The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Honeybees and ragweed

Honeybee gathering pollen from ragweed

A couple of weeks ago, my mom came to visit.  As I took her on the grand tour of the garden, she looked toward the back of the trailer where tall annuals had grown up over the roof.  "What are those beautiful plants?" she asked in awe.

"That's ragweed," I answered, and hurried her on by, to a more manicured area of the yard.  The truth is that we have patches of ragweed growing all around, wherever it's hard to mow.  I'd been meaning to pull them out...until yesterday when I noticed that they are our honeybees' new favorite plant!

Busy honeybee hive and a fly on ragweedAll of that pollen which makes ragweed the bane of allergy sufferers also means that honeybees can load up on winter protein with ease.  I was first alerted to their activity when the bees' buzzing broke into my weeding trance Wednesday morning.  I stopped to watch as the worker bees brushed their hind legs together, pushing pollen into the bright yellow sacs at the base of their legs.  I even noticed other insects visiting the ragweed, like the little fly in the skinny photo to the right.

The picture on the far right is an example of what our three strong hives look like during sunny days when there's a good nectar or pollen flow.  The first time I noticed this, I thought something was wrong, but the truth is that it's merely a bee version of rush hour congestion.  I guess I'll have to leave some ragweed around after this --- good thing neither Mark nor I has allergies!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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But does the honey make you sneeze?
Comment by Errol Thu Aug 20 08:07:27 2009
:-) Actually, honey with pollen in it from plants like ragweed is supposed to make allergy sufferers less likely to get allergies.
Comment by anna Thu Aug 20 08:14:54 2009

The bees gathering on the outside of the hive is not so much rush hour as it is 1 of 2 things: it's too hot in the hive - good idea to check degree of ventilation you are providing - or the other - is the house bees out cleaning the front of the hive -

pay attention to their movement - if they are busy at work - moving back and forth in a limited area they are cleaning -

if they are just hanging out - it's because it's too hot in the hive -

Comment by Suzanne Z Tue Aug 17 19:52:23 2010
You are so right! A year later, one of our hives had a comb collapse due to overhot temperatures. Now we've got the tops cracked a bit and are hoping the bees can keep it cool enough in there.
Comment by anna Wed Aug 18 07:47:41 2010
Thinking I was doing to right thing to help my 4 yr old combat allergies I gave her a small amount of local honey. She became violently ill. Her allergy to ragweed pollen caused an allergic reaction to the pollen in the honey. We are lucky she didn't go into shock :/
Comment by Heidi Thu Aug 27 11:51:56 2015

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