Bee News

April is the start of the beekeeping season and when the temperature gets above 15 degrees it’s time to do the first inspections. I should already know if the colony has survived the winter by seeing bees transport pollen into the hive entrance – pollen is the protein source for larvae. What I won’t know until I open the hive though is the overall health of the colony, whether any diseases are present and whether the queen is laying strongly. If all goes to plan as the month progresses it will be time to think about swarming and how to manage it – it’s a natural process but if left unchecked it can be dangerous to the public and can lead to a complete loss of bees. As less than 5% of swarms will survive in the wild it’s also important for the bees welfare to manage this process. More on this next month.

More bumblebees are now out and about. Some, like the Red-Tailed, are still looking for nest sites but queen Buff-Tailed Bumblebees can still be seen foraging for spring flowers. They will already have chosen a nest site and will be looking for food for their first brood. That’s one of the many differences between honeybees and bumble bees – the bumblebee queen will personally nurture her first few batches of eggs and larvae (16 per batch) until they are ready to take over.

You might also see the first of the solitary bees. First out is the Tawny Mining Bee with her characteristic furry and fox coloured coat. She will be looking for forage and for suitable nest sites in sandy ground. You might also see Dark-Edged Bee Flies which look a little like a bee but with improbably long legs and a very long tongue that will be extended as they hover over flowers. Often seen near mining bee burrows where it has very dark designs – Bee Fly larvae feed on the larvae of mining bees…

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