There are a lot of wasps about this spring (2014). Unless some predator kills a lot of them, or they get some horrible wasp disease there is going to be a plague of them later this year.
These great big ones you see early in the year are the queens. The emerge towards the end of summer then, after mating, they overwinter in dark corners of your shed or in the hive roofs. I heard of somebody who would stack lengths of timber with little lats between them to provide tempting crevices to attract hibernating wasp queens. Once they were all tucked in and asleep – he’d go and pull all the lats out for christmas. Continue reading Common Wasp→
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.
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.
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)→
The scientific name of the hawthorn is Crataegus monogyna, Crataegus comes from a Greek word meaning ‘strong’ while monogyna means ‘one ovary’ and the resulting single stone in the fruits, or haws, is a distinguishing feature. The hawthorn has many other names including Sceach Gheal, Whitethorn or Quickthorn and May, Maybush or Mayblossom. Continue reading Bee Trees – Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)→
Willows (Salix spp.) bloom early in the year – February or March – and are very important and popular with the bees which can be seen thudding onto the landing board bearing very large loads of powder-yellow pollen. In an exceptionally warm spring the bees may even bring in a small crop of honey but this is very rare.
They are a complex group of many species ranging from ground hugging mountain shrubs, to graceful riverside trees. Despite their diversity of form and habitat, willows are often to be found in wet, boggy places or close to water. Continue reading Bee Trees – Willow (Salix spp)→
Look out for orange/brown pollen loads – along with the brighter orange from the snowdrops.
In fact, when the weather does warm up and the bees are active and bringing in that brown pollen it is worth going out to watch them working the gorse because the flower is specially designed to make best use of the bees for pollination. Enjoy the strong coconut scent of the flowers while you’re at it. Continue reading Blooming Gorse→