Honey bee forage: Siberian squill
I am fascinated by blue pollen: it seems so over-the-top. Nature provides cool things, but to me, blue pollen is gratuitous, an act of sheer beauty. Although I’ve posted photos of it before, they’ve been provided by other beekeepers, and I so wanted to see it myself.
So about three years ago I set out to grow it, and I tried several different things. Last year I planted bird’s eyes, Gilia tricolor, but it was a disappointment. The pollen was certainly blue, but the bees didn’t seem to care.
So last fall, on a cold, miserable, and muddy day in October, my husband and I braved the elements and planted several hundred bulbs of Siberian squill, Scilla siberica, also known as wood squill. I already had a few of them, but they were limping by in the shade and not doing well, so I decided to plant them in a big way.
They are small plants with bright blue bell-shaped flowers that pop out of the soil along with the crocuses. Soon after we planted them, we had a deep freeze that lasted for days; I was afraid they weren’t deep enough and I was sure I had ruined the entire planting. But by the first of March they were poking through the straw mulch.
On the first few days of bloom I saw nothing but flies—pretty flies, but flies nonetheless. But when the sun came out, the bees came in droves. In the past three days I have photographed three species of bumble bees, male mason bees, and of course honey bees, all frolicking in the Siberian squill.
The plants die back by the time the lawn starts to grow, so they can be mowed over with no problem. New plants come up from both bulbs and seed, yielding thick stands in just a few years.