The joys of buckwheat, part 4: What Langstroth had to say

Lorenzo Langstroth, father of modern beekeeping, recognized the value of buckwheat to his honeybees.

Buckwheat furnishes an excellent Fall feed for bees.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 10.50.02 AMAs those of you who follow this blog regularly will know, I am a huge advocate of growing buckwheat to supplement the natural diet for honeybees. (See the previous posts: here, here, and here.)

Father Langstroth was, too.

In his book, A Practical Treatise on the Hive and  Honey-bee, published in 1857, here’s what Langstroth had to say about buckwheat:

Buckwheat furnishes an excellent Fall feed for bees; and often enables them to fill their hives with a generous supply against Winter, The honey being gathered either in the early part of the day, or when the atmosphere is moist, is often quite thin; the bees sweat out a large portion of its moisture, but still they do not exhaust the whole, and in wet seasons, it is somewhat liable to sour in the cells- Honey gathered in a dry season, is always thicker, and of course more valuable than that gathered in a wet one, as it contains much less water. Buckwheat is uncertain in its honey-bearing qualities; in some seasons, it yields next to none, and hardly a bee will be seen upon a large field, while in others, it furnishes an extraordinary supply* The most practical and scientific agriculturists agree that so far from being an impoverishing crop, it is on many soils, one of the most profitable that can be raised. Every bee-keeper should have, some in the vicinity of his hives.

The following facts respecting the cultivation of buckwheat, were communicated to me by Mr. A. Wells, of Greenfield, Mass. He had a piece of land so exhausted by successive crops of corn and rye, that it would produce nothing but buckwheat, which he cultivated upon it for twelve or thirteen successive years. At the end of this time the land had recovered sufficiently to produce good corn! Each year, the weeds and self-sown buckwheat, which grew upon it, were plowed under, in seeding for the new crop, and the result proves, how erroneous are the common notions respecting the exhausting effects on the land, of this grain.

Dzierzon says: “In the stubble of winter grain, buckwheat might be sown, whereby ample forage would be secured, to the beesr late in the season, and a remunerating crop of grain garnered besides . This plant, growing so rapidly and maturing so soon, so productive in favorable seasons, and so well adapted to cleanse the land, certainly deserves more attention from farmers than it receives; and its more frequent and general culture would greatly enhance the profits of bee-keeping. Its long continued and frequently renewed blossoms, yield honey so abundantly, that a populous colony may easily collect fifty pounds in two weeks if the weather is favorable.”

Key words: Lorenzo Langstroth, buckwheat, honey, bees, beekeeping, A Practical Treatise on the Hive and Honey-bee

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