We haven’t seen much of the bees since we turned the corner into winter. Last week Scott said, “I think the bees are dead”. But Saturday was 46 degF and sunny. For the few hours that the hives were in the sunshine, the bees were busy taking flights both near and far. We saw many housekeeping bees bringing out the dead and field bees returning with light harvests of bright orange pollen. I wonder where they found that??
Now that we have the bees, I look at my yarden, and indeed my neighbourhood, from a new perspective – that of a hungry bee. Is there enough food for our urban bees? NPR ran a story last summer about the shortage of bee food in London due to the enthusiasm for urban beekeeping. The piece concluded that most American cities have not reached this imbalance. My urban neighbourhood is rich in gardens – both ornamental and vegetable, with an abundance of deciduous (i.e. blooming) trees. But pack enough bees into this neighbourhood and we would eventually run short on food.
Planting more bee-friendly landscaping is a great choice – whether or not the bees are tending to hungry. So now in mid-winter when I think of Garden Year 2014 I think of what my bees will have to forage on and when. As I consider new plants for my yarden, I think of what time of the year they would bloom and whether they provide bee food. Not all flowering plants provide bee food. For example, I learned last summer that the pollen of tomato flowers can’t be accessed by honeybees. They need to be ‘buzz-pollinated’ by a stronger bee like a bumblebee.
Check out this Wikipedia table for which crop plants are pollinated by what type of bee:
Grow kale during the winter. It’s one of those winter hardy ‘superfoods.’ Come early spring, it’ll go to flowers which the bees love. Also I’m finding out about bulbs. You can plant them in the fall (probably too late now) and they pop up in late February. I’m anxious about the Siberian Scilla I planted in November. I’m told bees will gather blue pollen from them.
My huge witch hazel has just started blooming. I hope we get some decent days that the bees can come out to enjoy it! I look forward to seeing what else appears early for them!
I have always wanted to try my hand at keeping some bee’s. I am in a suburb of a major city and there is a lot of food for bees. Now I just need to learn how to get started. I have a great spot in my yard for a hive. Oh and I will need to convince my wife, who is not to keen on the idea. seems like an uphill battle, but I am willing to give it a go.