Today we were introduced to some beautiful and very old elm trees. Many elms in Ireland were lost to Dutch elm disease but this is one of a few magnificent specimens that survived.
I haven’t yet introduced you to our new arrivals – they are just over a week old now, seven little chicks!
We have borrowed some much from nature including honey bees. All bees were originally wild bees, Apis melifera, but thousands of years ago humans thought it would be a good idea to provide bees with hives so we could steal their honey! This is an interesting article about the history of honey bees.
And finally something blue. Regular readers may remember a few weeks I showed you the Common blue butterfly – I managed to get a photo today of it’s wings open. This is a female not quite as blue as the male, but still very pretty, even if a little weather-worn.
Wild bumblebees – as regular readers will know, are one of my favourite subjects. We are now in our second week of rain (and yes I know some of you are looking for it), but how do the bees cope. They just wait for a break in the showers. Not that there were many today.
Common carder bee
Some clever bees feed on the flowers in the greenhouse and polytunnel. But yesterday when I was in there during a heavy down pour I noticed the buzzing stopped. I couldn’t see the bees so think they’d gone back to their nests. Outside they wait for the brief glimpses of sun. The lupins are popular with many of the bees (here just white tailed).
White tailed bees on lupins
White tailed bees
White tailed bees
White tailed bees
While the larger Garden bumblebees seem to like the delphiniums, even those that have fallen over in the wind and rain.
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The garden bumblebees also use the blue iris.
I have only seen the carder bee on the lavender (and some butterflies too). Both the carders and garden bumbles bees will still fly in light rain, I suppose they have to, otherwise they will starve. It is important to have lots of variety of flowers in your garden, that way you will attract lots of different bees, and other pollinators.
Common carder bee with it’s head deep inside a comfrey flower
1. Comprey is always a great bee plant, and it just keeps on flowering the whole season through which is a huge benefit for pollinators.
Carder bee on flowering kale
2. I always let my over-wintered kale flower as it is another valuable food source, not just for carder bumbles but also early bumblebees and white tailed bumblebees too.
Wasp of black currant
3. Wasps are predators of other insects but queen wasps emerging from hibernation seem to love my blackcurrant bushes. Each spring I see them feeding on the flowers, I suspect gathering nectar from the flowers.
Garden bumblebee on autumn olive tree
4. The autumn olive is proving really popular with the bees too. Yesterday I counted four different types of bees feeding on it as well as some small hoverflies.
Carder on Indian pea tree
5; Another carder (they are easier to photograph than other bees!) on the Indian pea tree.
6. And finally a flower without a bee to complete my Six on Saturday .
It is unnaturally warm. Some parts of Ireland it was 17 degrees Celsius today, here in the west only 15, a temperature we would be happy with in May.
The mild weather has brought out the bumblebees. Queen bumblebees hibernate over the winter. In usual years we would see the first queens emerge in mid-March.
The first bees were spotted by my children on Sunday, and over the last couple of days we have seen some more. This was the first one I managed to get close up to photograph.
The spring flowering heather is a new addition to the garden planted to provide early food for the queens. They need both nectar and pollen after there long winter sleep. Heather, crocus , hellebore, dandelion and willow are all good early food sources.
With Climate Change resulting in much less predictable weather patterns, bumblebees are vulnerable. If the weather turns cold again the queens can only survive a couple of days without food.
How did we get here so quickly ? It seems like only a short time ago we were shivering in January and suddenly it is the longest day of the year.
In the garden, the early summer lupins and irises are going over. The day lilies and tall campanulas are close to opening. Most of the queen bumblebees are now nest bound, while their workers do all the foraging for nectar and pollen.
Our late spring has jumped to mid summer and we seem to have missed a whole month, as temperatures soar to 24 degrees – not really typical for the west of Ireland, where we’d be happy with temperatures in the high teens. Everyone is afraid to complain about the heat in case the rain comes back! We Irish have a funny relationship with the weather.
Still, my June garden is blooming. Lupins are proving very popular with the bees and other, perhaps not so welcome, creatures! Though with the heat the flowers seem to be going over quickly.
The blue irises have put on a great show – much better than last year. And seem popular with hoverflies and the larger bumblebees like Garden Bumbles.
My favourite areas are the new wildflower meadow and also around the pond, where ragged robin adds it’s glorious pink. Butterflies enjoy the blooms, while hoverflies, are keen on the ox-eyed daisies.
Ragged robin by pond
Ragged robin by pond
Foxgloves, aquilegia and geraniums are dotted elsewhere. Certainly June adds colour!
We only occasionally get these little heath bumblebees in our garden. As the name suggests they are more common in upland areas, particularly bogs and heaths but they are recorded in gardens too. I took these photos on the shores of Lough Cullin here in County Mayo, last weekend.
Bombus jonellus Queen
There was a couple of queens and one very small worker, who practically dissappeared into the flowers as it searched for pollen and nectar.
Bombus jonellus worker
Heath bumblebees are one of the smallest of Ireland’s white tailed bumbles and they have three yellow brands making them look quite yellow.
There are things we can all do to help bees. Here is just a few examples:
Join a bee monitoring scheme. These citizen science programmes are a great way to learn more about bees yourself, but also contribute important information about the health of bee populations.
Plants some flowers! Ideally pollinator-friendly flowers. For example, cottage garden varieties (e.g. delphiniums), nasturtiums, herbs and heathers. It is also important to have flowers from early spring to the first frost to provide food throughout the season.
Don’t be too tidy. Leave areas of tall vegetation for nesting bumblebees, leave vegetables (particularly overwintering brassicas to flower) allow dandelions to flower before mowing lawns.
And finally enjoy bees!
Bumblebee drone sharing Allium
White tailed Bumblebee
Early bumblebee on cranesbill
White tailed bumblebee, Bombus Lucorum
For more information check out the following pollinator website.