As the weather starts to warm up and the days become longer, we start to see bumblebees emerge from hibernation and honeybees coming out to forage for pollen and nectar. Many of our food plants are pollinated during the month of April (weather permitting) and so the special relationship between bees and people starts its annual cycle at this time of year.
In my garden I’m hoping that my gooseberries, blackcurrants, apples and cherries manage to flower and that the bees do their thing so that I can fill my belly, my jam cupboard and my freezer with good things this summer…..ohhhhh how I love gooseberry crumble!
In the hedgerows and riverbanks willow is already flowering and I have a lovely big bunch of pussy willow on my kitchen windowsill to remind me that spring is on the way, despite what the weather is doing outside – surely it can’t keep snowing forever!
Butterflies, bees and other pollinators are vital for food production. It is estimated that at least one third of the food on our tables is there as a result of the work of these tiny insects and around eighty percent of that work is done not by domestic honey bees but by wild pollinators such as bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and flies. Whilst beekeepers can and do feed the bees in their hives when the weather is bad or flowers are in short supply, the wild pollinators are “on their own ” which means no matter what month the calendar says we’re in, if the right flowers aren’t there, the critters will go hungry and when we need them to pollinate our food crops they may not be there.
The wise gardener makes sure that if at all possible, there is a good supply of nectar rich plants all year round. Flower beds are not the only place to find blooms ; replacing a tired wooden fence with native hedge plants will bring hawthorn and blackthorn flowers in spring and berries for the birds in autumn. Installing a green roof will vastly increase the amount of green space in your garden and creating a wildflower meadow, no matter how small, will provide food and shelter for a whole host of beneficial insects.
Good bee friendly plants that bloom in April include :
Erica (heather )
So don’t be too fastidious about weeding, consider using plants for colour that aren’t daffodils (daffs are lovely but the pollen and nectar is pretty inaccessible to insects ) and take a walk in the country to be inspired by our wonderful wild plants.