Weeds of Wednesday: Honey Plant?

Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolia) is among Florida’s worst invasive weeds, covering more than 700,000 acres.  Who would defend it?  Short-sighted beekeepers.

Yes, European honeybees (Apis mellifera) and other pollinators visit Brazilian pepper when it blooms from August through October.  Honeybees gather pollen in their corbiculae, special pollen baskets on their hind legs.  A bee can carry back to the hive a load of pollen that is more than one-third of its body weight.

Is a “diet” of mostly Brazilian pepper pollen good for honeybees?

The IFAS publication The Benefits of Pollen for Honeybees states:

When considering the nutritional requirements of honey bees, it is important to remember “variety, variety, variety”. No single pollen meets all the nutritional needs of a colony so a variety of pollens from different plant sources will help ensure that these needs are met. Just like humans, bees need well-rounded diets.

Do you want to “eat” Brazilian pepper honey  ?

According to another IFAS publication Beekeeping:  Florida Bee Botany Brazilian pepper honey “has a distinct “peppery” taste and is not considered by many to be table grade, but is accepted well locally.

It goes on to say that Brazilian pepper “is a very invassive plant and therefore is not recommended“.

Wildlife consume the fruits, and birds spread them wildly.  Seedless sprout and grow swiftly.

Shown above is a Brazilian pepper seedling that volunteered in our yard.  There were more …

Pulling up Brazilian pepper seedlings is a constant battle.  Get them when they are young and look a little different (like us).  Florida pellitory (Parietaria floridana), a low-growing weedy native that is a larval host plant for the red admiral butterfly and that pulls up easily, has “volunteered” nearby for contrast.

Those short-sighted beekeepers should think about what better native pollinator plants could grow in place of the Brazilian pepper.  Variety, variety, variety, please!

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