I think I should give an early warning here - this post is about bumble bees and honey bees. It is a sort of warning cum apology but the weather this week was amazing and the bees really took advantage of it. I took these photographs on Tuesday 19 February in the warm sunshine although the air temperature did not go above 12 degrees Centigrade.
The winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is just about the end of its flowering season but there were three or four Early Bumble bees gathering nectar from the flowers. The pollen baskets are visibly empty.
There was a White-tailed bumble but she (they) have been visiting throughout the winter. It was the first time I had seen any Early bumbles.
What I noticed was that that the bumblebees appeared only to be taking nectar. They were carrying no pollen.
There were not many honey bees on the Honeysuckle but they, on the other hand, were carrying its distinctive yellow pollen.
The Viburnum tinus was alive with honey bees but no bumblebees. The bee on the top right of the flower is carrying the ivory coloured pollen about the same size as the bud.
The plum tree was starting to buzz but it was all honey bees and they all seemed to be interested in gathering pollen.
I presume the bumblebee queens are woken up by the warm weather and feel the need to restock on their energy stores. It is certainly too early for them to start nesting.
Thursday brought glacial winds and daytime temperatures of just over zero that even the Charente sunshine could not warm. I hope the bumblebee queens are back tucked-up in the same place that they have spent the winter.
This photograph serves no purpose except that I found it cute!
On the other hand I was wondering if anyone had an opinion on this photograph.
Another bumblebee on the honeysuckle on Tuesday was not the same colour as the usual carder bees I see.
It was overall much redder in colour, toning to grey on the underside rather than a pale beige. Perhaps it was her winter colours and she goes redder in the winter like some plant leaves! I’d be interested to hear any ideas.
I found it strange that the bumblebees did not take advantage of the plum blossom. The peacock butterfly seems satisfied and there are far more flowers on the plum tree than the honeysuckle.
There seems more than enough flowers for the bumblebees to share on the plum tree but they kept themselves to themselves on the honeysuckle. The plum tree had only burst into bloom in the preceding few days whereas the honeysuckle has been flowering all winter. Perhaps the queen bumblebees need to refill at a known nectar source rather than wasting energy foraging if they have a steady supply. They are on their own at the moment unlike the honey bees who have their foraging bees that are able to alert the hive to a new source of nutrients.