While countryside bees are jumping gleefully onto the flowering blackberries and clovers, urban bees are about to enjoy the foraging highlight of the year – the Lime-flow. No, before you ask, the Lime trees which produce this bounteous nectar and pollen are not related to the green citrus sort of lime. It is confusing, but the common Lime trees (tilia x europaea) – Linden if you’re American or German, tilleul if you happen to be of the French persuasion – make this a terrific time of year for the bees, as long as the temperature is high enough (above 23C) for the flowers to produce nectar. And that’s the way the next fortnight’s weather is heading….
Lime honey has a pale green tinge to it, is very bright and tastes incredible: for me, Lime is a luscious, long-tasting honey with a twist (somewhere between elderflower, mint and passion-fruit) to balance the intense sweetness. It resists crystallization and is highly prized by beekeepers. Lime has been the foundation of prize-winning honey for the Bermondsey Street Bees: a jar of honey from Shard Hive won “Best Honey From Inside The M25” in the National Honey Show in 2011 and a jar from Abbey Hive won “Best Rooftop Honey” at the 2012 London Honey Show.
So the next couple of weeks will be make or break for this season’s honey crop for the Bermondsey Street Bees. The prospect of surplus honey stores has looked precarious, at best, up to now this year. But with a couple of weeks blessed with a temperature in the high 20s, the nectar-flow from the Lime trees should be impressive – especially since, coming a bit late this year, it has given the bees a chance to get their foraging numbers up to strength to take advantage of this tree-top feast.
The one drawback of Lime trees is the gluey slime which mats the pavements when the nectar-flow nears its end. That is honeydew, exuded by aphids which also revel in the Lime nectar, and is nothing to do with honey (“Blimey – first its Lime trees which don’t grow limes and now its honeydew which isn’t honey, is he having me on ?”).
Next time you feel a sticky sole underfoot as you walk along a humid London pavement, look up and listen. You may well hear the low hum of bees at work on the lime flowers at the dome of the tree. And be sure to inhale, deeply….the Lime top-note of Bermondsey Street Honey will flood your senses !