Thursday, 28 March 2013

Was that a hint of spring?

What an awful start to spring. We are going through a cold patch that feels more like a mini ice age. Freezing temperatures at night and daytime temperatures little above freezing. Apparently it is caused by Arctic high pressure sitting over Britain and Europe. So instead of the warmer, moister air from the jet stream, we are getting cold blasts from Russia. The forecasters say that, having already endured this freezing delay to the start of spring, it is likely to continue at least until mid April. That means the planting season is delayed and the growing season will be cut short. We had to put up with the bitter cold yesterday when the BBC were with me on my allotment to do a bit of filming. The snowflakes swirling around us were noticed.

So today, what a pleasant surprise to see a bit of sunshine and blue sky. It was still cold but when in the direct sun, it was warm enough to bring out a few of the bees and to encourage the hens to sunbathe. It would have been great to see more of the bees out and about. There are a few spring flowers out at the moment, such as snowdrops, and the hazel catkins are reasonably abundant as well (they are good for pollen for the bees but have no nectar).  We need a warm period to bring the bees out in force and at the moment we are not getting that. It is useful that the current weather is relatively dry. Last year the incredibly wet spring effectively put an end to any chance of a decent honey crop. What I fear now is that prolonged cold weather could put an end to a honey crop for this year. The spring is the most important season for honey bees. It is meant to be a time of year when the hives do not need to be fed. This week however, the National Beekeepers' Association sent out a message to feed the bees again or else they could face starvation.

So, whilst the hint of spring today was welcome, we are still not seeing much spring sunlight at the end of the winter tunnel.

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