In praise of the Sycamore

Sycamore trees can provide great 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.  Some years, two or even three supers of sycamore honey by the end of May are quite possible.  It can be a great start to the active beekeeping season. Some years, if the weather in May is poor, you won’t get any.

Other nectar sources in May include horse chestnut, hawthorn, apples just finishing and oil seed rape on the coast.

What do you need to get full supers of sycamore honey?
Strong colonies: a good autumn, a short winter, and a good Spring.

Why is sycamore important for bees?

  • Long flowering period. My beehives 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 near Rowen Youth Hostel at about 800ft above sea level, where the flowering may be 10 days later.

  • Good honey producer. My scale hive showed daily increases of 2kg, every day for a week in May 2023. That’s 14kg or 30 pounds increase in a week.

  • Be in time with your supers!
  • The bees love to draw out beeswax foundation during a sycamore honey flow.

  • Lovely white beeswax 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 or double brood box of stores and brood.

  • Be prepared to feed the bees in June, if you’ve 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 label my jars just before sale, and I try to cover any 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 blackberries will yield nectar and pollen from mid June, with the lime trees in July and Ling heather in August. My bees can reach all these flowers.

  • My best-ever honey year was way 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.

Other benefits of sycamore

  • Sycamore is good for firewood.  It dries out quickly, splits very easily and burns well.

Peter McFadden,  updated April 2024

Rowen village, Conwy Valley with Tal y Fan mountain, 2001ft. Mixed woodland up to 800ft

Rowen village, sycamore and oak woodland.

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

Combs of sycamore honey, May 2017