There was concern at the start of spring that it would never stop raining, river levels were high and flooding seemed imminent. Many apiaries in parts of the UK were flooded and sadly in some cases washed completely away as rivers breached their banks. It was all very gloomy.
However, during the warmest and sunniest May on record, the bees have thrived and prospered. In our area, even after the recent long dry spell, the water table levels have remained high enough to ensure that the plants have produced an abundance of nectar.
Flowers have evolved over the millennia and have developed extraordinary strategies to attract pollinators. Sweet nectar is the ultimate reward. Many factors influence the secretion of nectar. Climate, soil type, topography and even the time of day. Nectar is often weaker during the early part of the day and peaks during the morning as wind and heat evaporate some of the water, condensing the nectar and raising the level of sugars within it. Different plants and flowers peak at different times and the bees will work them accordingly. A strong, drying wind and low humidity may cause the nectar to dry up so the bees cannot collect it. Or if the soil dries out too much the plants cannot secrete the nectar. Shallow rooted plants fair worse in dry conditions. Pollen also plays a vital role in the honey bee diet with a colony consuming as much as 85 lbs in weight of pollen throughout the year.
There are approximately 270 types of pollinating insect in the UK that come in all shapes and sizes. Honey bees however are unique in the fact that they are the only bees to show flower consistency i.e. they will stick to the same type of flowers until the flowers run out of nectar and, in doing so they easily transfer pollen from one plant to another. A vital role in ensuring maximum yield from our crops. Other insects move from one type of flower to another and therefore do not always pollinate the flowers.
Honey bees are also the only species of bee that produce more honey than they need, which is something that mankind has benefitted from for centuries.
We are now in “swarm season” so if you see a swarm please contact Newbury and District Beekeepers Association and we will send a beekeeper to come and remove the swarm and find the bees a good home. Details can be found on our website newburybeekeepers.org.uk