With Spring approaching, Claire Waring gives advice on preparations for the beginning of the beekeeping season.

Come March, the beekeeping season is beginning to get underway, certainly in the south of the UK. Those in the Midlands and North will have to wait a few more weeks but don’t worry, it will soon be in full swing. The days are lengthening and, hopefully, the weather is warming up although these days it’s hard to predict what will happen.

The longer periods of daylight will trigger the queen into lay or encourage her to increase her egg-laying rate. That means more larvae for the nurse bees to feed and hence a greater demand on the foragers to leave the hive, when the weather allows, to search for early sources of pollen in particular. The brood food for the larvae consists of a high proportion of protein – obtained from pollen.

You can really help your bees by planting spring-flowering bulbs, such as crocus, single snowdrop, grape hyacinth and Chionodoxa, near your apiary. Although double snowdrops are very attractive, they are nouse to the bees as the flowers are difficult if not impossible to access. Some early flowering shrubs are attractive to bees.These include Viburnumbodnantense, Daphne mezereum and Salix caprea.

For a more comprehensive list, check out books such as Plants for Bees: A Guide to the Plants That Benefit the Bees of the British Isles by William DJ Kirk and FN Howes, published by the International Bee Research Association, and look for labels at the garden centre which indicate pollinator-friendly plants. It may be too late to plant some of these this year, but why not add them to your beekeeping ‘to do’ list so that you don’t forget to buy and plant the bulbs, at least, later in the year?

This article extract was taken from the March 2024 edition of The Country Smallholder. To read the article in full you can buy the issue here.

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