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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.