Saturday while speaking with Kentucky beekeepers at the Bluegrass Beekeeping School I mentioned one of the earliest spring nectar plants here was Purple Dead Nettle, and the plant Henbit. These are small herbaceous plants, henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum), both in the mint family which grow in large patches in fields. (Notice the square stems of these plants, all mints have square stems.) Bee work them heavily, and before beekeepers place honey supers on their hives. They are considered “built up plants”, honey bee colonies collect the nectar and pollen to begin large scale brood production in our hives in the early spring. It’s blooming is a signal to me that the spring bee & honey season has begun in earnest.
I mentioned to the beekeepers that this bloom was yet to begin, but would soon. Well, as I neared home on my return drive I saw that the distinctive purple blooms of this low lying plant. The bloom had indeed begun. Watch for the purple pollen being brought into your hives this week. Click here to see a handout from the University of Kentucky. The two plants are very similar, but their leaves differ in shape. The plants are considered weeds, note the words ". . . and control" in the handouts, but not to beekeepers. I think Purple Dead Nettle may be more prominent here. In the spring I first notice the plant’s bloom as a flash of purple in roadside & in my yard, which is more weed than grass. Later what will become hay fields in my home area will become a vast sea of purple. But the bees get the first crop in the hay fields. I think most non-beekeepers hardly notice these little purple flowers, but I most certainly do. I know I have photos that I had taken of Purple Dead nettle in bloom, but I cannot find them, my filing system needs work. Hopefully tomorrow it will be more sunny, cloudy & wet out today, and I will get my camera and post some photos. But for now, see the photos in the U.K. flyer, and check back later.