Bees in Spring

In March, if you stand patiently, you may see the first urban bees of the year ambling around the Meadows crocuses. Many of these early wakers will be the large queen bumblebees.

If the weather is mild, still and sunny, they'll emerge. Having chosen their spot ...

They clamber into a flower ...

and whether they're drinking nectar to recover from hibernation, or collecting nectar and pollen for their new nests, they emerge covered in pollen grains from the crocus anthers ...

They crawl off into the next flower ...

then sometimes settle down for a few minutes' rest before taking off. (Crocus flowers close at night, so you may find a bee safely asleep in one after dark.)

As you can see when the camera pans back, there's plenty of choice for these two in the Meadows at this time of year. These large, sun-drenched beds of flowers are very appealing for bees.

Later in the year they'll also be drawn to the dandelions, the clumps of thistles that surround a few of the Meadows' trees, the lesser celandines (as with this common carder bumblebee),

and occasionally the narcissi (as with this queen red-tailed bumblebee)

Nearing dusk, one March afternoon, I saw these three bees resting on a couple of elm trees. Had they been gathering nectar from the tiny elm flowers beforehand? Or collecting propolis from the elm buds?

Much bee pollination happens thanks to the flowers of trees, not just ground flowers. Here's a bumblebee who was whizzing around ten feet off the ground among the first of the cherry flowers in mid-April, probably collecting pollen

And this mining bee was up high among the early leaves and flowers of a young field maple on Bruntsfield Links, early in May.

Early in June 2016, I passed by a laburnum not in the Meadows itself but in a garden on Warrender Park Terrace which overlooks the Meadows. It was covered in bees flitting rapidly from flower to flower; entrancing to watch.

They had very full pollen baskets

A few days later, these catmint flowers in the bedding area of the park at Hope Park Crescent were hoaching with bees

They also love the wildflower dead-nettle, as here in the Greening Our Street wildflower patch. It doesn't sting, and neither will the bees if you watch them in peace