Bumble Bees and Strawberry Trees

A bumble bee of blossom of a Strawberry Tree

Arbutus unedo, commonly called Strawberry Tree, Apple of Cain, or Cane Apple, is an evergreen shrub or small tree in the family Ericaceae, native to the Mediterranean region. Lots of them grow here in Tuscany. The trees blossoms very late from the end of autumn during winter. The white blossoms are rich in nectar and therefore bees really take to them. Honey produced during the blooming season of the Strawberry Tree has a aromatic and somewhat bitter flavor and is considered precious. This honey is a great served together with aged Italian cheeses, especially aged Pecorino cheese from Sardinia.
Unfortunately for gourmets quite often the Strawberry Trees blossom so deeply into winter and rather low temperatures, that bees do not fly any more, and none of the precious honey is produced. But that is fortunate for the bumble bees who are able to fly even at very low temperatures and flock in big numbers to the blossoming Strawberry Trees to harvest the nectar of their blossoms.
I took this photo today, on the first day of 2012 at lunchtime.

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2 thoughts on “Bumble Bees and Strawberry Trees

  1. I am so glad I saw your post. I have a small Arbutus unedo which is having a hard time getting established and just had its first flowers frozen in an unusual cold snap. I did not make the connection with the bumble bees so it will get extra care now.

    • Arbutus unedo are quite strudy plants and do not mind some frost once they are established in the ground. Yours is a bit unfortunate since it got hit by really extreme wether conditions right in the beginning. I hope it will survive and you will have a lot of fun with it because lots of bumble bees will harvest from it during the most part of winter when it is too cold for honey bees to fly.

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