A queen 'early' bumblebee - bombus pratorum - made her way into the shelter of the polytunnel yesterday and made straight for the only plant already in flower; the pulmonarias.
Pulmonaria starts flowering as early as February and can go on flowering til May. Initially you get the shock of blue against a background of small over-wintered grey leaves. Then after the first flowers finish the plant sends up new lush bigger leaves with attractive cream spots. If you cut the first flowers off when they are nearly finished you should get a second lot of flowers.
This plant is a woodland native so will tolerate shade but especially under trees. Its strategy is to flower before the canopy of leaves arrive overhead. This is why it makes a good early flowering plant to support bumblebee queens when they initially come out of hibernation and need to find food to fatten up before they start laying eggs.
Later on the flowers will attract a range of the larger solitary bees; I get lots of the 'hairy-footed flower bees' - Anthophora plumipes - which behave like the hummingbirds of the bee world, hovering under each hanging bloom while the assess its value and darting from flower to flower (making photography very difficult).
See plants for our stock