Sunday, April 6, 2014

Buds and Bees - Signs of Spring

Mining Bee (Andrena sp.)
It has been too long since my last blog entry. But spring has been slow in coming and I have been searching the tangled wood and garden for all signs vernal. How had nature diarist Edwin Way Teale experienced early April in his patch of the woods almost 40 years ago? He walked a mossy woodland trail and found what he was hoping to see, a spring azure butterfly. Last year in March I had recorded the sighting of a mourning cloak butterfly warming itself on a rock in the sun. That was a joyful sign that spring had arrived. Now I trip along an ivy-covered path to an overgrown corner of the wood where some spicebush has survived a fallen tree. There are tiny yellow buds swelling against slender stems, but they are tightly closed against the cold spring air. The maples are beginning to blush high up against the clear blue sky. Perhaps I can get a closer look at the flowers of the young red maple on the slope. These buds are about to burst, but no blossom yet. As I walk the garden path I hear the unmistakable buzz of a bee visiting a flower. Honeybees are already out and about, brushing against the deep orange pollen of crocuses, which are blooming a good month later than last year. At another patch of crocus I spot small dark, gray bees quietly gathering pollen. These bees seem calmer than their European cousins and I realize that they are mining bees (Andrena sp.) once I see one swiftly disappear into a mounded hole in sandy soil nearby. I have seen buds of promise and soon enough there will be more flowers for this solitary bee to visit and provision her underground nest. I have yet to catch a glimpse of the spring azure butterfly, but for me spring is here!

Entrance to a Mining Bee Nest