April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land...
But I have to say, Eliot notwithstanding, February can be a bit of a bugger too.
Bitterly cold weather is moving in from eastern Europe, putting on hold those signs of spring for which we wait so eagerly. It is particularly galling, given that the eastern part of the U.S.A. is enjoying unseasonably warm weather.
Beekeepers must be feeling anxious: this time last year honey bees were busy nectaring at snowdrops but currently they will still be in the form of a cluster in the hive. They will move to feed on reserves of honey laid down last year, once the temperature has risen above 40-45 degrees F, but it seems that in these very cold conditions the bees will survive only on the alternative reserve - the fat in their own bodies - and those reserves won't last for ever. Even when the temperature rises this may not prevent starvation as a sustained spell of warmer weather is needed to get the bees out actively foraging for pollen and nectar.
A good proportion of the honey stored from last year is likely to have been from ivy blossom. Although the honey thus produced is not to the taste of people and according to John Wright '(its) taste is of sugar syrup laced with disinfectant' (Ref 1) bees are clearly happy with it. I was reminded of this when I noticed plump clusters of ivy berries on plants in Byfield earlier today. These berries ripen and thus become available for birds, mice and so on just when other food sources have become exhausted.
|Plump, ripe ivy berries. Byfield Pocket Park. 25 February, 2018|