Spring brings a surge of activity to our gardens, as sleeping bees awaken and are attracted to blossoming flowers for pollen to feed their brood, and nectar for energy and honey.
As a beekeeper, I soon became aware of the increasing varieties of bees in my garden. The hairy-footed flower bee was an especially astonishing discovery. I saw the round, dark or rusty brown ‘bullet’ of a bee, with its long-outstretched proboscis, darting between the lungwort and early comfrey.
The familiar, loud rumble of the more common bumblebees is a sure sign that spring is approaching. The bumblebee queens awaken and look for suitable empty vole nests and sun-warmed soil, to begin building their wax cups in which they will lay their eggs.
Placing a hive of honeybees into your garden brings with it a responsibility. The new bees will expand from a winter, or ‘nucleus’, colony size of 10,000 bees to a summer peak of 50,000 bees, all of whom need feeding! It is important to ensure that you have sufficient forage in your garden to satisfy this hunger, while still providing enough for the population of solitary and bumblebees in your area.
Early spring is a crucial time, as all bee species are looking for protein-rich pollen and nectar heavy with carbohydrate. Without a balance of both, the colonies can’t survive. Native plants provide a more consistent supply of nectar, as many exotic plants don’t get enough warmth to fill their nectaries. March sees alder, broad beans, phacelia, lungwort and japonicas blossom, leading into April’s comfrey, dandelions, willow, violas, wallflowers and fruit blossoms.