Is whitebox pollen toxic to bees

We appear to have lost bees to whitebox pollen (southern NSW) and a wild population died out completely when it moved into the wildlife reserve behind us populated by this eucalypt species. Our bees bred here seem to know not to go near them but a nuc hive didn’t and died. Has anyone come across this ?

Hi Peter, let me be the first to welcome you to the forum.

A google search revealed lots of White Box honey for sale. Therefore I’m guessing that the pollen mustn’t be toxic to the bees.

My guess is that a local beekeeper might be able to confirm.

Bee colonies frequently die out, mainly due to a lack of a successfully mated queen. Another reason can be disease.

Thanks Jeff, that is comforting. There maybe something else in the large reserve as there are few if any bees in there. Most beekeepers in the region stick to redgum and yellow box. Interestingly, the squirrel gliders here do not use white box leaves in there nests…Peter

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Hi Peter,
According to Honey and Pollen Flora of South Eastern Australia (NSW DPI), the white box can give bees digestive issues and nosema during prolonged periods of wet weather in late winter-early spring. This is if it’s the only or main source of pollen. Nevertheless, the species is still considered as one of the ‘most important flora species to beekeepers.’

My guess is if it’s not a particularly wet season, then the failure of the wild hive was for one of the many other reasons a hive might fail as Jeff mentions above. I live on a farm with 6 types of eucalypt near the house and another half dozen species within 500m. When I moved in and before beekeeping, I noticed wild hives in the tree hollows. They are still there, but over the years they come and go largely as a result of the weather or poor nectar flows. Last year, following a very wet spring, all but the strongest hives died out. Another consideration is, bees definitely have their preferred nectar sources. For instance, if I have red gum and lemon-scented gum flowering, the bees won’t touch the LSGs until they’ve cleaned out the red gum flowers. Last summer, the bees barely touched the messmates at all, but it’s more likely a result of poor nectar flows or there was simply something better on offer.

According to the resource I mentioned above, white box is extremely important for colony brood rearing rather than honey. I hope that helps.


Hello….do I use Outbeck to address you ?

Thank you very much for the information and for the reference. I will look at getting a copy.

I think that I should tell you the story as it may put our situation into context as I am still very wary.

When we sold our farm ( old age), we moved to a 10 ha block near a major regional centre that backed onto what is now a fauna reserve. Previously it was an old stock route and cleared of any useful timber , except white box, and all the understory was grazed into extinction. The Govt closed it and turned it into a fauna reserve, as they do, and the only seed source was white box which proliferated hugely and dominates the eucalypt spp except on the creek where redgum grows. There is no understory, so no alternative nectar source for the local bees.

When we arrived, there were no bees to be found either on our essentially bare block or in the reserve. I was amazed. I had to hand pollinate my vegetables. A swarm set up camp in the hollow of a huge white box near us in the reserve and was extinct in 10 months, no doubt as you suggest, from poor nectar flow in the reserve. They did not seem to visit our garden ??

So we set about planting hundreds of any flowering natives that would grow on these atrocious heavy clay soils and would give us an annual spread of flower source for the bees. Once they had grown enough we bought 2 hives, one of local extraction and one from far away in the hope of introducing some genetic diversity. The import died after the first flowering event of the white box and the local bees stuck to our natives and didn’t venture into the reserve. This is now a very strong hive and I will split it this spring and not introduce any other bees. Our large garden (1.6 acres on the old scale) is thriving.

Even now, you can walk in the reserve when the white Box is flowering and you never hear or see a bee.

Best regards……Peter


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That’s great to hear - all those flowering natives! For bees (in Australia) there’s probably not much better bang for buck than a euc in flower. If you can plant eucs that flower at the same time as the white box, then. they have a decent alternative. If you consider how many trees each foraging bee can visit in a day, then you can never have enough flowering eucs.

All the best AB!
OB (you can call me what you like)

Thanks AB.

We have planted a number of eucs here but establishment time to flowering is slow and the better varieties struggle to establish on these clays. Nevertheless, we keep trying !