Honey bee forage: hardy kiwi
The hardy kiwi or “northern kiwi” (Actinidia arguta) is a vine that produces thousands of small, smooth-skinned kiwis about the size of large grapes. The plants are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. I planted two of these about five years ago and they have gotten huge and very productive.
The small white flowers bloom early and attract all kinds of bees—bumble bees, honey bees, mason bees, and many others. These kiwis are dependent on insect pollinators so a good crop is the result of many industrious visitors. On a warm spring morning, I can hear the plants buzzing before I get close enough to see the bees.
Since the fruits are smooth-skinned, they can be eaten straight off the vine. I also use them for jam, cobblers, and pies—just about any fruit-based concoction. Like regular commercially-grown kiwis they can be picked before they are ripe and held in the refrigerator for a long time. So, at the end of the fall before the first freeze, I collect all the remainders and put them in the fridge where they last for many weeks.
I have been unable to discover how nutritious kiwi pollen is for honey bees, however I learned that the regular commercially-grown kiwifruit are not especially attractive to European honey bees and so the growers must place extra hives among the vines to achieve adequate pollination. This does not seem to be true with hardy kiwis however. In my experience, the honey bees love them.