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.
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…
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…
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.
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!
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.
Apricot – I’m stupidly excited by the prospect of having our own apricots!
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.
I’m so pleased with the crocus patch in our front lawn that we planted last year. A couple of weeks ago there was no sign of anything and I was busy blaming squirrels for making off with all the bulbs…
I think that we’ll need to add to it this autumn – I must remember to mark our exactly where these ones are, so we don’t plant over them. I read the other day that the lawn shouldn’t be mown for at least 40 days after the flowers have gone over to allow the bulbs time to bulk up for next year.
We had had some beautiful days here over the last week. It is so good to feel some warmth in the sun and be able to work in the garden without a coat again. The bees at home have been very active – there are lots of spring flowers out around us at the moment, it is wonderful to see them taking pollen into the hives. Pollen is an important food for developing bees, so seeing pollen being collected can be an indication that there is brood in the hive. As well as pollen they are very busy collecting water – they seem to love collecting it from damp moss and droplets on the roof of our little greenhouse. The colony needs water at this time of the year, the nurse bees need it to feed the growing bees and they also use it to dilute honey stores that have crystallised over the winter.
Here is a recent picture from one of the Hendon hives, if you look carefully you can see some bright orange pollen being taken into the hive.
Another local feast for bees!
The camellias are just starting to flower in our area, although the ones we have on the north side of our house are still in tight bud.
This week has felt long – sick children and cold weather. Today the sun came out! The bees are out flying and some are bringing pollen back to their hives. The garden is stirring and the early spring flowers are beginning to open.
These are from our garden – it is so good to see results from the bulbs I have planted.
One of our neighbours has this spectacular display on their lawn – a real pollen feast for bees!
The last few weeks have been cold here, freezing overnight. I haven’t seen the bees flying recently – it is too chilly for them! The garden is stirring though. The Winter Aconites and Snowdrops have just started to flower. I planted them both a couple of years ago and it is lovely to see them doing well. Flowers like these provide bees with vital food on warmer winter days. The queen in each hive will hopefully be starting to lay eggs again soon after a winter break. The brood requires pollen to develop, so having these winter flowers around is important for their survival.
Last month I heard Dave Goulson’s fascinating talk about bumble bees at the London Honey Show. Since then I’ve read his book A Sting in the Taleand now I’m enjoying A Buzz in the Meadow. I’ve found both really inspiring and as a result have been thinking about how we can encourage more mini beasts into our neighbourhood.
At the National Honey show last weekend there was a stall by the company Meadow in my Garden. http://www.meadowinmygarden.co.uk They specialise in creating different seed mixes for various situations. I’ve decided to try out their shady mix for an empty patch in our north facing front garden. I’ve just sowed it, so with luck next spring and summer we should have some flowers. If it goes really well perhaps I’ll consider digging up some of the lawn!
This very mild autumn has meant that there has been plenty of forage for the bees. Yesterday I noticed that they were heading towards our neighbour’s garden – she has a couple of large Fatshedera which are currently in full flower.