With storms and floods presenting difficulties for nature across the UK in recent weeks, it’s been a challenging time for our country’s bees. Our resident beekeeper, Andy Bailey, gives us a report of how February has faired over at the EPC-UK apiary.

Stormy times

Storms Ciara and Dennis hit the UK this month and unfortunately my work with WWF meant that I was away from home during both episodes. Once home, I visited the hives as soon as I could – and just in time too. Two of the hive roofs had been blown off, despite being weighted down with bricks. Unfortunately, this meant that the bees in those two hives had been exposed to the elements, in particular to the rain.

Damp concern

Most beekeepers will tell you that it is damp that kills bees, not cold. On examining the two colonies there had been some bee loss, however, it could have been much worse. The majority of the bees were still in cluster and were positioned away from the damp so, happily, had survived. I placed some fresh fondant immediately above the cluster, so they didn’t have to move to find food, after which I secured the hives again. With a bit of luck both colonies will pull through.

Food refuel

On examining the three other colonies, I noticed that a couple were low on food so I applied more fondant within each. The weeks until the end of March will be a critical time, as the bees will fly for longer periods as the days lengthen and become warmer, but at the moment there is little food for them.
Pussywillow, snowdrops, hellebores (Christmas rose) and crocus are in bloom and offer pollen which is vital for the bees, but until the dandelions start to flower there is little in the way of nectar – the sugary secretion from flowers that the bees need for energy which they turn into their food source, honey.

Planting for bees!

If you are interested in planting flowers to attract bees and other pollinators now is a good time to be thinking about which plants to put in your garden. Lavender, dahlia, borage, foxglove, cosmos, scabious, marigolds, verbena and marjoram will all attract pollinators to your plot.

Help to make a difference

80% of our butterflies have been lost in the UK in over the last ten years, following the general pattern of all insects throughout Europe and the world. This decrease in numbers has a knock-on effect within our bird population who depend on the insects for food, so anything we can do to help encourage pollinators to our gardens will help. We have destroyed 97% of all our wildflower meadows in the UK since the Second World War, planting just a few flowers for the bees will make a difference.

Until next time,
Andy B