Bee Forage Plant
Bee Forage Plant plants that are habitually visited by bees for collection of pollen and nectar. Flowering plants are the mainstay of bee life. Honeybees are well known for their highly preferential selection of the plant species for collection of nectar and pollen. The protein-rich pollen is mostly used to feed the brood and the nectar, the carbohydrate fuel, is used for their flight, foraging, high activity and for rearing the brood. Good bee forage is the primary requirement for good honey production. Foraging is generally concentrated on plants whose pollen is most efficiently collected and rich in nutrients and energy. Yet they are highly selective. They can select pollen whose proteins are non-allergent.
In Bangladesh, unlike the temperate region, bee forage plants are available throughout the year, although December and January offer the major honey flow from winter crops that may continue through February to April. Most bee forage plants have attractive and brightly coloured (other than red) or white flowers, sweet scented, having various surface ornamentation with pollen kit (yellow oily substances) on the surface of pollen. During foraging time bees collect either pollen or nectar, or pollen and nectar simultaneously. All members of the honeybee have a pollen basket called Corbiculae, formed from the slightly concave outer surface of the hind tibia, fringed by stiff hairs. While foraging effective pollination occurs, which significantly enhances crop yield and improves the seed quality of many cultivated crops. The forage plants can be identified from the pollen load and also from nectar brought by the bees to their hives.
Honeybees make distinctions among flowers from which they collect pollen. They usually visit flowers within 2-3 km of their hives. The number of pollen per load, in case of Apis cerana indica, showed 6,000-20,000 which is independent of their rate of pollen collection or the size of pollen or forage plants.
Every locality has a distinct type of forage plants. Again, the concentration and composition of forage plants are also variable. From a study of pollen load it is estimated that about 110 plants are common as forage plants in Bangladesh. The most common being mango, coconut, Indian jujube, litchi, goran, golpata, Hibiscus species, cucurbits, many leguminous, cruciferous and solanaceous crops. Most of these are either agricultural or horticultural plants. [Mostafa Kamal Pasha] [Pasha, Mostafa Kamal Professor of Botany, Chittagong University]