By BARRY HAUGHTON
Now winter has loosened its grip on Alberta, overwintered bees will be seen emerging to check out the menu at nature’s buffet.
One of the first temptations for bees is the willow bloom, or pussy willow catkins. These treats provide prodigious amounts of pollen and nectar, just what spring colonies need to kickstart their labours.
For useful background information, check out Winning With Willows, a Trees for Bees paper produced by New Zealand researchers.
Alberta’s willow bloom will last two or three weeks, depending on the amount of rain or wind, just long enough to tide the bees over until the next “flow” - the dandelion bloom. Dandelions are equally valuable for bee nutrition, providing extra insurance for a thriving hive that will develop to its maximum population by the end of June. Note to self: No pesticides on my dandelions this year! Perhaps a letter to the editor and to my mayor pleading for an end to bee-killing pesticides on public land.
Once summer is in full bloom, our canola and alfalfa fields will follow suit. This third flow supports a hive that is now working overtime to bring in the nectar to produce this year’s honey. Bee populations within the hive increase dramatically, from about 7,500 bees in March to around 80,000 in July.
So go with the flow and take some time to check out wetter areas for signs of the willow bloom. It’s the start of something good.
DID YOU KNOW? May 20 will be the first World Bee Day, thanks to a UN declaration late last year. It’s intended as an opportunity for the global public to become aware of the importance of preserving bees and other pollinators. It’s a chance for us to educate people and politicians of the importance of bees for all humanity and the need for concrete action to preserve and protect them. How many members of the livestock fraternity have their own World Day?
If you need support or supplies for successful beekeeping in Western Canada, check our website. We're Edmonton-based. We know the country, and we know bees.