Do Bees that Make Varietal Honey Know Which Flowers to Visit?

How do beekeepers make sure the bees that make varietal honey visit only the flowers they’re supposed to?

In theory, bees forage as close to the hive as they possibly can, so beekeepers place hives near the plants they want the bees to visit, according to Daniel Weaver, president of the American Beekeeping Federation. Keepers also take advantage of the fact that specific plants bloom only at certain times of the year. For orange-blossom honey, for example, hives are put in the middle of an orange grove during the period when the trees are flowering. Scout bees find abundant orange-blossom nectar next to the hive and direct forager bees to it. But bees are known to travel miles in search of nectar, so there is no guarantee that some bees won’t feed on other flowers. When a honey was created from a large variety of flowers, it is generally labeled “wildflower honey” (whether those flowers really grow wild or are cultivated), but the USDA has established standards only for honey quality, not for varietal labeling. This means that a dishonest apiary could put whatever name they wanted on any honey. From a trustworthy producer, orange-blossom honey will indeed come predominantly from orange blossoms, but it’s very unlikely that 100 percent of the honey will come from that one type of flower, Weaver says.