Heavy pollen baskets

Honey bee gathering pollen from winter honeysuckle

With the days drawing out, there are signs that Spring is on its way. Already there are snowdrops in flower as well as purples and yellows of the crocus opening their petals to reveal nectar and pollen to passers by in the insect world.

Still in bloom is the winter flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima. This bushy deciduous shrub never ceases to amaze me. It seems to have been in flower for months. I never really heard of this honeysuckle until I started keeping bees around six years ago. And it was the fragrance that caught my nose first. It wasn't long before I found one on sale in a local garden centre, so home it came with me. Ever since it has been providing much needed nectar (carbohydrate) and pollen (protein) for insects and pollinators during the winter months.

It was a real pleasure to be working out in the garden today, with the weather warm enough for my garden bees to be out flying. It hadn't taken them long to find the honeysuckle flowers and fill their pollen baskets with the bright yellow pollen... and their reward? A sip of nectar as a thank you from the plant as they carry it to the next flower, then the next and so on as part of their pollination service bees help provide.