Faba beans

Vicia faba

Faba beans are being planted by farmers as a rotation with cereal crops. It is a winter-growing crop and flowers in August and September.

The quality of faba bean pollen is good, being 22% to 24% crude protein, and all the amino-acids are well supplied within the protein. Iso-leucine (which is usually low in other pollens) is above_ the 4% required by honey bees. (Table 21)

Bees will readily work the crop, collecting pollen, but only a little nectar. If no other nectar-producing flowers are available, hives will eat out their stored honey, and may become energy-deficient. Hives that do not have sufficient stored honey may need to be fed sugar, so as to fully benefit from this floral source.

Bees working faba beans have been observed to breed rapidly, and are motivated to swarm as springtime temperatures increase. Somerville (1995) reports that honey bees bred on faba beans do not lose body-protein, although they have bred very rapidly. This indicates that the faba beans is a very valuable spring-build floral source.

Faba beans have many pests and diseases which need to be controlled with fungicides and insecticides. Spraying could occur when the bees are foraging on the crop. Notifying farmers and air spray companies of the location of the bees could help to ensure that hives are not sprayed.

The pollen of faba beans would be suitable for collection and feeding back to the bees. Honeybees will assist in the pollenation of faba beans. Report indicate that a 24% increase in yields maybe achieved when the faba beans are actively worked by bees. (Somerville 1996).

Table 21: Faba beans Vicia faba

Minimum % of Amino-Acid from De Groot (1953)
Darlington Point early Sept 1993
Darlington Point late Sept 1993 
Threonine 3.0 4.6 4.8
Valine 4.0 5.2 5.1
Methionine 1.5 1.8 1.8
Leucine 4.5 6.9 6.8
Iso-leucine 4.0 4.8 4.6
Phenylalanine 2.5 4.0 4.3 
Lysine 3.0 7.4  6.8 
="Arial"Histidine 1.5 2.3  2.2
Arginine 3.0 4.8  5.0 
Tryptophan 1.0 - -
Crude protein - 24.1% 22.3%

(From : Somerville 1995)

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