White clover is the major pasture legume for the NSW North Coast and Northern Tablelands. In good clover years beekeers move their hives onto clover country in spring to breed bees and possibly collect the high quality clover honey.
The quality of white clover pollen appears to be good, with a crude protein range of 22.5% to 25.4%. However the amino-acids iso-leucine and valine are major limiting factors (Table 25) which would greatly reduce the value of white clover by itself to build high protein bees.
However, white clover is often in association with other flora such as thistles, flatweed and eucalypts, which will supplement the shortage of valine.
These pollen protein analyses of white clover are in conflict with beekeepers experience, as white clover is known to be a floral source that appears to supply all the bees required breeding needs of pollen quantity and quality with a good nectar supply. Often, swarming is a problem.
However, hive build-up and swarming is possibly a factor of good spring conditions and nectar stimulation, rather than just clover-pollen. Good swarm control methods will usually stop bees swarming when working this floral source. There are two main swarm control methods: young fertile queens that are able to hold the hive together, and plenty of spare boxes on the hive.
On occasions, white clover yields large volumes of khaki-coloured pollen that is easily collected in pollen traps. Clover pollen would be ideal for collection and feedback to bees in winter, or on a pollen-deficient honey flow, especially as part of a soyflour and pollen mix.
Farmers and graziers welcome the beekeeper, as the bees pollinate the clover flowers. This is particularly important on the tablelands as white clover is an annual plant requiring seed to re-establish the clover pastures in future seasons.
Table 25: White clover Trifolium repens
* Low level of this amino-acid
White clover pollen seen under a microscope (X400)
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