|The Pussy Willow is about to flower - perfect for my bees|
The bees have been flying this winter when the weather has been mild. This has made me think about what they've been foraging on. Like everyone else, I've been noticing the early flowering of so many plants over recent weeks, such as snowdrops and daffodils in December and blackthorn in early January. I was interested to read, then, the results from the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland's New Year Plant Hunt 2016. Between 1st and 4th January 850 plant lovers hunted across the country for wild plants in flower and they found an astonishing 612 species. Botanists would normally expect 20-30 types of wild plants in flower at this time of year.
So what does this mean for my bees? Well, it has to have an impact. If the plants my bees love in early spring have already finished flowering before the colony becomes truly active, the bees have less forage. But then my honeybees are managed, and so if food isn't coming into the hive, I'll feed them sugar paste or syrup and pollen patties to boost them up. The real problem must be for wild bees and other pollinators, especially those that have evolved to appear when certain flowers are in bloom.
|Tawny Mining Bee - emerges in April to forage on the fruit blossom (photo - The Wildlife Trusts, P Precey)|
Still, there was no time to feel confused about the familiar signs of spring in the lambing shed (where the breeder of my Ryeland lambs has been working tirelessly delivering this year's flock).
Here, the lambs were being born more or less on time (although not always easily). When I turned up, there were already a handful of tiny, black, woolly bundles curled up in the straw (next to some very relieved looking mums). And more lambs were on the way. (Just to say, it was a little bit dark in the lambing shed, but I didn't want to use the flash on my camera in case I frightened the sheep).
This is a small flock - and those lambs that'll leave in the summer will also go to small flocks that are owned for interest, not profit. The lamb pictured in the last two photos is the latest addition to my own flock (he was just a few hours old when these were taken).
I'll be bringing him home in the summer, where he'll live out his long life as a gentle lawn mower.