A year in the bee garden – January

In January, the squirrels hop across the lawn digging up their buried treasure. It’s a good idea to keep the squirrel house full of monkey nuts unless you want spring bulbs unearthed and bird feeders raided. The magpies like the nuts too, and squabble with the squirrels.

Shoots of snowdrops and crocuses begin to poke above the ground. It has been so cold this winter that few brave bumblebees have been seen.

There is not much to do in the garden while the ground is hard, and little point in tidying up fallen leaves where insects and other creatures may still be sheltering till spring.

If you are tempted to do some gardening and accidentally disturb a queen bumblebee nesting underground, put the earth or leaves gently back to avoid disturbing her further.

The fish pond and frog ponds were checked regularly this month to make sure they didn’t freeze. As usual, the goldfish took advantage of each inspection to beg for food.

Soon it will be time to hang out the solitary bee nests that have been hibernating in the sheds and to prepare this year’s nesting tubes.

Coming soon: February in the bee garden.

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9 thoughts on “A year in the bee garden – January

    • It’s my first year of attempting to overwinter the solitary bees. I put the nesting tube in the shed which is insulated so it is not as cold as outdoors and put a breathable mesh over the tubes to avoid spiders or wasps from creeping inside too. I just plan to hang the nest up again in March alongside an empty nest with clean tubes ready for this year’s bees. I look on lots of websites and blogs for info and I’ve been inspired for years by the solitary bees In a French Garden!

      • I have done exactly as you say, taken the tubes into a shed over winter and replaced in the spring along with fresh tubes. My success rate is quite variable, some tubes dont hatch any new bees, some do and I once lost loads to mites. I think some of these risk come from concentrating the tubes together. I also had a big problem with spiders one year. Anyway, I shall be very interested to hear how you get on as I would like to improve what I am doing.

      • We have so many spiders in the garden that I don’t think it’s possible to completely protect the bees. I think I was supposed to roll the bee cocoons in a special sand and store them in a special box overwinter to protect against mites but I didn’t. I’ve also had mixed results in three years with bees settling into nests and with pests to the bees. One year I think there just wasn’t enough forage and the bees didn’t stay after hatching. Now I try to have smaller nests with bee tubes spread around the garden and I leave the large bug hotel for all the other creepy crawlies – hopefully a deterrent for the spiders. I also stick lots of small twigs between the gaps in tubes to deter spiders and wasps hiding there.

  1. One of my friends reports lots of crocuses coming up in one area in her garden where she didn’t put any bulbs. She thinks those she planted were deep enough but it looks as though the squirrels dug them up and relocated them and had a favourite place to put them.

    • That’s Bella, our biggest, oldest goldfish. She is lovely. We’re not supposed to feed the fish overwinter but on milder days they are quite active and so we give them a few veggie pellets, which are less harmful than their protein pellets in cold weather. They also contain garlic which is supposed to keep the fish healthier in winter!

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