It is perhaps appropriate that one of the cultivars of Mahonia (Oregon grape) is called Winter Sun. Bees are creatures of the sun and, as we approach the winter solistice, bees were feasting on a neighbour’s Mahonia. Several hives were sending bees to visit the bushes, that are in a sheltered spot that catches the sun. The Mahonia planted in the apiary will not flower until after the solstice. If one is judicious in one’s choice of variety, Mahonia flowers can be available from November to March.
The solstice is now barely two weeks away and will mark the turning of the year. The sun, which has been sinking in the sky since June, will sink no more but gradually start to rise from its winter slumber. The shortening of the days has now almost come to a stop and we can look forward to the time when the days begin noticeably to lengthen. In terms of weather, however, the winter is yet to come. ‘As the days lengthen the cold strengthens’ is an old but true saying. The bees may well remember their sip of Winter Sun come the cold days of January. And we shall share that remembrance with them, having seen them out today.