February In The Apiary
February is often considered to be the dullest, dankest month of the year. However the nights are getting shorter and when the sun shines there is a definite feeling of spring in the air. It was just such a day last week, the sun was shining and the air was warm . It was too much for the bees and they came out in force. The air positively vibrated with the sound of buzzing as the girls hurled themselves around gathering nectar and pollen from snowdrops and crocus.
The gathering of pollen is a very good sign; it means that there is brood and also a queen present. I sat and watched them for some time, their pollen baskets were full of red pollen from snowdrops and it seemed that all the hives had survived……..so far.
February is the time of the year when we could lose some colonies from starvation. We keep a close eye on their stores. A few did seem a little light and so they were given some fondant just in case.
There has been a lot written recently about the declining bee population. Unfortunately a lot of the message is about the honey bee which is not in any real danger. Heaven knows in a few months we will be having a battle to contain them. It is the other pollinating insects that need our help. Bumble Bees particularly together with hover flies, bee flies and a variety of insignificant little insects that no one notices. All these are declining at an ever increasing speed and we can do our bit by planting bee friendly plants, not being too tidy in the autumn and winter and leaving some long grass. Also leaving clover to flower in your lawn for a couple of weeks in the summer time gives the bees some forage.
Plant of the month
The lungworts and particularly Pulmonaria rubra are brilliant forage for emerging Bumble Bees at this time of the year. Their brick red flowers are carried over light green leaves which are evergreen. Happy in sun or shade they make superb ground cover for those difficult situations.