Last week we had another brief flurry of snow, and it was back to huddling with my coat on in the office. But then this weekend brought sunshine, and it was wonderful to see the bees pinging back and forth into their hives, and even bringing back pollen!
Every year I like to photograph the purple crocuses that shoot up from the apiary floor. This year’s photo is blurrier than I’d like, but hopefully you can spot the traffic-colour orange that nestles within. Ted Hooper says of crocus: “excellent source of early pollen. Low on the ground, and therefore sheltered, it can be worked at low temperatures.” Look out for its cheery orange in the pollen baskets of your bees.
You can see these crocuses are partially open; the time of day was around 3pm and crocuses are usually fully open around midday. I was interested to read the following information in ‘Plants and Honey Bees: their relationships‘ by David Aston & Sally Bucknall (2004), p69: “Tulips and crocuses show thermonasty, a response to a general, non-directional temperature stimulus; the crocus is sensitive to as little as 0.5C change in temperature, and this change will determine the opening and closing of the flower.“
The snowdrops also offer hope and a source of food to the bees. Ted Hooper sees these as “The real harbingers of spring, a patch naturalized in a lawn will delight the bees’ senses as well as your own.” Bees collect the nectar from grooves on the inner surface of the petals.
Some other plants which will be flowering now – hazel, willow, aconite. Emma discovered a sweet post by the National Trust’s Osterley Park blog on the catkins of hazel, which are essential food for emerging bumble bee queens:
— Emma Sarah Tennant(@EmmaSTennant) February 17, 2013
Above, our bees on their fondant – some have died within the packet. Perhaps of coldness or tiredness? Emma noticed that our hive feels worryingly light; I can even heft it one-handed. As we are already feeding fondant there is nothing more we can do now – just wait, wait and hope.
Are your bees finding pollen? What’s flowering where you are?