Lime Time Is Prime Time

Lime Time Is Prime Time
Lime Time Is Prime Time

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 !

5 Replies to “Lime Time Is Prime Time”

  1. What a lovely photo, Dale, you can almost smell the perfume of the delicate blossom! Our ‘Bermondsey girls’ do make exceedingly good (award winning) honey from their rooftop homes!

    1. As the winners of the “Best Honey Inside the M25” at the Nationals in 2010, your penthouse bees set a “high” standard for the rest of us in SE1!

  2. I am a beekeeper of 50 years and remember the lime trees producing nectar but I have only seen 1 lime tree being worked by bees in the past 8 years and that was 2 years ago up in Lancashire. I watch the limes closely every year because, as you say, their flowering is a great indication of the honey flow period but the flowers are all dry. 🙁 Have the trees been attacked by a disease? Ray, Tunbridge Wells

    1. Interesting question, Ray.

      Our Limes look healthy to me (although a little ravaged by last night’s thunderstorms !). I was away for the main Lime flow earlier this month, but from my observation of the bees’ stores, it looks like it was a relatively light year for Lime in London SE1, which is similar to your experience of “dry” Lime flowers.

      Anyone out there know about any disease in Lime trees, or had any remarkable experience of Lime nectar flows recently ?

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