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: