I only had two colonies here, and neither were looking terribly strong so I wasn’t surprised that neither made it. What has surprised me is the number of people with strong colonies that have become beeless this spring, (that is to say, the 4 people in my lane who keep bees) and I am hoping that it is just the prolonged cold and breezy weather that has caused so many hives to fail and not something more sinister. Bees flying well a few weeks ago seem to have succumbed, although it is always difficult to tell if it is robbers from another hive if only viewed from a distance. I have not heard of any swarms so far but it is still a cold wind and despite the sun, temperatures are down to well below double figures at night.
I have three apple trees in my garden, and two are now in full bloom. I was watching yesterday and saw not a single honey bee which seemed odd to me. Hardly scientific but I will now be watching out and seeing if/when they start. There were other bees (Osima and bumbles) but the honey bees were noticeable by their absence. Maybe it was too late, or they have found other things on which to forage – although I have had OSR in the field behind my hives and I expected to see it teeming with honey bees but actually, no. And, although I am fully aware that for cropping purposes, solitary bees are actually more effective pollinators, I have seen my apple trees worked extensively by honey bees when I have had hives in my garden.
Still it was lovely to see the other species!
I gave a talk to a Gardening Club in my former hometown of Barcombe last week, and it was great to discuss how to bring more bees and wildlife in to our gardens. We really are needing everyone to come on board with making our outdoor spaces as nurturing as possible for wildlife, and flicking through one of my vintage bird books yesterday I found some interesting observations, from a book published in 1969. Yes, that’s over 50 years ago folks…
There are so many fabulous resources for making a wildlife-friendly garden, and I recently went to advise a lady wanting to increase biodiversity in her beautiful Sussex garden on the side of the Downs. We discussed lots of ways of incorporating more habitats and improving those she already had on her land, and I will be following up with a visit later in the year to see what has worked, and – just as importantly! – what hasn’t.
As I always say, it doesn’t matter how big our garden spaces are, we can make a difference. For some species, it will be the only area they ever know, and for others it will just be part of their wider territory. So, whatever space you have, you can create an area that will support nature.