With spring nearing, Erica’s bees have been outside for the first time this year. A special moment! Unfortunately, there is also some sad news. Urban beekeeper Erica will tell us all about it in this month’s bee update!
First Flight of the Year
“As I am writing this, spring seems far away. It’s a dreary, rainy day. But that has not stopped me from visiting the hives today! As there is not much to see right now, I can only hope everything is well. Luckily, up till now the bees have coped with the winter really well and on a warmer day last week they were already enthusiastically flying outside.
Are there pollen yet?
At those warmer early spring days the first of the pollen can be brought inside. You might wonder if the bees can already find pollen so early in the year, but they most certainly do! One very early flowering plant is already in bloom, the yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). This herbaceous plant grows in European woodlands and although it is poisonous to humans, the bees make thankful use of those early flowers. As soon as temperatures rise over 10° C, the flowers will be busy with hungry bees.
Another plant that is already flowering is the hazel tree (Corylus avellana). The hazel is an amazing source for food all year round. During winter the nuts are collected and eaten by mice, squirrels and other rodents, and when spring arrives bees are more than happy to collect its pollen. Although the plant is a wind pollinator and therefore not dependent on insects for the distribution of its seeds, my bees can just as well collect the pollen and use it as a perfect energy source.
Despite the happy arrival of spring, I have to say I am a bit nervous. Some bee colonies of my colleagues have not survived the winter, even though the weather has been relatively soft. It was a very sad scene to witness. The big question now is why they have died. Has it been a food shortage? Was the burden of varroa mites too high? Or have they been suffering from something else, like Nosema, a unicellular parasite that damages the intestines of bees? A lot of question and insecurities. Let’s hope the other colonies will survive.
Through a Bee’s Eyes
But still there are so many nice surprises and lovely moments. As a beekeeper, you start to look at nature in an entirely different way. You start paying more attention to all that is flowering and look for possible food source for the bees. Right now, I get so happy looking at the crocuses that start to emerge. And when I feel strong breeze, it will make me wonder if the bees will make it to the hive, with their bellies so full of nectar. There is a whole new world when you look through the eyes of an insect!
PS. this Friday, I will post another recipe that would be perfect for using honey!