Bees

Accidental but still beneficial cover crop mistake

My brain works in mysterious ways. I even wrote about this exact subject on my post regarding native pollinators. I stated that New Zealand was faced with the choice of importing Red Clover seed every year, or importing a bumblebee from the United Kingdom to pollinate the flowers to produce their own crop of seed.

Yet somehow I failed to make the connection that my choice in Red Clover cover cropping in the garden would not provide much nourishment my own honeybees. Even so, I am happy to feed the native bees all the same!

The flowers of red clover are too small for the short mouthparts of honeybees to access freely so it is not a reliable nectar source. Or so the old sources say!

Now if you search any beekeeping forum for recommendations on the best clover, the answers are varied. It really seems like all the varieties work to some degree while the one I picked for my food plots is falling out of favor (yellow sweet clover). Regardless, they all fix nitrogen and contain good protein for grazing and nourish either my bees or the native pollinators.

Oh well, I am just going to use the shotgun approach and try to observe my bees. There is lots of Dutch white clover that I’ve seen my bees working in early spring that is growing in the small areas of the barnyard that I mow. In fact mowing white clover will cause it to continuously bloom extending the nectar flow indefinitely until frost. I plan to overseed the turf with more white clover this fall.

I recently planted a wildlife plot in the back of the pasture where my goals are to nourish my four legged wild cohabitants as well as my bees. The plot was disked then broadcast very sparsely with buckwheat as a nurse and more densely with rapeseed and forage turnips. After disking again I broadcast some sweet, crimson and red clover on top before mulching lightly with straw.

Now growing in tandem with buckwheat as a garden cover crop, one bed contains sweet clover while the rest contain red clover. To make my life easier by removing one extra decision, I hope a pattern emerges regarding which clover grows best in the general pasture, and which variety my bees prefer. A post will be made if such a revelation is made!

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