevalence of growing on fallow or waste ground and their rhythmic growth pattern. They are commonly used to establish how long human remains have been at a crime scene.

Brambles have a long association with folklore and common names include bumblekites, bounty thorn, skaldberry, blackbutters, blackbides, gatterberry and the prickle-thorn. Traditionally, to harm a bramble bush is forbidden as it belongs to the faerie folk and the first berries of the season must be left for them. If not, then following fruit that is picked will be rotten and full of maggots.  The ancient Celts also believed the bramble to be sacred as the fruit represented the three aspects of the Goddess: maiden, mother, crone. As the berries changed from white to red then black they believed this signified birth, life and death and the seeds of the fruit were the promises of spring and rebirth. Brambles were also used to ward off evil spirits, by picking them at the full moon and making a door wreath combined with ivy and rowan (not the naked bee-keeper). Another lore involves the use of Brambles to ward off troublesome vampires as by leaving berries and vines on the door-step the vampire would obsessively count the berries and thorns until the first light of day when he would have to depart…

It is tempting to fight with the Brambles on our own patches of land due to their ferocious growth and prickly habit. However, with so much to give, both to us and the bees, why not consider leaving a clump to grow naturally? Just remember to leave the first berries for the faeries!

‘There was a man in our town,

And he was wondrous wise,

He jumped into a bramble bush,

And scratched out both his eyes….

And when he saw what he had done,

With all his might and main

He jumped into the bramble bush,

And scratched them back again!’

English Nursey Rhyme

Ali Hollingbery

Sunday 5th July 2020

This week’s Forage of the Week is carrots and Parsnips as nominated by Ann-Chantal Ballard. Photos by Chris Clark.

If you leave a few of your carrots and parsnips in the ground at the end of the season, next year, they will grow about 5 ft tall and produce lovely flowers.

These will attract lots of pollinators including bees and make a very attractive show in your vegetable plot!

Additionally, you can collect the seeds ready for next year.

If you leave a few of your carrots and parsnips in the ground at the end of the season, next year, they will grow about 5 ft tall and produce lovely flowers.

These will attract lots of pollinators including bees and make a very attractive show in your vegetable plot!

Additionally, you can collect the seeds ready for next year.

Sunday 28th June 2020

This weeks Forage of the Week is the common, or purple foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, pictured from the wood adjoining Chris Clark’s garden.

The foxglove essentially is a biennial (although can sometimes be annual/perennial). It likes acid soils, woodland and areas of freshly disturbed ground. In the first year after the seeds have germinated the plant produces a ‘rosette’ of leaves – essentially absorbing nutrients and storing energy. In the second year they produce a ‘flower spike’.

The foxgloves corolla consists of five fused petals. It is unclear why there are hairs inside the tube of the flower – Possibly it forces pollinating insects up and against the stamens. There are two long and two short stamens on the inner roof of the flower that produce the pollen. (See pollen on the top of the bee). This is transferred to the female stigma, and subsequently style, of another flower. Pollinators favour it with long tongues such as the bumblebee, but honeybees will often give them a go!

All parts of the plant are extremely poisonous. Do NOT eat it from your garden.

Foxglove plants contain cardiac glycoside. Digitalis is a heart medicine derived from this plant. In a controlled dose it is invaluable in treating heart failure. It helps a weakened heart pump harder. It also slows down the heart rate, which is useful in atrial fibrillation/flutter. But it is due to these effects that it can be dangerous and life threatening.

In relation to the eye digitalis can cause xanthopsia (jaundiced or yellow vision), also blurred outlines/haloes around objects. Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Yellow-Period’ may have been influenced by these oculotoxic effects of digitalis therapy, which, at the time, was thought to control seizures. (See pictures below).

To me the foxglove remains both a curiosity and a delight. They are the ’Femme Nikita’ of plants – Beautiful, potentially deadly and invaluable when used properly.

Chris Clark

Sunday 21st June 2020

This week’s Forage of the week is Cotoneaster (Hybridus Pendulum) photographed by Peter Reader.

This Cotoneaster (Hybridus Pendulum) is a fairly large tree and is 60  years old.  It is an evergreen with masses of bright red berries over the winter.  Currently, it has lots of tiny flowers and standing underneath it you would think you are in the middle of a swarm, so loud is the noise from the bees and other pollinators.

Peter Reader

Sunday 14th June 2020

This week’s Forage of the week is a little bit different in that Janette Horton has provided a selection of forage from Hyden Woods or often referred locally as Bluebell Woods, in Clanfield.

As part of the management of Bluebell Wood, Wesnet Services Ltd in conjunction with the Bluebell Wood Volunteer Group, has been carrying out a flora survey. This has revealed that there is at least 40 Ancient Woodland Vascular Plant (AWVP) species present. The presence of these plants indicates the age of a woodland; the more plants on the AWVP list the older the woodland. The considered opinion of the experts is if you have more than 20 the woodland is extremely old and important to the local landscape.

“When we were out walking the dogs we noticed a lot of Bee activity and it was interesting to see the range of native British plants that attracted the bees in June. Hyden Woods is a lovely place to go for a walk”.

Top row from left to right; Oxe Eye Daisy, Oxe Eye Daisy, Wild Rose, Honey Suckle.

Bottom Row from left to right; Buttercup, Blackberry Bramble, Floxgove, Elderflower.

