Tag Archives: bees

World Bee Day – 20th May 2020

Today is International World Bee Day. Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that one of my pasttimes is watching bees, recording them and planting food for them.

One of the best plants for bees is comfrey. It has a long flowering season which provides food throughout the spring and summer.

Blossom, such as apple or cherry blossom, is another great food source.

Herbs (e.g. sage, oregano, thyme) are also great for bees.

Vegetables often rely on bees for pollination, including runner beans, courgettes and many others. Allowing brassicas to flower can also provide food for bees.

Wild native flowers are also important for bees too. So having some in your garden is a great asset.

Lens artist photo challenge #58

This week’s lens artist photo challenge is –

Something old, something new, something borrow, something blue

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.

Elm tree

Elm tree

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.

Honey bee

Honey bee

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.

Common Blue

Common Blue

Six on Saturday favourites

This week I am combining my Six on Saturday with some of my favourite things.

The wildflower meadow is just coming into it’s own. One of my favourites parts of the garden.

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I did say in a comment that I would post some of my yellow alliums this week. I just love flowers.

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And these alliums are one of my favourites, they remind me of fireworks going off.

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And of course I cannot post about my favourite things without including a photo of a bumblebee……………

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And growing my own food is another love – broad beans with another bee!

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And this year I am loving vetch, because there seems to be so much of it and the bees are loving it too.

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Garden bees

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.

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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).

While the larger Garden bumblebees seem to like the delphiniums, even those that have fallen over in the wind and rain.

The garden bumblebees also use the blue iris.

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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.

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Inspired by Lens Artist Photo Challenge #48 – Wild

Six on Saturday

 

Carder bee disappearing into comfrey flower

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 feeding on flower kale plants

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

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

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

Carder on Indian pea tree

5; Another carder (they are easier to photograph than other bees!) on the Indian pea tree.

Tulip

Tulip

6. And finally a flower without a bee to complete my Six on Saturday .

Spring???

 

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.

Bombus hortorum

Bombus hortorum

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.

Garden Bumble

Bombus hortorum

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.

Bombus hortorum

Bombus hortorum

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.

Mid Summer

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.

Common carder bee on comprey

Common carder bee on comfrey

Also joining in with Cee’s black and while photo challenge – any animal.

 

 

June Garden Update

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.

Foxgloves, aquilegia and geraniums are dotted elsewhere. Certainly June adds colour!

Heath Bumblebee

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

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

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.

 

World Bee Day

Today, Sunday 20th May, is World Bee Day. It is a day to celebrate our wonderful bees, but it is also a day to reflect on how bee populations continue to decline.

Carder bumblebee on apple blossom

Carder bumblebee on apple blossom

Bees recorded in the 2017 National Bee Monitoring Scheme showed their lowest numbers since 2012. A total population loss of just over 14% has been recorded between 2012-2017.

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!

 

For more information check out the following pollinator website.

#WorldBeeDay