Flowers of Robinia pseudoacacia
Here in south central Kentucky, black locust (Robinia psudoacacia) is blooming. Several stands of young black locusts grow along the lane that leads uphill from the highway to our house. I enjoy the lovely fragrance of the blossoms each spring, and enjoy the memories of them until spring arrives again.
Bees are also drawn to the fragrance of the nectar-rich blossoms. An acre of honeylocust is said to produce 800 to 1200 pounds of honey. Moreover, the black locust blooms late enough in spring that the blossoms are rarely damaged by frost; thus, black locust is a reliable annual source for bees.
The benefits of planting black locust for honeybees have long been recognized. The following quotation from G. W. Demaree of Kentucky was included in a 1919 beekeeping manual:
"The time of year in which it blooms, nearly filling the interval between the late fruit-bloom and the white clover, makes it an exceedingly valuable auxiliary to the honey harvest in the Middle States, if not elsewhere. It is a most profuse honey-bearer, rivaling the famous linden in quality, and only inferior to the product of the latter in color.
Locust honey cannot be said to be dark in color. It is of rich pale-red color, when liquid; but when in the shape of combhoney, its appearance, if removed from the hive when first finished, is but little inferior to that of superior clover honey. It becomes exceedingly thick, if left with the bees till the cells are thoroughly sealed, and its keeping qualities are therefore most excellent.
The trees are planted by the side of fences, in waste places, and on poor, worn out lands. They may be propagated from the seeds, or by transplanting the young trees from one to three years old. If the ground is plowed in the spring, and the locust seeds planted on the hills with corn, or with other hill-crops, and cultivated the first year, the young trees will grow with great rapidity, even on very poor lands."
Source: First Lessons in Beekeeping (p. 123) by Camille Pierre Dadant. Published in 1919 by the American Bee Journal of Hamilton, Illinois.