We’re still on Monday! After the tea and biscuit break it was back to the main lecture hall for Pam Hunter on Toxic and Unpalatable Honey and Pollen. This was another interesting lecture and Pam certainly knows what she’s talking about!
The question was posed: why would bees collect harmful stuff? There are very few truly toxic plants in the UK and Ireland, unlike New Zealand where honey from the Tutu tree is toxic to humans and can be fatal! The problem is caused not by nectar but by ‘vine hoppers’ producing honeydew from the sap. Mention was made of the NZ laurel and of the solanace family, which includes spuds, tomatoes and datura, the thorn apple or angel’s trumpet.
Honey from Rhododendron ponticum was used during the wars in Asia minor over 2,000 years ago to poison invading armies unaware of the consequences of feasting on that honey.
In this country, we have buttercups and monkshood which, if bees use them, are potentially harmful. The only time I have ever seen bees working buttercups was last year at Buckfast Abbey.
Ragwort was said to produce an unpalatable honey, although I don’t mind the taste, but it looks a little cloudy. There’s no evidence of it causing damage to us or to the bees. People seem to have forgotten that it’s an offence under the 1959 Weeds Act to allow it to grow as it is blooming everywhere at the moment!
Lime can stupefy bees but doesn’t do so every year. Maybe the weather’s a factor.
Nicotine and caffeine, besides being addictive to humans is also to bees so attracts repeat visits which improves pollination.
Time for dinner!