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Beekeeper’s Notes April 2018: It’s All Kicking Off Again

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon. He talks about the new season starting again.

It’s has been a lovely, seasonal month. ‘In like a lion and out like a lamb’ says the saying about March and it has proved right this year. Snow at the start of March was beautiful; crisp and dry due, I presume, to the low humidity.

It was -11 degrees C outside our house but it didn’t feel too cold and it was lovely to walk out in.

A good four inches fell at the beginning of the month giving a picturesque scene. The bees tightly cluster in the hive to keep warm. Click on the images to enlarge in a new window.

Through the month, the weather gradually got warmer, falling back on and off but with an upward temperature trend. At every opportunity, the bees have taken the gift of the warmer weather, anything above about 10 degrees C, and been out and about doing their business.

In some cases, literally as they were on defecation flights; offloading after a long spell of forced indoors captivity.

Great activity outside the hive on the first warm day of the year in mid March.

I could see bucket loads of pollen going in which is a good sign that the queen is likely to be laying – just what should be happening now. She was down to virtually zero over Christmas but has gradually increased her production. All of this is conjecture as I haven’t opened up any of my hives yet this year. But it is a fair bet.

Pollen pouring into the hive as soon as the weather warmed up. You need to click on this photo to get a better look.

You wonder where all of the pollen is coming from so early in the year but it’s obviously out there. I have seen at least three different coloured pollens arriving at the hive entrance from the bright yellow, to an orangy-yellow to a grey. It is of course, the common flowers and plants that supply most of the common needs of insects.

On a quick walk around my area with a camera, there were lots of plants ready for the bees. No bees in sight on any of the flowers though but the hard (or soft pollen) evidence is there at the hive.

So, crocus and snowdrops catch our attention as they do the bees. But there are also daisies and dandelions even this early in the year. Then there is the lesser celandine in the road and track verges, unobtrusive but very profuse and with bright yellow pollen.

Celandine on Broad Sreet common.

And willow is coming out as well and that will be a great food source for our bees.

Willow on the common producing pollen.

And the forsythia in our gardens.

The forsythia blooms really early and is used by the bees.

Then comes the daffodils. Lovely though they are, they are not top of the bees list as a food source. Like roses or pansies, they are bred for their looks and colour and not for their pollen or nectar. If it looks like a very complicated flower or with a variegated colour, the chances are it won’t be attractive to insects.

Daffodils look lovely and we welcome them in the spring but not as a food source for bees except as a last resort.

It looks like all my hives have survived the winter which is great. I am looking forward to having the first look some time next month, weather permitting.

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