What distance does a beehive need to be from a toxic plant? And bee preference..

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Offline SquarishTriangle

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Various plant toxins have been reported to transfer from the nectar of toxic plants into honey and, in some cases, may have detrimental effects following the consumption of the honey. Examples of such toxins include pyrrolizidine alkaloids (from Echium, Heliotropium, Senecio etc.), grayanotoxins (rhododendrons) and a number of compounds produced by oleanders.

2 part question:

1) If one were to set up a beehive to make honey, what would be the minimum distance from a field full of toxic plants they would need to put it to ensure that the bees do not collect any of the nectar from those plants?

2) Hypothetically, if a field containing only a ‘typical’ non-toxic flowering plant was situated directly adjacent to one containing only a ‘typical’ toxic plant (or a random selection of toxic plants) and the beehive was set up right between the two (both fields in full bloom, same density of flowers, no predators in either field, no field will overgrow the other) which field would the bees tend to feed in more?
eg. the non-toxic one to minimise any toxic effects on the bees, the toxic one to maximise the toxic effects on potential honey-stealers, or no difference?


Offline Don_1

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Bees are known to fly up to 20 miles to find pollen! Obviously they will go for the nearest source and most plentiful supply first.

According to research, bees do not have a great sense of taste, certainly not as good as the common house fly. But they are able to distinguish pollens which contain toxins. As these toxins are dangerous to the bee, they formulate a 'dislike' of these pollens and avoid such plants.

In your two field scenario, the bees would very quickly learn to avoid the toxic plants and would head for the good stuff. Upon returning to the hive, the individuals would 'dance' to the other workers to indicate which direction to go in to collect pollen.
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