The Tallow Flow Has Begun

It will be of no surprise to Gulf Coast beekeepers near our particular latitude in longitude that the Chinese tallow trees (Sapium sebiferum Roxb.) are currently in full flower. The approximate blossom times for Chinese tallow range from May to June in South Louisiana and June and July for North Louisiana. They seem to be lagging a little this year, likely due to the extended cooler temperatures.

Tallow trees are a blessing for us beekeepers because of the copious amounts of nectar they produce for our bees, as well as other pollinators. This, of course, translates into substantial honey production. Honeybee colonies typically explode during this time and it’s common for many beekeepers along the Gulf Coast to build up their colonies with the tallow flow before moving their hives to pollinate various summer crops. Besides the long “tassels” that hang from the tallows trees as the flowers mature, the sudden increase in activity of your beehives, particularly in the afternoon, are the obvious surefire signs that the flow has begun and then it’s off to the races! You’ll do well to keep those extra supers on standby.

The honey derived from the nectar of these flowers is often described as “extra light amber” and is generally considered to be of good quality. If I had to describe it, I’d say that it’s more sweet and delicate than some other honeys, especially the darker ones which tend to have a stronger, spicy taste. Opinions regarding honey grades are, by all means, subjective but I’ve personally never heard anyone disparage tallow honey and most people seem to really like it or have no distinct opinion on the subject at all. For my part, I prefer to start our Ross Rounds comb honey during the tallow flow because of the speed in which the bees can build up the comb and get them filled. This means that when the rounds are ready to package and sell, the wax is still very soft which makes the comb even more palatable. If you haven’t yet tried those, I highly recommend you do.

Hope everyone is enjoying a break from the rain taking advantage of all this wonderful sunshine! Take care.