Maple trees (genus Acer) are very important in our area for honey bee colonies to build up in strength during spring. The maple flow generally starts with Silver Maple, then Red Maple. Today, March 30th, 2015 these two trees are mostly done flowering and we are now in the beginning of the Acer negundo, also known as Box Elder, bloom as well as the Sugar Maple bloom. The Box Elder producing the flowers pictured here was a ‘buzz’ with bees today.
Two and three days ago the night time temperatures dipped into the 20s F. The flowers of this tree, like other maples, are very cold hardy. No noticeable freeze damage occurred. These trees are frequent in forests and suburban areas making it a major source of food for bees this time of year. Honey from maples is very sweet with hints of maple syrup. It is light in color and crystallizes very fast. Pure maple honey is very rare due to its early season flowering. Most colonies are not built up enough in strength to store surplus honey from maples, plus the weather varies greatly in spring and nectar is not usually converted to honey when temperatures dip close to freezing and rain is frequent. Instead, it most often gets fed to bee larvae as the colonies rapidly grow this time of year. However, after inspecting some colonies today, some nectar is getting converted to honey. Maybe we will have some hints of maple syrup in this year’s early honey crop.
Along with Box Elder, the Sugar Maples are flowering at about the same time. Sugar Maples have similar flowers, but distinclty different if you look close. Sugar Maples are the source of maple syrup. This tree is generally more associated with the northeast, however its natural range dips down into East Tennessee as its most southern natural habitat on some habitat maps, while other maps show its range going much further south.