From Beekeeper Joe Shea:
Despite a cool May, the summer has jumped ahead of itself.
High pressure has stalled any movement of damp weather to these shores for more than a fortnight, and the forecast has the dry spell set to continue. What beekeepers call “the June gap”, the floral pause between the early flower and tree blossoming, and what is usually the later summer blossoming, has been skipped over by the steady, settled presence of sunlight.
The island of Ireland is at the moment enwreathed in warmth and beauty…and the blackberry blossoms are arriving at least a fortnight ahead of schedule.
Beloved of the bee, and one of the main forage crops in Ireland, its easy to pass by these modest, frail blossoms; unless you have been snagged by one of the blackberry’s thorny vines. Very little to note; unless your curiosity has been pricked.
But the shy blackberry blossom is life-sustaining for the bees. Without its nectar the bees would not survive a winter. It is a central source of nourishment for the bee culture on this island. And very like the bees, it is very easy to miss your attention. They are akin, the bee and the bramble; curiously everywhere but never seen. How do we miss them?
The trick is in stopping oneself. And if you like, the world with it. But not stop the world I want to get off. Just stop the world, I want to understand. And if you do choose to stop one of these summer days down the lane, by the brambles and have a gaze, you most likely won’t see anything at first. But give it a minute, and you will be surprised what you were missing.
What this early blossoming of the blackberry portends for the rest of the summer, we don’t as yet know. Will there be a bounty of honey? Will the warm weather stay, and give us an early honey harvest? Will we have something of a drought, resulting in a need to feed the hives? Maybe something else we haven’t even imagined yet??
We’ll take up these next questions in the next Beekeeper’s Journal installment later this summer. Meanwhile happy beekeeping!
Joe Shea is the beekeeper at Mourne Grange, a Camphill Community in the Mourne Mountains of County Down.