Janette Horton

Saturday 6th June 2020

This week’s forage of the week: Ceanothus chosen by Peter Reader.

I planted this Ceanothus 25 years ago in a sunny spot against a wall.  Often known as Californian Lilac, this one’s full name is Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Skylark’ and is a compact, slow-growing evergreen bush and is visited by every insect in the vicinity, from bumblebees to moths.  It flowers late spring/early summer and is at its best for about 3 weeks if in a sheltered south-facing location.

Peter Reader

Thursday 28th May 2020

This week’s forage of the week: Alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) is chosen by Elizabeth Everleigh.

Alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) grows in hedges and scrub, growing in poor soils that had been over run by rhododendron and bracken.I had not noticed it before, but this week it buzzing loudly with honey bees. The leaves have holes made by the brimstone butterfly caterpillars, and the berries disappear quickly in autumn thanks to the birds. What more can you ask for?

Monday 25th May 2020

This week’s forage of the week: Chives, Allium Schoenoprasum is chosen by Anne-Chantal Ballard.’

Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, are a type of onion that belongs to the amaryllis family.  They have edible leaves and flowers and are also cultivated for ornamental purposes.
They are a rich source of vitamin K, C and folic acid and minerals such as manganese, magnesium, and iron.
Leaves can be used to reduce high blood pressure, facilitate digestion, alleviate stomach discomfort, and prevent bad breath. They can also improve the strength of nails and hair.
Juice from the leaves can be used against mildew, scabs, and fungal infection.
They are in bloom at the moment, bees love them and every garden should be full of them!

Monday 18th May 2020

This week’s forage of the week: Geranium, is chosen by Chris Clark with flowers from his garden.

“This is a genus of 422 plants found mostly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean. Also known as ‘cranesbill’ from the appearance of the fruit capsule of some species.
The first three are the cranesbill species and the others are mugshots of its cousins around the garden. I’m always looking for other relatives if you have seen them..?
Pollen and nectar are produced, and although visited by more than 100 insect species, the main pollinators are honeybees, bumblebees and wasps.”

Sunday 10th May 2020

This weeks forage of the week is chosen by Richard and Gaye Bartlett is Hawthorn (Crataegus Monogyna)

It has many other names including Sceach Gheal, Whitethorn, Quickthorn, and May, Maybush or Mayblossom.

Hawthorn blossom is a potential source of one of the finest of honeys.

It provides a rich supply of cream coloured pollen at the height of the brood rearing season, but appears only to be available for bees in years when the weather is fine, still and humid. I have witnessed many hawthorns buzzing with foraging honey bees this year so hopefully some great honey will follow.

Flowering period: April to June

An infusion of hawthorn flowers and fruits have some medicinal properties, whilst a poultice of its leaves & flowers is said to help draw splinters

In folklore it is thought to be unlucky to cut lone trees as they are said to be fairy trees.

Monday 4th May 2020
This week Anne-Chantal Ballard has chosen Sweet cicely, Myrrhis odorata that grows in her garden.

Sweet cicely, Myrrhis odorata, is an old cottage garden perennial, traditionally grown near the kitchen door, where its prettily divided fern-like leaves were at hand for sweetening tart fruit. It’s an airy and graceful plant, yet is able to shrug off cold weather and starts into growth at the end of winter. The flowers open early in the year too, and are some of the first available for pollinators.

April 28th 2020.
This week’s forage of the week is Rosemary (Rosmarinus officialise L.)

These are pictures taken from Chris Clarks herb garden.

Rosemary has been cultivated since ancient times. The Romans considered Rosemary honey to be the best type of honey in the world. They believed it to be the symbol of love.

The flowers produce nectar particularly attractive to honeybees and bumblebees.

Flowering period: April to June (some years November).

In France, the honey produced from Rosemary is called ‘Narbonne’ honey. Narbonne honey is made in the Aude department of south western France. The honey is very light coloured, almost white or Ivory-coloured sometimes, a green-scent and creamy texture. It is very expensive, even in France. The honey is harvested in June around St. John the Baptist’s day.

Rosemary honey is also produced in Spain and Italy.

Imitations are made by infusing ordinary honey with Rosemary.

Chris Clark

April 21st 2020 – Clanfield’s Oilseed Rape

In a new series of posts, association members will share their “Forage of the week” in their local area.

This week belongs to “Oilseed Rape” as member Andrew Horton is surrounded on all corners by fields all within walking distance and more importantly for our Bees

Rapeseed is a good crop for honey bees, offering both nectar and pollen in early spring. … The nectar flows are heavy and yield huge crops of light-colored, mild-flavored honey. However, rapeseed honey—commonly called canola honey—crystallizes so quickly that it is a problem for beekeepers

Oilseed rape is a crop that’s particularly attractive to bees due to its rich source of pollen and nectar.

Farmers Weekly published an article advising how Britain’s bee farmers can help raise crop yields, and “farmers have reported yield increases of 20% in oilseed rape and beans”. These seed growers are producing better-quality seed. “Germination increases from 83% to 96% in oilseed rape and beans,” says Mr Nickless.”

The photos below were taken on Monday 21st April 2020 in Clanfield by Sam Stainton.

February 13 2019

Our first fine, warm afternoon.  The bees are busy on all the spring bulbs, shrubs & small trees.  In my garden that includes several Hamamelis Mollis and a large Parottia the deep maroon flowers of which they are working for a buff pollen.