Honey bee forage: vine maple
We have a lot of different maples here in the Pacific Northwest, but by far the most inconspicuous in the summer is the vine maple, Acer cincinatum. Not very imposing, it grows to the size of a large shrub or a small tree. It often lives in the shady understory of a conifer forest, although it also pops up in lowlands, clearcuts, and on steep slopes. It has long and skinny branched trunks that root when they touch the soil, so the tree gets a tangled and viney appearance, often forming graceful arches over trails and small streams.
In contrast to its modest summer appearance, it is the most showy of the Pacific Northwest maples in the fall when its leave turn bright red or dayglo orange. What was almost invisible during the summer evolves into an autumn masterpiece.
John Lovell in Honey Plants of North America (1926) says the vine maple is a more important honey plant than the broadleaf (bigleaf) maple, Acer macrophyllum, probably because it blooms a little later. He says, “The honey has a fine flavor and is white or amber-colored with a faint pinkish tinge.” According to Nectar and Pollen Plants of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest (1989), the nectar is 27-58% sugar and some years the trees produce large amounts. Honey bees collect pollen as well as nectar when the trees bloom in late April to early May.
I got the photo last week. The blooms were mostly over, but a few bees were searching for those last delicious drops.