Between the showers, the sun is very strong and the the sycamores are alive with bees. One of the good things about sycamore flowers is that they hang down beneath the leaves in the shelter of the canopy so showers don’t really harm them. However, gusty squalls will tear off the flowering panicles – lovely.
The forecast for the next few days is good, so with the trees in full bloom there is a good chance of a few pounds of honey.
The dandelion season is almost over in most places but up here, on this chilly hill, they are still very much in flower which is nice for us and for the bees.
They are out working away in every patch of sunshine and this picture shows the colour of the pollen loads – a much stronger yellow than willow or rape. Inside the hives, everything is bright yellow with dandelion pollen. A little honey is appearing in the supers, it is very yellow quick to granulate and has a bit of a bitter aftertaste but the smell around the hives is wonderful – sort of waxy and musky.
Like it or loath it – the wild garlic comes up like a green tide each spring. Personally, I like it. It’s a lovely pungent addition to salads and it makes a great pesto.
There are several species of wild garlic all of which are closely related to the garlic we buy in the shops (Allium sativum). Only 3 members of the garlic family are resident in Ireland, only two are of interest to the bees and only one is a true native but all of them are edible.
Ramsons or Allium ursinum or ‘Bear garlic’- native Irish plant (see header photo above)
Three Cornered Leek or Allium triquetrum – probably introduced from Europe 3 hundred years ago (photo below)
The bees visit both species although it’s nothing they’ll ever get a crop from, which is probably just as well.
Pollen loads are yellow as displayed by this very obliging, if slightly fuzzy, bumble bee seen here on some Three Cornered Leek or Allium triquetrum. Click it for a better view.
Here’s an interesting photograph – the bee in the photo above is being hoisted aloft inside a gorse flower (Ulex europaeus) by the spring-loaded pollination-paraphernalia. Note the brownish orange pollen load.
Crocuses are only just opening now but should be open every sunny day from now until mid-March. The bees won’t get honey from these but fresh pollen at this time of the year is important as it will give them all a bit of a boost and help get the queen laying. Continue reading Crocus Bees→
The garden heathers are in bloom now and the bees are all over them whenever the weather allows. These are not to be confused with the Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) we see on the hills in the late summer – they are all Erica species, mostly varieties of Erica carnea or E.cinerea. Erica specialists please correct me here. Continue reading Garden Heathers→
On a filthy February day like this, when the rain keeps coming down and you’re harbouring a horrible virus, spring seems a long way away. Summer even further, so lets pretend it’s July, the sun is slanting through the trees and the bees are spiralling out of their hives like little golden bullets – the limes are in bloom, there is work to do and the tree tops are buzzing…
The scientific name for Horse Chestnut is Aesculus hippocastanum but that’s a bit of a mouthful for the familiar conker tree. The common name came about for several reasons:
The seeds or ‘conkers’ and the spikey seed pods are similar in appearance to those of the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). It should be noted that unlike chestnuts, conkers are not for human consumption;
When the leaves fall in autumn the twigs bear a horseshoe-shaped scar including marks like nail holes where the tiny vessels in the leaf stem part company;
At one time horse chestnuts were ground and fed to horses as a stimulant and to make their coats shine. The Turks used to believe conker-meal could cure broken-winded horses.
The Latin name Aesculus comes from a word that was originally applied to a type of oak but when Linnaeus the botanist drew up his original classification of species he gave it instead to the horse chestnut. ‘Hippo’ is Greek for horse, which also explains hippopotamus – meaning ‘river horse’. Meanwhile ‘kastanos‘ means chestnut. Continue reading Bee Trees – Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)→