This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
A. J. M., Berlin Heights, Ohio, writes: - "Two or three years ago I had some Rhododendrons which came out before the red clover, and would you think it, it was something new for Ohio humble bees. They came and eat holes in the buds, and not finding the honey they continued to eat the flowers, and got so stupid or poisoned they could not fly for some time. I never noticed this in the East, where the Kalmia and wild Rhododendron are common. I have them both growing here, as well as the cultivated varieties."
[There is, we think, no evidence that is entirely satisfactory that the honey of the Rhododendron is poisonous; though it is repeated over and over again by book makers. The story arose from the accounts of ancient Roman writers, as to the poisonous character of the flowers. But what they called Rhododendron in their day, is the Oleander of ours, and that is poisonous, and very much so. In North Carolina last year, the writer came on an extensive beekeeper, in the midst of hundreds of acres of Rhododendron maximum, who said that next to the flowers of the Linden tree, that from the Rhododendron was the best. Why bees sometimes die after flower visits it is hard to tell. Some years ago the writer saw hundreds of bees dead under a large Chinese Wistaria, and felt justified in concluding that the Wistaria was fatal to bees; but since then he has seen bees by the hundreds collecting honey from Wistaria flowers, without knowing of any deaths. - Ed G. M.]