What’s blooming now in Winter for the honey bees?

It is incredible what blooms here in wintery New England. We have had an unseasonably warm spring with 70˚F days in January, and now rain in February (@50˚F). It turns out several things are early this year. All the honey beehives were active on these warm days with cleansing flights, grooming on the landing, and some scouting.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis sp.) blooming in Mount Auburn Cemetary

I know where three stands of Witch Hazel (Hamamelis mollis) are, so in January, they are checked. On the first warm day (Jan 11th), the shrubs had not bloomed but on the second all three sites were blooming. There was the occasional bee on two of the stands, scouts, I think, but not much action. On subsequent warm days, there are only a couple of bees that visit the flowers.

Snowbells (Galanthus sp.) blooming on 3 Feb 2020 in Mount Auburn Cemetary

In February, I found some Snowbells (Galanthus sp.) blooming on a dry sunbathed pine ridges. The temperatures have been in the 40’s and 50’s for a couple weeks during the day. Supposedly because they are never seen at this time in my area. However, the snow cover has been fleeting lately. It was the afternoon and too cold for the blooms to be open, and I know the bees weren’t flying that day. I know areas in Mount Auburn where the snowbells carpet the ground, and none of them have shown themselves yet.

The Honey Bees use the Snowbells as an early source of pollen, and it often kicks off a brood cycle. Usually, Snowbells don’t come in force until March or later in my area. I’m curious to see what happens in 2020.

The next flower that is due is Scilla (pronounced “squill“) and more Snowbells. I wish I had a local reference to help me predict the blooming order. Perhaps, the creation of a Perpetual Blooming Calendar is needed. The kind of calendar where one records anniversaries and birthdays on but repurposed for tracking blooms. People’s memory is unreliable, and a written record is best. People keep giving me these anniversary calendars, and they disappear conveniently, but now one is needed, and no spare is to be found.

It should be of interest when flowers in your area bloom and memory being what it is, or is-not we might get the order reight, but the dates for me slip a slide across the calendar. If you look for your local blooming times or ask gardeners and beekeepers, you will get a whole lot of unverified info. Did have a conversation with a beekeeper, and his garden 10 miles away is not doing anything yet. I have a bed with crocuses come up already, no blooms, just the greens tips.

Go to the Pollinator Partnership website there are free guides and calendars for all sorts of local native and plants under the Resource section. I downloaded the free PDF guide for the North East, and it’s is a good jumping-off point for what to expect. Their site is beautifully done and full of valuable information. (Gosh free stuff is grand!)

Happy Beekeeping