From what I have read here on this forum, the bees do not go on the buckeye if they have something else to forage on. During the time of year, when the buckeye are in bloom, there are so many other things also blooming.
I watched them very carefully and did not see a single bee on any of the buckeye flowers.
First off, sorry for lengthy post but in the name of science and further inquiry into issues that challenge bees and beekeepers I must follow up on our Buckeye discussion:
While normally I would defer to your expertise and observations; I have to point out that the bees in my neighborhood have NOT gotten the message!!
And buckeye poisoning is a very real and tangible threat. Even IF the blackberry are blooming! And shrubs? ...maybe in your neck of the woods - but out here near the coast these suckers grow 30' tall and wide!
On a windy day about 2 weeks ago I observed 4 trees locally & there were MANY bees (including bumbles and butterflies as well) foraging on the buckeye. And I received some interesting feedback on our local forum. One Man's views posted at the close of this post in purple.
Hive losses attributed to buckeye poisoning are NOT a myth, and personally I believe it may have been a factor in the failure of my own
hives this spring. Anecdotally my Carniolians are doing amazing, while the Italians are all just OK,
one hive failed after swarming.
(swarm ok, can u believe the size of that thing? 3 lb package of bees april 15th; swarm june 5th! ..remaining bees dwindled after
new queen mated & started laying)
I have LOTS of capped over pollen from last year that I have taken to simply removing foundation and all, going with some natural comb in my langstrom hives.
Here is A lengthy reply to Q's about buckeye poisoning from HSU Beekeeping Instructor : (note:there no agreement among the EXPERTS
on whether it is the pollen
or the nectar
that is poisonous. Most sources online claim it is the nectar, while this instructor believes it is the pollen...)Yes, buckeye pollen is toxic to honeybee larvae...
Yes, the pollen from California Buckeye trees can be very harmful to honeybees.
Whether there are any symptoms and how bad the symptoms are seems to depend on
how many buckeye trees there are within the foraging area, how close these trees
are to your hives, and what other forage is available nearby during the buckeye
season (which may vary from season to season according to the weather).
Apparently it's the pollen that is the main problem; it's toxic to honeybee
larvae and also causes problems for adult bees.
I have a few hives in buckeye country just northwest of Redway (Wood Ranch).
Last year a strong hive went downhill fast due to what we eventually determined
was buckeye poisoning. Beginning in the last week of June, bees were observed
"quivering"/"convulsing" at the entrance. Soon afterward, the brood pattern got
very spotty, then the queen was superceded. The new queen layed a few frames of
eggs, which proceeded to small larvae, but then disappeared (apparently this set
of brood failed and was cleaned out by the house bees). Then this new queen
Interestingly, later in the summer the bees ended up putting wax over some of
the remaining pollen cells in the hive, almost as if they had "learned" that
this pollen was harmful and wanted to put it "beyond use" without having to dig
it out of the combs. (I also saw a lot of this waxed-over pollen in some hives
I was hired to look at in Salmon Creek, (note:these were MY bees he was inspecting!)where there was also a good deal of
After the affected colony was re-queened in early August, it eventually
recovered. Meanwhile, I asked around and learned a few things about beekeeping
in buckeye territory:
(1) Some folks believe that colonies that are established in the buckeye-area
location during the late summer or autumn of the previous year have fewer
problems with the buckeye, perhaps because they are already built up and already
have a good, diverse supply of pollen (stored as bee bread) in the hive, whereas
new hives started in the late spring, shortly before the buckeye season, end up
bringing in a lot of buckeye pollen as they attempt to build up.
(2) Some people believe that the bees "learn" that buckeye pollen is poisonous
and somehow are able to transmit that info to the next years' bees. I'm kind of
skeptical of that, as all the bees from the previous year will be long dead, and
usually there's a new queen, too. On the other hand, they DO seem to wax-over
some of the offending pollen, so perhaps there IS something to the "learning"
theory, at least in the short term, and maybe they are able to transmit the info
to next year's bees, though I can't quite figure out how that would work...
(3) The amount of buckeye trees in the foraging area, how close they are to your
hives, and what else is blooming nearby are important factors. A few buckeye
trees a mile away isn't likely to be a problem if there are also a lot of other
foraging sources even closer by.
(4) The effect may vary considerably from year to year, depending on the
weather. Last year (2008) it was a pretty dry spring at Wood Ranch, and by the
time of the buckeye bloom there wasn't a whole lot of other stuff blooming near
my Wood Ranch beeyard, and that may be part of the reason why the buckeye
problem was severe enough to seriously affect that strong hive (the buckeye
trees have, of course, much deeper roots than dandelions or blackberries or
lupine, so they continued to bloom while a lot of the other stuff dried out).
Whereas this spring (2009), there was some late rain and lots of other stuff was
blooming at the same time as the buckeye trees, including lots of dandelions
right around the beeyard. This may be why none of the three hives that are now
at that location have showed any symptoms this year. There are still just as
many buckeye trees around, but they provided a much smaller percentage of the
pollen this year.
(5) Some beekeepers in heavy buckeye territory simply trap all incoming pollen
(with a front-entrance pollen trap) during the height of the buckeye bloom. Of
course that means that they need to supply other (non-buckeye, previously
harvested) pollen or one of the commercial "pollen supplements" during that
time. One approach is to move full frames of bee bread (stored pollen) AWAY
from the brood nest and out to the edges of the box during other parts of the
year, then when the pollen trap is on to prevent the buckeye pollen from coming
in, you then move those stored frames of bee bread back to the edge of the brood
nest. Labor intensive, but natural and reportedly quite effective.
Anyway, if you are in buckeye country (like in SoHum) you will want to
familiarize yourself with these dynamics and with the timing of the buckeye
bloom at your location and elevation. And if you are in very heavy buckeye
country you should be ready to employ some kind of pro-active strategy for
dealing with the buckeye pollen problem. This may include being sure to not
place new hives in buckeye areas right before the bloom, storing frames of
non-buckeye beebread, (either at the edges of the hive or in your freezer),
trapping buckeye pollen as it comes in, and providing either frames of
non-buckeye bee bread, or previously harvested non-buckeye pollen from a pollen
trap (poured loosely into an empty drawn comb and then placed immediately next
to the broodnest), or else a commercial "pollen supplement" product, during the
buckeye blooming period when you are trapping all the incoming pollen.
I know of one beekeeper in the Sohum area who routinely traps all incoming
pollen during the buckeye bloom, and has been doing so for years (I haven't
spoken to him directly, but a fellow beekeeper has, and reported that this
beekeeper uses pollen supplements during that period).
By the way, from my experience the Russian/Carniolan bees are *not* necessarily
immune to this problem. The colony that was severely affected last year was
headed by a Russian-Carniolan queen. As far as "native" bees, I'm sure they are
either immune or just don't use the buckeye pollen, since otherwise they
wouldn't have survived for millions of years. But keep in mind there aren't any
"native" honeybees in the Americas; they are all descended from honeybees
imported from Europe.
However, there are "feral" honeybee populations that still exist in Humbolt that
are at least partially descended from the German (Black) Bees, the first
honeybee race that was introduced to this continent. Since some of those bees
have been living in buckeye territory for several hundred years, natural
selection MAY have come into play, wherein the surviving colonies would be those
that are either immune to the poison, or don't utilize the buckeye pollen in the
first place. Again, that seems possible, but I have no evidence one way or the
other as to whether that's true.
Bottom line: It's certainly possible to raise honeybees in buckeye territory,
at least when it's not the dominant pollen source near your hives, or if you
take steps to trap the incoming buckeye pollen and provide some alternative
protein source during that time.
Hope this has been helpful.