Distracted by Dahlias and their Bees

I could not have picked a better day to visit FRAME’s Blueskies project at Scolton Manor in Pembrokeshire. With the sun shining all projects look even more enticing but this project looks great whatever the weather. The site by the walled garden was literally buzzing both with insects and volunteers. The volunteers, many of whom have disabilities, were undertaking tasks all over the place such as producing benches and hoeing and weeding to maintain the wonderful garden area. I was there to help with a business development plan but became very distracted while we were trying to work on a bench in the garden by the huge numbers of dragonflies and particularly by the big patch of dahlias which was literally alive with bees. It was hardly surprising that there were so many hive bees as this project is right next door to the Pembrokeshire Bee Keepers Association excellent training apiary which was also funded by an Environment Wales grant however the numbers of bumble bees was very encouraging. The bees were literally jostling for position on the flowers.

The work FRAME has undertaken at Scolton Manor has really brought the place to life and there were plenty of visitors about admiring the plants. In the end we had to go indoors as it was too bright to use the lap top which was just as well or the task in hand would not have been done very quickly. I shall certainly rethink planting dahlias in the garden. I don’t like them as you have to dig them up and bring them in over winter on the cold wet soil where we are or the tubers rot off and I am a lazy gardener but, to get such enthusiastic use by pollinators at this time of year, it will be well worth it. If you decide to give it a try don’t forget to use the varieties that still have the yellow bit in the middle where the pollen and nectar is, the really fancy ones are no use at all.

While I was there I had a peep at the apiary too, some of the hives were very busy indeed, but, other than the dahlias, there is no real forage available to bees in Pembrokeshire at this time of year. Soon the ivy flowers will be out which is a major nectar source which gives the bees a chance to pack stores in if the weather is fine. The resultant honey sets like a rock, literally like a rock, and can cause problems in cold weather as the bees have to bring water into the hives to melt it before they can use it over the winter. In almost frost free Pembrokeshire this does not cause a problem very often and the beekeepers are usually happy to have plentiful free stores going into the hives.


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