At this time of year the main bee food supply comes from trees. The bulbs are still going but trees offer a much greater volume of pollen an nectar; a mature willow tree in March/April can provide as much food as an entire acre of wildflowers in June. Pollen is the priority for the masses of new brood the queen is laying to quickly swell the colony size up from the c. 10 thousand that made if through the winter to 50 thousand or more which make up a healthy productive hive.
I have been studying our bees and the main forage sources they are collecting now are:
- grey willow which provides this very bright yellow pollen (see picture)
- wild cherry - which has a caramel coloured pollen (centre bee in picture)
- grape hyacinth where they are collecting both pollen and nectar
It has been warm (minimum high of 12 degrees) so the bees have been out every day and are streaming in and out of the hive with at least 100 at the entrance at any one time. The bright yellow willow pollen is easily seen from a distance but the other more muted colours are hard to spot; we will see it in the cells on the next inspection.
As most of the trees finish flowering, by mid April, the herbaceous ground level plants start - like natures batten handover.