In praise of the Sycamore

 

Sycamore trees can provide good crops of honey in May. Just stand by the hives on a warm evening, and listen to the roar of the bees fanning the fresh nectar, and converting it into honey. Two or three supers of sycamore honey by the end of May is quite possible.

Other nectar sources in May include horse chestnut, hawthorn and apples.

What do you need to get full supers of sycamore honey?

Strong colonies: a good autumn, a short winter, and good weather in May. We had all of these in 2016/2017.

Why is sycamore important for bees?

  • Long flowering period. My apiaries in the Conwy Valley near Rowen are all about 150ft above sea level, on the lower slopes of Tal y Fan mountain, 2001ft. The bees can fly up to sycamore trees at about 800ft ASL, where the flowering may be 10 days later.

  • Good honey producer. My scale hive showed increases of 2kg per day, every day during the week ending 26th May 2017. That’s 14kg or 30 pounds increase in a week.

  • The bees love to draw out beeswax foundation during a sycamore honey flow.

  • Lovely white wax cappings.

  • Good for building up nucs. Plenty of incoming pollen and nectar helps the nuc to build up quickly.

  • Good for building up freshly-hived swarms.

  • Good pollen provider. Pollen trapping can yield 300g of pollen in one day.

Dealing with sycamore honey

  • Full supers of sycamore honey left on the hive will probably be eaten by the bees during the June gap.

  • I recommend extracting full supers of honey in early June, leaving a full brood and a half of stores and brood.

  • Be prepared to feed the bees in June, if you have removed a crop of honey.

  • Sycamore honey spins out easily, and it strains easily in warm weather.

  • Sycamore honey is quite slow to granulate. It should stay clear for three months.

  • Granulated sycamore honey is very tasty, a year after bottling.

  • I’ve had no problems with sycamore honey fermenting. My honey is stored in a cool, dark outbuilding.

  • Frosting can be a problem. I leave the label off the jar until just before sale, and try to cover the frosting with the label.

Selling sycamore honey

  • Sycamore is a dark, strong-flavoured honey, not to everybody’s taste, if they are used to a mild honey.

  • Taster jars will help sell sycamore honey at the Conwy Honey Fair.

  • Sycamore honey is great on Lidl’s Greek style yogurt.

Showing sycamore honey

  • A good frame of sycamore honey can win prizes.

What follows sycamore?

  • Hopefully, the June gap will be short-lived, and the blackberry will yield nectar and pollen from mid June, with the lime trees in July and Ling heather in August. My bees will reach all these flowers.

  • My best-ever honey year was back in 1990 (before varroa) when I averaged 80 pounds of honey per hive from 20 hives. We had a good sycamore crop, a huge crop of lime/blackberry, and a reasonable heather harvest that year.

Peter McFadden, May 2017

Rowen village with Tal y Fan mountain. Mixed woodland up to 800ft

Rowen village, sycamore and oak woodland.

Apiary on the edge of woodland near Rowen, within reach of the heather

Sycamore honey, May 2017

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