Monday, October 17, 2016

Western White Clematis, also known as Virgin's Bower

      I have finally discovered the name of the most likely source of my unexpected fall honey crop.  A friend from church advised me that the mystery vine, covered with white flowers is none other than Western White Clematis, also known as Virgin's Bower.  Once I had determined the name of the plant, I went on line to learn more about it.  Several web sites listed it as a minor honey plant, indicating that there usually isn't enough of it in one place to make a major contribution to the bees honey crop.  In our location it is quite plentiful along the river and the canal.  Every time I looked at it in late August and throughout September the blossoms were being worked by lots of honeybees.  It is very possible that there were other plants the bees were also working at that time, but I didn't notice any.  I took the dogs on a walk down by the canal almost every day that I was home so I have about six weeks of observations as to how much the bees seemed to like that particular blossom.

Western White Clematis, aka Virgin's Bower
    There is one way I can remove all doubt as to the source of my August and September honey harvest.  I can mail a sample of the honey along with a fifty dollar check to Texas A & M University.  They have developed a pretty accurate method of determining the floral source of any given honey sample.  They first determine the pollen content of the honey.  I'm not quite sure how they do that, but every floral source leaves a pollen fingerprint. When the bees are collecting nectar they can't help but get some pollen in the nectar. Based on the percentages of the various types of pollen found in the honey, the scientists can determine what the floral sources were.  Normally I am not sufficiently curious such that I would pay someone to determine the floral source of the honey my bees had collected.  Due to the fact that we are living in a new place and I am unfamiliar with what is available for my bees, I'm a little more willing to pony up the money to get a definitive answer.

After pollination the blossoms develop a hairy look similar to the Truffula trees in The Lorax 
            Another interesting thing about our new home is that there are lots and lots of praying mantises on our property.  I've found large green mantises and large brown mantises.  I've also found a lot of mantis egg cases in all sorts of places.  A month or so back, I was downstairs talking to my mom when I heard a blood curdling scream from upstairs.  I ran upstairs only to find Linda doing the praying mantis version of the bee dance with a very large praying mantis clinging to her shoulder for dear life.  Apparently,  the mantis had climbed onto her shoulder when Linda had gone out onto the front deck to water some plants.  I think it was a pretty traumatic experience for the both of them. I was able to rescue the mantis and return her safely to the outdoors.

The very mantis which terrorized Linda so much

A Mantis Egg Case

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