Bees & Beekeeping
Finally, spring is on its way. With a cold start to the season, all the flowers seem to have been on stand by, waiting for the temperature to exceed the threshold for bees to start their forage. Willow is one of the best and most rewarding plants for honey bees. Because it's a wind pollinator it produces huge amounts of pollen. Yet, unlike most wind pollinators the nutritional quality of the pollen to bees is very good. A great meal to dive in to.
The first pollen in spring is massively important for honey bees. Old winter bees will need to be replaced by a new labour force that will keep the colony going in the first weeks of spring. The bee first in line to land has found some Crocus flowers close by that provide great quality pollen. The load is clearly visible as big chunks of orange balls concentrated in the pollen baskets on its hind legs. The second in line to land has probably been foraging on another flower species. Most likely it has been foraging on a plant that only gives nectar. This explains the absence of pollen in its hairs and pollen baskets.
A smoker is used by a beekeeper to decrease the chance of getting stung. It is often suggested that the smoke paralyses the bees which then are unable to sting. The effect however is rafter different. The smoke makes bees fill their honey crops with honey, ready to leave the burning nest, or so is instinctively assume. With a full honey crop, honey bees are unable to bend their abdomen to a certain extend, making it difficult for them to sting.
A varroa mite (Varroa destructor) resides on the thorax of a honey bee. This exotic parasite is a real threat to Western honey bees, decimating colonies within a few years of the initial infection. Luckily, some thirty years after its introduction, there are signs of bee resistance mechanisms taking the upper hand. Even so, it will be a while before honey bee populations will cope with this exotic pest.