I always relax a little when my willow starts to flower, as it marks the beginning of decent quantities of nectar and pollen for my bees. I have quite a few varieties of willow, and the first to flower here is Salix daphnoides, the violet willow. Not only does it flower early, but the shoots are the colour of damsons, and with the same ‘bloom’. Last year, my willow didn’t start to produce until much later in the month, probably because we had bad weather quite late. The two links here are to articles that I wrote at the time. Busy Bees. Willow Pollen.
This year, I noticed that there were a few catkins that had started to change from white to yellow two days ago, but no sign of any bees. The picture below shows the first of the catkins as it changes.
The silver hairs are what the catkin is like before it starts to produce, and the yellow bits are the individual flowers within the catkin. Each flower produces nectar and pollen, but do not appear to be open yet.
Yesterday, I checked again. The willow had started to produce, but there were no bees on it.
You can see from the picture that there were flies feeding on nectar. You can just make out the tongue in the picture.
Today, there were more catkins producing nectar, and the bees were gathering it. Normally many of them are gathering pollen, bright yellow, but today they only seemed to be gathering nectar. I’m guessing that the cold weather has left them short of stores, and will be interested to see whether they start to gather more pollen later.
The dark shiny patch on the back of the bee shows that it’s an old forager, as the hairs have worn off. I’m looking forward to seeing young bees soon. From now on, there should be adequate forage to allow the hives to build up, providing that he weather allows the bees to gather it.
Well that’s what my bees are gathering, what are yours foraging on now?