15 March 2012

Bumbling Towards Spring

We were recently sent an article about Canada importing honey bees from New Zealand, to pollinate our blueberries.
Personally, I love honey, and I love blueberries, so aside from the question of why our own bee colonies aren't thriving, and the stress to the bees of being transported, (both of which, to be fair, are fairly big considerations), it all seems good to me.

But yesterday I was talking about the signs of spring that we are seeing despite the weather. A bog has limited flowering plants, but there would be some. Labrador Tea, Bog Rosemary and Bog Laurel are all flowering plants that are adapted to the harsh conditions of the bog. Salmonberry is also found on the margins. Both Salmonberry and Bog Laurel flower early, and in the case of Salmonberry, too early to be pollinated by the non-native European Honeybee which cannot tolerate the lower temperatures outside of the hive.
The white pom-poms of Labrador Tea however, can be seen covered in honeybees in late spring.
So who pollinates the early bloomers?

As I mentioned yesterday, the Rufous Hummingbirds return around the same time that the Salmonberry flowers. Annas' Hummingbirds now can be seen to overwinter here. Hummingbirds prefer flowers in the red range of colour, and are often found at the Salmonberry.

Bees, on the other hand, see yellows, whites and oranges. They can see blues and ultra-violet, but red is a problem for them, since they can't distinguish it from the green leaves in the background.
Blueberries have a white flower, so do Salal, and of course, Labrador Tea.
Early yellow bloomers will be visited by our native and under-appreciated Bumble Bee. These are tolerant of  a far wider temperature range. They make a limited amount of honey and live in tiny colonies in comparison to the Honeybee. But there they are , buzzing around the Dandelions and Forsythia in gardens and on lawns.

We have a lot of native bees and other pollinators. So, whilst it's good to look to the Honeybee as an indicator of environmental health and threats, it's not all doom and gloom.
Let's hear it for the Humble Bumble - proudly Canadian!

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