The mild weather has allowed my bees to get out and forage, which is useful, as they are light on food. The colonies did not build up well, due to the lack of forage during the Summer, and I was late to start feeding. Having removed the feeders last week, with not enough food being taken down, I had hoped that the bees would bring some Ivy nectar, but that has not been the case. The future for my late season forage is shown below.
The flowers in these pictures are Elsholtzia Stauntonii, or chinese mint bush. There are some more pictures HERE.
I only have about half a dozen of these planted out, and about the same amount in pots sown this year. Having seen bees working it, I shall grow lots more, for planting in the Forest Garden, and in the Coppice woodland. They do produce some flowers the first year, but that is increased in year two.
Below is the Strawberry tree, or Arbutus unedo. I have three small plants, which flowered for the first time last year, but did not set fruit. These have been worked by bumble bees during the mild weather.
The reason for the lack of honeybees may be due to the proliferation of the white plastic flowers shown below. These are the latest versions of my station feeders. A small inverted feeder, perched over a flower arrangers wet block, which has been cut down to the height of the tray below.
The blocks come much deeper, and sit proud of the trays, but I cut them down, and then poke the block full of holes with a pencil. As well as taking food directly from the feeder, as shown in the picture below, I fill the tray, and block full of syrup, which soaks in. the bees cannot drown in the liquid, as they can grip the sides of the holes, and many of them just suck the fluid straight from the foam itself.
I have three set up like this. The first day was quite slow, but the numbers of bees built up, and for the last three days there have been bees out at the site as early as 8.30, despite still being cool at that time. My next job is to create a table and roof for them, so that I don’t have to bring them in every time that it rains.
Late feeding is not always a good thing. It can lead some queens to continue to lay, and the newly hatched bees, three weeks later, may not be able to leave the hive to empty, due to the weather. this can lead to dysentry, and hygiene problems. For me, knowing that my bees are short of food, and as I introduce my varroa treatment via the feed. I felt that it was worth the risk.