Bee Forage : March

Honey bee collecting box pollen (Buxus sempervirens)

Honey bee collecting box pollen (Buxus sempervirens)

Spying on the bees as they go about their outdoor pursuits has become something of a passion, and stalking them as they forage round and about the house has opened my eyes to all the various snacking places on offer.

Some of these floral opportunities are ravaged in the wink of an eye, others last a little longer. It certainly surprises me how quickly a tree / flower / shrub can be devoided of pollen.

The two main areas of activity this month have been the fruit orchard and the box trees.

In the orchard it started with the almond trees, and then the wild, flowering plums. We have two, young, purple-leaved Prunus trees, which have pink flowers, and then a host of a white blossomed varity, which must have been here for decades.

Honey bee on Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera "Nigra")

Honey bee on Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera “Nigra”)

The blossom on the old ornamental plum trees makes it appear as if the snow has returned. In summer, these bear heaps of small plums, which look fabulous but sadly are not good for eating (not even for making jams or chutneys).

Honey Bee on ornamental plum (Prunus cerasifera)

Honey Bee on ornamental plum (Prunus cerasifera)

fruit of the wild plum

fruit of the wild plum

Regarding the box (Buxus sempervirens), there are several smaller shrubs in the gardenĀ  and one large tree, about 3 metres tall – Im guessing that that too has been around for decades.

The box tree is monoecious – plants have their male and female parts on separate flowers, but together on the same plant. Flowers are green and grow in clusters in the leaf axils. Each cluster contains several male (staminate) flowers with conspicuous whitish-yellow anthers, and a terminal female flower containing a three-celled ovary.

B_box_1

Honey bees on Box – the staminate flowers visible (anther and filament)

Buxus flowers are not showy, but are quite fragrant. The female (pistillate) flower is small, star shaped and yellowish green. The star points are actually sepals – boxwood flowers have no petals.

Buxus flower : ripening female flowers

Buxus flower : ripening female flowers (the yellow-green 3 pointed structures)

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Wakey, wakey, rise and pollinate

blooming lovely

blooming lovely

Spring is in the air… finally. I have been itching to get and about with the camera for several days now, ever since the Japonicas burst into bloom with their beautiful, vibrant orange-pink flowers. I also noted that the almond tree wasn’t too far behind, with buds aplenty.

It has been warming up nicely, and apparently the bees won’t come out to actively forage until the temperature hits 13 degrees. And full foraging is not acheived until it warms up beyond 19 degrees. It was pleasantly mild at the beginning of the week, but then we were hit by a Vent d’Autan – a quite violent wind coming at us from the east, and this time gusting up to 60 kms/ hour. It lasted for 48 hours, and at times it felt like the roof of the house was coming off (luckily, it didn’t). I certainly didn’t feel like venturing forth, and I imagine the bees stayed indoors too.

Conditions yesterday were much improved, so off I trot with trusty camera to see what’s going down in honey bee world. And lo, there were the girls hard at work, collecting pollen from the stunning Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica) bushes. All very photogenic – that’s the calendar image for March 2014 in the bag.

Just next to the Japonicas is a splendid almond tree, starting to blossom. I love this flower, with its tinges of pink and incredible perfume. The bees were here too, gathering up the yellow-brown pollen. This pollination work is important in the big almond producing regions of the world – the pollination of California’s almonds is the largest annual managed pollination event in the world, with close to one million hives (nearly half of all beehives in the USA) being trucked in February to the almond groves.

We have a whopping two trees, so hopefully the girls won’t bee too overwhelmed with the workload.

Almond : a symbol of delicacy

Almond : a symbol of delicacy