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What to see in May

May brings the change from spring to summer. The swallows have arrived and bees are busy among the apple blossom flowers in the orchards. As they collect the nectar from the flowers to make honey, bees spread one flower’s pollen to another flower. This fertilises the flowers which means that later in the year we will get a good crop of apples on the tree. Read more.

Bees play an important part in pollinating other crops as well as orchard fruits. Oilseed rape is in flower now, turning fields bright yellow. The colour of the flowers attracts the bees to the large amount of nectar they produce. Bee hives are often placed on the edge of oilseed rape fields to make sure enough bees are on hand to pollinate the crop.

When the pollinated flowers of the oilseed rape have died away the plant forms a seed head which contains hundreds of tiny black seeds. Later in the year the crop is harvested with a combine, and the seeds are crushed to produce oil which is used in cooking.

Farmers with livestock to feed in the coming winter will be making silage this month. If it is made well, grass silage cut at this time of year will be an excellent feed for dairy cows next winter. The grass is mown and left to wilt for a while before the forage harvester gathers it up, chops it up smaller and blows into a trailer driven alongside.

The cut grass is carried back to the farmyard and piled in a concrete pit. It is rolled and then covered with plastic, weighed down with tyres, to keep the air out. In time the grass ferments which preserves it until winter.

Sheep will be looking less woolly soon as May is the month when sheep shearers are busy taking off the heavy fleeces before the warmer weather comes. Sheep can become stressed in hot weather with a thick woolly coat on. For more about sheep shearing, click here.

This is the time of year when the woods are carpeted in blue and white, when the bluebells and wild garlic are in full flower.

If you are lucky you might hear the cuckoo too. They are becoming quite rare. Do you know the old rhyme about cuckoos?
The cuckoo sings in April,
The cuckoo sings in May,
The cuckoo sings til the middle of
And then she flies away.

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