Bees & Blackberries

 

Over the weekend I enjoyed a relaxing walk with Mr C in the fields behind our home. At this time of year I always love to harvest nature’s fruits, elderberries to make into cordial and tincture for the winter months, and blackberries, to either eat as I pick or back in crumbles, mixed with our bramley apples.
Blackberries
Elms Lane Blackberries

This year I have been astonished at the size of the blackberries in our hedgerows. I really have never seen so many huge ripe blackberries and so I wondered what could be different this year.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my Dutch ‘Bee sister’ Rinske, earlier in the summer when we met up at Bristol Botanic gardens. We spent a good three hours wandering around the gardens, stopping to watch every bee, bumbles, solitary and honeybees.

We were chatting about landowners, hive placements and, as with all bee people these days, the lack of forage for bees and the over use of pesticides.

Rinske was reminded then of one of the areas she had some hives and how in the first year she noticed some blackberries in the adjoining hedge. They were quite pathetic examples, small and not easy to pick, however, over the next three years, each crop got bigger and more tasty which took her to wondering if the bees were in some way part of this blackberry boost.

The fourth year, the landowner ripped all of the blackberries out from the hedge, to make it all ‘tidy’. which was very upsetting, not only for the Rinske’s fruit harvest, but also for the nectar rich blossom her bees had enjoyed each summer.

 

Looking at the blackberries in our garden ( yes I do have brambles in and around my garden), and in the field behind our house, the blackberries really were far more abundant and larger than in previous years. As we walked further away from our garden, and our bees, the blackberries were smaller again.

Pollination

There has been much research over recent years on the effects of pollinators within the vicinity of crops and the effect that has on size and production. Admasu A, Kibabew W, Ensermu K et al, in 2014, found that honey bees constitute 75% of the insects visiting apples and there tends to be a decrease in bee activity, and fruit set with increasing distance from the hives ( 25-100m). Could this explain how the Elms lane blackberries are thriving, being so close to our hives?

“The fourth year, the landowner ripped all of the blackberries out from the hedge, to make it all‘tidy’. which was very upsetting, not only for the Rinske’s fruit harvest, but also for the nectarrich blossom her bees had enjoyed each summer.”

I had also noticed in the summer how the bees were not all over the blossoming Lime Trees at the end of June. We were in the middle of quite a heat wave, with temperatures reaching the 30s and although the Lime was blossoming, the nectar is mostly produced on overcast, stormy days. I can remember this as Lime tree blossom usually coincides with Glastonbury festival, which is renowned for stormy wet weather! The nectar also rises before noon and again in the evening. On my walks this year I noticed an abundance of solitary and bumbles on the lime but no honey bees, despite one wild colony I know of living in a Lime Tree! At the same time, blackberries were blossoming, and I noticed that they were absolutely covered in honeybees, even as late as 9pm in the evenings.

I find it fascinating that since caring for bees, I have become so much more aware of many aspects of the nature around me. Yet, the more I notice, the more questions are raised, and the complex connections between weather, location and insects are understood.

How are the blackberries where you live?

Lime Tree blossom
Lime Tree blossom
Honey bee on apple blossom
Honey bee on apple blossom 

 

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