admire this: when a person wants to support a cause, but they don’t
have the ability to engage it directly, so they offer what they do
have in partnership, as a small piece of the puzzle, and find joy in
it. Here is a person who wants to “Save the Bees,” but he
doesn’t have the interest or ability to directly engage in an
activity like beekeeping. But he has a yard, and would like to host
bees and put up a sign and set an example for his neighbors. And he
knows his package-delivery-person keeps honey bees. So he reaches out
and makes a new connection.
This year, the connection yielded up a couple boxes full of light amber, fruity flavored honey in the middle of spring. It is exceptionally clear. Over a lipid, like butter on toast or full-fat yogurt, the flavor simply sparkles like all that urban sunshine.
At this particular location, I am fortunate to keep bees without supplemental feeding of sugar syrup. In Charlotte, our summers have long hot months with next-to-no sources for nectar forage. It is hard to believe with all the green growth, but from July to October can be lean months for a honey bee colony. So most local beekeepers incorporate sugar syrup into their apiary management, just so they don’t stress their bees unnecessarily. Sugar syrup is not unhealthy for bees, but it is not very healthy either — imagine going four months a year with only foods from the snacks/chips aisle — you wouldn’t starve but you’d need a detox later. But the bees in this person’s yard have not been fed any sugar, and they don’t seem to be overstressed. So I am happy for his desire to help the bees and my bees are happy for his neighbors who desire to let their clovers and other weeds grow.
you let your dandelions, your clovers, and all the “little
purple flowers” grow up and bloom in your yard, all the bees around
you — native bees too! — will be as happy and healthy as my honey
bees with no sugar. And you will Love Me Some Honey!
fences make good neighbors” sings the proverb, and while Robert
Frost may beg difference, an urban or suburban beekeeper would
certainly agree. In Charlotte, it is as easy to grow a fence as to
build one, and one of the favorite screen and hedge plants is Prunus
Cherry Laurel, sometimes called the skip laurel or English laurel. A
shade-tolerant, drought-tolerant evergreen, various cultivars can be
pruned to a low hedge and some can grow as high as forty feet. A
stroll through some neighborhoods in April finds one nearly
surrounded by cherry laurel in various stages of bloom.
Common Name: English laurel, skip laurel, cherry laurel
Botanical Name:Prunus laurocerasus L.
Plant Type: Evergreen shrub or tree
Typical Bloom Period: March-April
Nectar Usefulness: lower
Pollen Usefulness: low
is native to the regions surrounding the Black Sea. It grows large,
thick, shiny leaves alternating on stems to form a dense thicket when
pruned. An abundance of white flowers grow in clusters on a vertical
stalk (raceme). Individual flowers have five petals and an abundance
of stamens; the flowers are perfect and self-fertile — they do not
require a pollinator to fruit. The fruits are clusters of drupes —
fleshy outside and a hard shell covering a seed inside, a stonefruit
— which start green and ripen through red to nearly black. Birds
distribute the seeds to propagate the plant; it also spreads by
roots from stems where they touch the ground.
native cousin, Prunus
looks nearly the same; it forms a less dense hedge and left alone
will grow into a small tree. It blooms earlier in the year than the
industrial research on Prunus
is mostly focused upon the layers of waxy outer coating on the leaves
and upon the antioxidant food value of the fruits. Some
cultivars of Prunus
are developed to serve a market demand for their cherries in
southeastern Europe. Do not eat very bitter fruits as part of your
own exploration, however.
Leaves, twigs and bark of the cherry laurel smell of almond when
crushed; this indicates the presence of hydrogen cyanide, a poison.
Know your cultivar and be very cautious with this plant.
bees respond to cherry laurel with mixed reviews. In more urban
locations, the sheer abundance of the plant makes it valuable as a
forage source. In Peter Lindtner’s
Plants for Honey Bees
(Wicwas 2014), he rates
low as a pollen source, and lower as a nectar source. So when
something better is available (like
the bees are likely working there instead. Lindtner observes pollen
pellets of cherry laurel to be light yellow to green.