Blustery but busy

Magnolia flowers

Can you remember this time last year when we were battling through snow storms? Now it's an onslaught of one storm after another bringing a deluge of rain and strong winds. Despite the rain, I still go and visit my apiary once a week to check all is well and to make sure all my honey bee colonies have enough stores for the following week. It's vital at this time of year to check as stores will be diminishing rapidly as colonies begin to build back up.

With all three hives checked for weight and the little nuc sitting in the wings all checked for stores, I spent some time watching the entrances to each hive. There was one colony that was particularly active bringing back pollen and given the blustery weather, I just marvelled at the amount of work each honey bee undertakes to bring back much needed food for themselves. Each bee was battling with the strong wind as they returned to the entrance laden with pollen in their baskets. I can't remember exactly what the equivalent would be if it was us carrying bags of shopping back, but their baskets are very heavy when fully laden, so would be equivalent to us struggling with heavy bags.

Watching the direction they were flying, I noticed across the apiary there was a Magnolia tree in a field in full flower. I didn't think honey bees foraged on these trees so thought I would take a walk over to see if I could see anything. Paddington was all up for an extra walk around the fields!

Even with the wind blowing strongly, I looked up and was amazed to see honey bees and bumble bees doing their best to hone into their targets. It seems that the Magnolia flowers are irresistible to bees when the prominent stamens are yielding their creamy-white pollen. I had seen this colour pollen coming back a couple of weeks ago and wondered what it was. It's always great to learn something new about your bees, so do look around your own apiaries and see if you can work out what your girls are bringing back.

While looking up the pollen colour of the Magnolia, I found The Paintbox Garden website - fantastic photography of pollen for honey bees in a rainbow of colours which is worth taking a closer look at.