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On Goldenrod...and Honeybees

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September is National Honey Month, which has had us thinking about an unsung hero of our fall viewscape—the common goldenrod. Often mistakenly accused of causing relentless fits of hay fever in humans (ragweed is the real culprit there!), goldenrod and other late-blooming plants burnishing large swathes of the North American landscape at this time of year are known to provide to the honeybees of our local food system a major source of pollen. And particularly notable this year: Following an extraordinarily dry summer in many parts of New York and other states, the goldenrod of fall has become especially important to colony survival in the long winter months ahead. For honeybees and the beekeepers who nurture them in the drought-stricken parts of the American Northeast, the goldenrod bloom that has finally set in after the long-awaited late summer rains signify a vital last chance to play some serious catch up after a very long stretch of slim pickings.

For this month's Vaults of Mann feature, we celebrate this key relationship by drawing from both the botanical and the apicultural sections of Mann’s rare book collection. Featured in our Tumblr post for September are images from a splendid late 19th century British gardening guide, Favourite Flowers of Garden and Greenhouse (1896)by Edward Step and William Watson and from an American beekeeping classic, L.C. Root’s Quinby’s New Beekeeping of 1879. If for Step and Watson goldenrod is an easy if “coarse” and space-hogging garden plant, suitable really only for the cottage garden or shrubbery, for astute practical beekeeper the likes of Lyman Root, it is a bit of a star, providing “valuable forage” that helps bees replenish combs depleted by summer honey harvests, or, in the case of wild bee colonies, by the food requirements of an active and growing colony.

While the goldenrod may have yet to shake its reputation as an unruly intruder to the finely cultivated garden, among beekeepers and other advocates for pollinators of today it continues to earn a high rank among top plants to nurture for the sake of healthy pollinator populations. As this under-rated, genetically diverse fall flower proves itself this year to be a kind of famine food for the honeybee populations in New York State and other drought-stricken regions of the United States, we're reminded again of the resilience that's supported by a botanically and biologically varied landscape--a lesson no doubt well worth taking to heart in a changing global climate.

In addition to enjoying our online Vaults feature for the month, please be sure to stop by the Library to browse through the fall book display we’ve prepared in conjunction with this spotlight on the symbiosis found between bees and the plant world around us. For the month of honey, it’s a relationship worth celebrating!

Select titles from the book display:

100 Plants to Save the Bees: Provide and Protect the Blooms That Pollinators Need to Survive and Thrive. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2016.

Biggle, Jacob. Biggle Bee Book: A Swarm of Facts On Practical Bee-Keeping, Carefully Hived. Philadelphia: W. Atkinson co., 1909.The Queen Must Die

Blaylock, Iris T., and Terresa H Richards. Honey Bees: Colony Collapse Disorder and Pollinator Role In Ecosystems. New York: Nova Science, 2009.

Davis, Ivor, and Roger Cullum-Kenyon. The BBKA Guide to Beekeeping. Second edition. London, UK: Bloomsbury Natural History, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2015.

Dowden, Anne Ophelia, The Clover and the Bee: A Book of Pollination. New York: T.Y. Crowell, 1990.

Droege, Sam, and Laurence Packer. Bees: An Up-Close Look At Pollinators Around the World. Minneapolis, MN: Voyageur Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group, 2015.

Green, Rick. Apis Mellifera: A.k.a. Honeybee. Boston: Branden Books, 2002.

Holm, Heather, Pollinators of Native Plants: Attract, Observe and Identify Pollinators and Beneficial Insects with Native Plants. Minnetonka, MN: Pollination Press LLC, 2014.

Ilona., and Ed Readicker-Henderson. A Short History of the Honey Bee: Humans, Flowers, and Bees In the Eternal Chase for Honey. Portland: Timber Press, 2009.

Kirk, William D. J., and F. N Howes. Plants for Bees: A Guide to the Plants That Benefit the Bees of the British Isles. Cardiff: International Bee Research Association, 2012.

Lee-Mäder, Eric, Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies : the Xerces Society Guide. North Adams, MA: Storey Pub., 2011.

Lovell, John Harvey, The Flower and the Bee: Plant Life and Pollination. New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1918.

Pundyk, Grace., and Grace Pundyk. The Honey Trail: In Pursuit of Liquid Gold and Vanishing Bees. 1st U.S. ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2010.

Richards, A. J. The Pollination of Flowers by Insects. London: Academic Press for the Linnean Society of London, 1978.

Robinson, Richard Knox, The Beekeepers. New York: Cinema Guild, 2009. [DVD]

Rosenbaum, Stephanie. Honey: From Flower to Table. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002.

Shepherd, Matthew., and Edward S Ross. Pollinator Conservation Handbook. Portland, Or.: Xerces Society in association with Bee Works, 2003.

Stevens, Ken. Alphabetical Guide for Beekeepers. Mytholmroyd, Hebden Bridge: Northern Bee Books, 2012.