It is the larger ‘dutch’ crocus, out now in our gardens, that consistently bring bees out from their six month confinement to enjoy the first of the new season’s fresh nectar. Hidden away in their hives since the last, late ivy flowers of autumn, they have eaten their way through much of their winter honey store and need to replenish stocks fast.
These crocus also give copious quantities of rich orange pollen, high protein food for the growing, baby bees... The colonies are rapidly expanding and have upwards of 500 extra mouths to feed every day.
I kept forty hives once, whose million busy inhabitants brought me in over a ton of delicious honey a year. But, now I just admire the industry and activities of a thriving wild swarm which took up residence in an old chimney at Levens Hall.
Bees generally may have struggled in recent years, but we can all do our best for them in the garden by planting some dependable and delightful springtime crocus.