Category Archives: Foraging

Pollen

Between the rain showers our bees are busy bringing pollen and nectar back to their colonies. Pollen is a vital food for all bees, and it is fascinating to see the variety of different colours that they are bringing in at the moment. Different types of plant produce different colours of pollen, so it is possible to get an idea about what they have been foraging on if you know what you are looking at!

I recently bought a set of pollen identification cards. There is a card for each month which shows the most common pollen colours for that time of the year.  I’ve laminated my set, so that they will survive being toted around in my bee suit pockets. We’ve had some fun watching the bees arriving at the hives and trying to match up the colours. We think that they are currently bringing in bluebell, dandelion and cherry pollens.

It is a good reminder that bees do really rely on some “weeds” like dandelions, so please think twice before mowing them off or pulling them out of your garden.

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Promise of Spring

Over the weekend I made the most of the fine weather and planted the spring bulbs that I’d bought. I find this time of the year a bit gloomy – with the clocks changing soon and the thought of those dull grey days… I like to think on to the spring. Last year I planted lots of crocus bulbs in our front lawn and in the spring they were so lovely (and really appreciated by the bees). This year I’m planting even more and some miniature irises and daffodils. With luck we will have a good display early next year.

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It took me about 40 minutes to plant 300 bulbs – a relatively quick job for several weeks of spring colour – definitely worth my while I think!

Bee watching

I really enjoy standing near our hives and watching what is going on at the hive entrances. It is a good way to get an idea about the fortunes of a colony. I have noticed lots of wasps around over the last couple of weeks and I was pleased to see that the bees were quick to dispatch a couple that were trying their luck to try and get into a hive. I’m relieved that we made the decision to combine some colonies earlier in the season, which means that the colonies that we have now are large and can easily defend themselves.

I also noticed that many of the bees were arriving with lots of bright orange pollen – they carry it in pollen baskets on their back legs – I believe that they are collecting it from Asters. I must replace the plants that died in our garden as it is obviously a favourite at the moment.

Orange pollen

There are plenty of sedum plants in our neighbourhood – another late summer bee favourite. You can see in the picture below that the bees are willing them to flower more quickly!

Bees on sedum

Honey harvest and late summer foraging

Another season of beekeeping is starting to wind down. Last night we were busy preparing cut comb and spinning out the last frames from our favourite hive – Hive 2. For some reason the bees in that hive make more honey than any of our others and they forage on different flowers, giving a more flavoursome honey. They are also sweet natured.

Preparing cut comb

Spinning honey  

The bees have been busy in our garden – there aren’t so many nectar giving flowers at this time of the year, but they have managed to seek out these ones…

Honey bees on Echinacea
Echinacea

Honey bees on pumpkin flower
Pumpkin

Bargain Dahlias

Everyone loves a bargain don’t they? I picked up some dahlia tubers earlier this year at our local 99p shop – I think that there were 5 or 6 in a bag. I’m so pleased that they have all thrived and turned out to be single dahlias in a variety of colours. The single type are real favorites of pollinators (they can’t get to the pollen or nectar in doubles) and they are being constantly visited by honey and bumble bees.

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July bee plants

This Callistemon shrub that we have in our garden has been flowering for over a month now and everyday it is crowded with bees. It is fun to watch them come out of the hive, and drop straight down from our roof on to the flowers. The children call it The Bottle Brush Tree…

The lavender in our neighbourhood has been really good this year, and there is plenty of it. We stopped to look at the bees on this bush today and spotted 5 different types of bee.

There has been sweet chestnut flowering too, which gives a very dark honey – it’ll be interesting to see if our bees found any to forage on.

Yesterday while I was inspecting our hives in Hendon, I noticed that some of the bees where coming back to the hive with a splash of white on their backs – a sign that they are foraging on Himalayan Balsam.

Nectar flow is now!

Suddenly the hives are humming – bees are piling in and out throughout the daylight hours and as the sun goes down there is a terrific fanning noise. The bees fan the honey with their wings to reduce the water content – this is their busiest time of year!

The warm weather is perfect for gathering nectar, so it is important for us to keep a close eye on the hives to make sure the bees have enough room to store it and continue to raise brood.

The lime trees locally are just starting to open, and we’ve seen bees very busy on lavender and clover. We haven’t mown our lawn this week so the bees can make the most of it.

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Pollinator Week

Apparently this week is pollinator week! We are supposed to be celebrating our little friends, so I thought I’d take a little tour around our garden and see what they have been up to…

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Strawberry season is well under way – we’ve been enjoying some most days recently. Last year we made some wire cages to go around the plants as they were raided by squirrels – they seen to be doing the trick so far…

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Broad beans

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Snap peas

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Gooseberries

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White currents

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Apples

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Blueberries

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Raspberries

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Blackberries

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Grapes

Without pollinators none of these delicious fruits and vegetables would have set and our diets would be much the poorer as a result. So, thank you little creatures – we’ll do our best to take care of you in return for your hard work.

 

Water

Bees need to collect lots of water to take back to the hive. I’d noticed several in our garden collecting from an old container with some stinky water in it, which I couldn’t imagine was going to improve the health of our colonies…

I decided to give them something a bit nicer, with fresh water and some stones in it to sit on so they don’t drown. I put it in the same spot as the old container and they really seem to enjoy it. I had initially put it a couple of feet away, but it was completely ignored – bees are very precise creatures!

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Spring fodder

Every day more and more flowers are opening here, spring is well under way!

Here are some of the things that the bees have been enjoying in our garden.

Primroses

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Pulmonaria

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Apricot – I’m stupidly excited by the prospect of having our own apricots!

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Heather

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Willow – this was taken this morning, a few feet away from our hives in Hendon. Each tree has dozens of flowers, providing a huge source of pollen at this time of the year.

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