Spring is a fickle vixen in the high desert of Albuquerque. Three weeks ago, the girls were feisty and fixin’ to swarm. Last night, the water in their bird bath was frozen.
Never you mind, though, because the pollen rush continues.
Gathering nectar and pollen from three-leaf sumac
Walking past a nondescript bush this afternoon, I noticed it vibrating with activity like a bowling alley on league night. It’s three-leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata), a desert shrub whose glory days come each fall when the leaves turn bright, bright red.
But my honey bees love it now. As it blooms in early spring from tiny pale catkins, they swarm it like the high school wallflower turned ravishing beauty at their 10 year reunion. Rhus trilobata is in its prime.
Otherwise oblivious to my surroundings, keeping bees has forced this big city girl to slow the hell down and smell the pollen.
Hardly a captivating show, gopher spurge is one of the earliest bloomers in Albuquerque but my girls found it immediately. Not only does gopher spurge give up a juicy load of nectar but it produces pollen too, with a coral, almost red color.
Honeybee collecting pollen and nectar from gopher spurge
The last bee bears the coral-red pollen from gopher spurge
Albuquerque top bar bee sage TJ offers the following report:
Poppies in my Albuquerque garden
What’s blooming now?
- The Globe Willow trees turned from yellow to green in the past week.
- Anne C. noticed that the Silver Maple in her yard has bloomed and the bees are on it full time.
- Wild mustard is in bloom. The bees will find it of course and spoil the early spring honey. Let the bees keep this first bit of honey.
- I have dug up many dandelions. No blooms yet, but they will be out soon. Not good for the honey either.
- Thousands of Oriental Poppies are up in my garden. Also bulbing plants are sprouting up. Lilac plants in my neighborhood are ready to blossom.
Still too dry for a good honey flow in the spring. Forecast is for rain and snow for the next several days. Could come in time.
When is swarm season in Albuquerque?
Swarm season (in Abq) usually starts around Good Friday/Easter.
Time for spring feeding
Not everyone feeds their bees, but now is a good time for supplemental feed. Try sugar water at 1:1. After the weather is warmer, try four parts of water to one part of sugar (same ratio as nectar), as this causes the queen to start laying a bit early for strong spring buildup.
Here’s another lesson from the Albuquerque bee man, TJ, and his rooftop hives.
Comb filled with tight even worker brood like this is pure eye candy for the beekeeper opening her hives in Spring. Lots of worker brood means a strong workforce able to harvest spring nectar.
At my place in the city of Albuquerque, the girls will find nectar from a variety of trees such as apricot, elm, honey locust, and a variety of other flowering fruit trees maintained by urban gardeners. Thought, this year, my girls arrived late (I just received my package a couple of days ago) TJ’s bees have been hard at work for over a month. In fact, when I snapped the photo shown above, his girls were already bringing in honey and the gray pollen characteristic of elm trees. It’s the start of a rockin’ year for the hive.