Tag Archives: bumblebees

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

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Dazzling Dandelions

This month’s Monthly Meet-up Photo Challenge hosted by Wild Daffodil asks us to consider flower as our theme. You may have already noticed that I am a fan of spring flowers. And the humble dandelion is no exception. In fact, you may have noticed that the same flower already featured in last month’s challenge “yellow“.

Well since then, the dandelions around us have really come into their own. They adorn my “lawn”, the road verges and many fields. They are like a milky way of yellow and green. Often seen only as a “weed”, the dandelion has so much to offer. You can make salad from the young leaves, wine from it flowers, and a coffee substitute from its roots.

Dandelions

Dandelions

As some of you will have heard me say before, dandelions are also great for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. These pollinators were all using the flowers when I completed my bee and butterfly transect last Saturday. Pollinators can collect both pollen and nectar from the flowers.

 

If you let your dandelions go to seed, you will also provide a valued food source for birds such as chaffinches, bullfinches and goldfinch.

Bullfinch eating dandelion seeds

Bullfinch eating dandelion seeds (not best photo as taken from inside)

Awakening

Bumblebee queens are waking up for the spring. Everything is late this year, as it had been a cold spring, so it’s good to see the bees emerging.

Early bumblebee

Early bumblebee

You will notice this lady has some passengers. These phoretic mites (Parasitellus) do not harm the bee. They will fall off when she sets up a nest and will act as nest cleaners.

Via this week’s photo challenge – Awakening

Spring Equinox

Wishing everyone a lovely Spring Equinox.

I hope more spring like temperatures will follow. There is the odd bumblebee flying through the garden, but things really need to warm up a bit for them. There is no point planting any seeds outside as night time temperatures are still falling below freezing,  though I am trying some salad crop in the greenhouse. Fingers crossed they will grow!

 

 

Bumble bees

This week’s weekly photo challenge is Variations on a theme. So I felt it was a perfect excuse to show some bumblebee photos. As many of you will know I have a soft spot for this amazing creatures. The queen’s are currently hibernating and it will be another six weeks before we see them (usually around Saint Patrick’s Day – 17th March – here in the west of Ireland).

When the queens emerge from their winter sleep they need to find food. Early spring flowers and shrubs like dandelions, willow catkins, crocuses and flowering brassicas are good source of pollen for them. A simple way to help bees in your garden is to allow dandelions to bloom before you start cutting the lawn.

The gallery above shows a variety of queens, workers and drones from a number of different bumblebee species.

 

 

Structure of flowers and bees

For bees the structure of flowers is important. The reason being (no pun intended) that different bee species have different tongue lengths.

So for short tongued bees like White tailed bumblebees, simple flowers are often best. In my garden these bees feed on the small oregano flowers, and bramble and I have even seen them feeding on buttercups.

In contrast, Garden Bumblebees have the longest tongues. So they visit plants like runner beans and foxgloves.

Common carder bees lie somewhere between the two and so you will see them feeding on many different flowers – today I even saw one trying to get at a runner bean flower.

Of course bees are clever and some will “rob” nectar. They do this by drilling little holes in the side of the flowers, to get at the nectar (without pollinating the plant!).  I have seen them do this with comfrey flowers. Other bees (and different species too) will come along and use the holes too!