Saturday, February 19, 2011

Midwinter's Respite

Glorious warm weather!  The daffodils have ventured their first shoots, the maples are blushing red at their branch tips and the bees' pollen baskets are full!  We're reluctantly celebrating the break in the weather because we know there's likely more snow and ice ahead, but we're celebrating nonetheless.  We spent our first coffee break of the season staring at the hive like we did so often last summer.  I crept up near our third hive, Columbia, and took a brief video on my phone, posted below.  A bee alighted on my finger, noodling its little proboscis under my fingernail looking for nectar.  I must have still had some grapefruit remnants on my fingers from breakfast because I kept her attention for a  long while.  Fun.
We're trying to discover what pollen they're bringing in.  Grant collected some from a bee with bulging baskets of the orange-yellow stuff and analyzed it under the microscope.  We have a hunch that it is witch hazel--which is supposed to flower in February around here--but we haven't found a pollen sample online, nor a flowering tree nearby to corroborate it.  Could it be pussy willow?  We'll keep investigating.

In the video you can see the bees taking off through the entrance which has been reduced for winter.  As I look at the still image of it, I can see a few bees with swollen pollen baskets on their legs.  Watching for pollen baskets as the foragers return to the hive has become one of my favorite backyard activities.

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