L is for Locust

Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is an incredible tree for honeybees and native bees alike. Many of you humans have probably heard of ‘locust honey’ or have smelled a sweet fragrance on the air in June.

Because these pea-like flowers bloom in stages along racemes, the blossoms last three weeks. This is a peak time for nectar collection and building honey stores for bee colonies. Beekeepers near locust groves often have to add extra hive boxes.

Interestingly, the locust tree has been so wide spread since the colonists came to North America, that tree experts aren’t sure where it was first native. Likely it was the Appalachian Mountains and the Ozark Plateau. The tree grows so fast it’s considered invasive in many area, despite it being native. The wood is very hard and makes excellent fence posts that don’t easily rot. (But you humans don’t seem to be making those kinds of fences anymore.)

Yay, because that spread the tree for bees!

Black Locust won’t grow in shade, and often pops up in disturbed areas and edges. It grows straight and tall–40 to 100 feet, and even 170 feet has been found. Look for those late blossoms high in the trees in late spring, June, when the cherries are all done. Or maybe you’ll see the blossoms on your roads first, then know to look, like we did for the Golden Rain Tree!

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

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