Border Bees Diary

Diary of a Beekeeper in the Scottish Borders

Dandelion Days – May 2008

Posted by borderglider on May 22, 2008

Dandelions peak in early May

Common Dandelion – Good source of Pollen

May has been dominated by dandelions on the roadsides – which provide lots of pollen and nectar for bees – though the vast yellow fields of oilseed rape (OSR) provide pollen and nectar on a totally different scale. Sadly the Oilseed Rape flowered too early for our colonies to take advantage of – my hives are stuffed with hatching bees and sealed brood – but there just aren’t enough foraging bees to ‘cash-in’ on the golden harvest of OSR. The newly emerged bees will spend at least two weeks inside the hive feeding larvae, cleaning cells and acting as ‘house bees’ – receiving nectar from foragers – before they start to go out and collect nectar themselves. However, this vast bloom of flowers is the perfect source of food for accelerating the build-up of the bee population in the hives.

Oilseed Rape (OSR) in full bloom – fifty acres of it!


Honey provides the bees with their daily food needs – but they can only create new bees if they can provide larvae with protein in the form of pollen. Thus -in Spring the hive usually has stores of honey – and some stores of ‘sealed-pollen’ (last season’s pollen mixed with honey as a paste – sometimes called ‘bee bread’.

However, the limiting factor on breeding more bees is the availability of pollen. So May is the crucial month here in the UK when vast swathes of wildflowers and huge crops of oilseed rape provide an ocean of pollen. The problem is that the hive needs foragers – older bees – to collect the pollen, and if the hive population is still low, there just aren’t enough pollen-foragers to do the job.

Worker With Full pollen Baskets Returning to the Hive


One Response to “Dandelion Days – May 2008”

  1. The BeeMeister said

    Nice Pictures! I am amazed at your photo skills. Certainly better than mine!

    Too bad about losing so many hives to Varroa. I hope that you have better luck this year. Hopefully the humble yet ever-present dandelion is just the beginning of a great summer of flowering plants to feed your bees.

    Best Wishes!

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