Where Would We Bee Without Willows?

I spent a marvelous afternoon in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens on Wednesday, bee-watching. Finally getting a few minutes to post images from the happy outing.I saw many honeybees working the crocus, lenten-rose, winter honeysuckle, and Cornelian cherry blossoms—all good things to plant if you're a city gardener looking to provide the bees with forage in early spring, when their options are limited and their need for pollen and nectar sources is great.

The really hot and heavy bee action on Wednesday afternoon was to be found at an unassuming pussy willow shrub that overhangs the little stream that runs through the center of the garden. At this subtle yet marvelous (and marvelously useful) plant, hundreds of honeybee workers painstakingly filled their pollen baskets with fiery-yellow pollen to bring back to the hive. There, other workers will store the pollen or, more likely, mix it with honey to make "bee bread," a nutritionally rich food that combines pollen-protein with honey carbs. This will be fed to the larvae and young bees to raise the next generation of strong, energetic workers, who, once they have matured a few weeks from now, will carry on the whole cycle again, drawing from a different mix of blossoms than those available in this, the first glimmers of spring.