This Wednesday, David Tarpy & Jen Keller of the NC State University Apiculture Program and I began an exploratory project to determine if honey bees will make honey from flowering tobacco, and if so, what the properties of that honey are.
Night flying moths, including the adults of tobacco & tomato hornworms, are probably the most important pollinators of long, narrow tobacco flowers. A few past studies have observed honey bees foraging at untopped tobacco, and a few North Carolina beekeepers have recounted anecdotes of making or tasting tobacco honey.
These hives were placed near a 1.2 acre plot of tobacco plants belonging to Ramsey Lewis, NC State tobacco breeder, who is selecting for black shank disease resistance. The plants will not be harvested or topped. Starting next week, we will visit this field weekly, walking eight 100 foot transects to determine if the honey bees are foraging at tobacco flowers. If we observe bees foraging and the colonies produce honey, we will then extract it and assess quality and flavor.
We visited the bees last Wednesday, July 25th and walked 10, 100 ft transects. We did not observe any bees foraging yet, but the plants are currently at ~30% bloom. The hives appear active, so we will continue to monitor them for at least 3 more weeks.