The bees in December

We celebrated the first of December by taking the muzzles off the front of the hives.  A cold spell had at last stopped the hornet attacks.

It was good to see the bees free at last and flying unimpeded by the wire netting.  We put on entrance reducers to keep them cosy.

Kourosh is very proud of his Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) tree and rightly so, as he grew it from the seeds we recovered from the fruit that we had eaten in the U.K, only seven years ago.  We were looking forward to seeing the bees enjoying the flowers as they had done last year.

Then more cold weather and frosts hit, freezing the flowers.  Our dry spell has at last ended and we have had rain.  The days have been often cloudy and damp.  Low temperatures and rain keep the bees clustered in their hives.  We miss watching them and it keeps us out of the garden.

This last week we have had some sunny days and the frost and cold weather has not damaged the Loquat flowers.

What does surprise me is that the bees fly to the Loquat tree when the air temperature is no higher than 9 degrees Centigrade.

You can see the bee dipping her tongue into the flower to dab up the nectar that has been warmed by the sun.  The flowers are also well insulated by the sepals which are covered by fluffy hairs.

The flowers also supply a plentiful pollen and you could see the pollen sacs growing as you watched an individual bee.

This bee is moistening the pollen in her front legs before passing it back to join the rest of the bundle stuck to her back legs.


Sometimes it all becomes too much and she has to sit on a leaf and have a good groom and retrieve all the sticky pollen in peace.

I noticed that at 9 degrees Centigrade the bees were only on the Loquat tree and the Winter Flowering Honeysuckle which are both very close to their hives.

However, yesterday when the temperature went up to 10.5 degrees Centigrade the bees flew further to the Mahonia and…

even the winter flowering heather which is in the front garden.  A warmer couple of days must be making them more adventurous.  I  have seen no queen bumble bees at these temperatures.  They should be hibernating in a shady spot that will not be over-heated by the sun as they are on their own and coming out at these low air temperatures would not be wise as they have no warm hive and cluster of bees to keep them warm.

I also noticed my first Hellebore in the front garden but the others have still a long way to go, so the bees will have to wait a bit for their next treat.


26 thoughts on “The bees in December

  1. Many people here tell me they don’t get fruit from their loquats because the flowers freeze; from what you’re saying I think it is probably another reason! I really wish I’d planted one, but I may still try to find a spot for one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I’m jealous of your mild winters. So many winter flowering plants. Our winters are white–and not with blossoms. Our bees are clustered in their hives. We’re hoping that our summer and autumn beekeeping efforts (mostly at varroa control) will bring the bees safely through the winter. In the meantime, we’ll watch yours.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. We always cross our fingers for the results in the spring. This year, we tried some new, but organic, varroa treatments, so we are anxious to see if they keep our biggest threat at bay. You have those damn Asian hornets; we have varroa destructor!


  3. A lovely chronicle of your bees’ current life. A couple of days ago I was watching buff-tailed bumblebees flying and feeding at a temperature of about 10 degrees in a seaside garden. The difference may be that near the sea there are few if any overnight frosts.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A Chinese research group has been able to isolate a natural pheromone in 2017 from the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) that attracts the males. I hope this will be commercialised to provide a specific lure that would not be harmful to other insects. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That is a nice loquat for such a young age. They used to be more common here, but are rather obscure now. They are not as productive as they used to be. There are more diseases that affect them now, and the fruit often rots before it ripens.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, they do get fireblight like quince does. The fruit rot seems to be specific to the loquat though, since quince does not rot. It may not be a prominent disease in your neighborhood.


  5. I guess different flowers produce nectar at different temperatures. I have observed, in the spring the hawthorn doesn’t produce necture untill a noticeable rise in temperature. The honey bees here were working on the Mahonia on a sunny day last week.

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  6. Again beautiful photos! I was surprised at how perfect the bee’s wings were when it is so late in the year. Surely they all hatched back in the summer and would have put in pleny of flying miles since then, yet I see no tattered wings. They should be able to survive easily into spring! Lovely little girls 🙂

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  7. That is an interesting comment! Our winter bees are supposedly born in the autumn (Oct./Nov.?) to last through the winter. I have never noticed very tattered looking honey bees although I will now pay more attention this spring. We looked under the hives at the same time and Poppy seemed to have three seams of brood (not the full length of the hive) so I just wonder how much brood they are rearing in winter yet when you read in the bee magazines that this is the time where they are practically broodless. It is lovely to see them out after a cold spell. Amelia


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