Toxic honey caused by bees foraging on English or Cherry Laurel

Asked July 30, 2017, 7:27 PM EDT

Dear Sirs or Madame, On the suggestion of the Oregon Bee Keeper's Association, I am forwarding the following question to you: "Can locating a bee box near a hedge of English or Cherry Laurel lead to the honey being toxic? I want to move a bee box so that the back of the box is near a hedge of English Laurel, a plant I have heard is poisonous. Could this result in the honey taken from that bee box being toxic?" I would appreciate any insight you might be able to share. Ted Job

Clackamas County Oregon

1 Response

Most parts of the Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) plant are considered poisonous (read more at https://ask.extension.org/questions/356982). And there have been anecdotal reports that honey bees foraging on this plant (and others) may produce a toxic honey. The risk to those consuming such honey is directly dependent of the number of plants blooming within the foraging area of a hive of bees, and the relative attractiveness of those blooms to other plants in the area.

For instance, if these plants bloom during what is normally a good honey flow in your area, then the toxicity of any one particular nectar source will likely be diluted with many other sources. However, if this plant blooms during what is otherwise a nectar dearth in your area, then its effects may pose a greater risk, as there may be little else for the bees to collect, and the honey may become more highly saturated.

If this is a plant that is commonly grown as an ornamental in your area, then it is likely that the local bees may already be utilizing it in their honey. Ask other beekeepers in your area if they have ever seen any effects. If no other beekeepers in your area have ever reported a concern, then there may be little risk.

If this is a plant not commonly grown in your area, consider not adding it to your landscape, as it may be considered invasive in some areas.

Locating a bee hive next to an existing hedge poses no greater risk to the bees or their honey than locating a hive 100 yards away from it, as honey bees will forage up to several miles to seek food.

For more specific local information, contact your own County Extension office directly:
https://ask.extension.org/expert/home/county/2209
or
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/clackamas/