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The Common Carder Bee and Lavender

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Saturday 20 February 2010

The Common Carder Bee and Lavender

Back in September while I was home in Lincolnshire I was beginning to take a bit more notice of the bees that were still around in the garden. There were the big bumbles and honey bees, but also lots of these pretty dainty gingery bees which I now know are Bombus pascuorum (L. Pascuum: of the meadow) the Common Carder Bee. They don’t look like the archetypal bumble bee because they are not so obviously striped and, like yesterdays B pratorum, are small and dainty.

pasc indentity sm

B Pascuorum: male 13 –14mm, left,  and Queen 16-18mm /worker 10-15mm right

I watched them, one sun drenched afternoon, picking their way through the last of the lavender flowers which I had been sent to trim. (you can see the dead heads on the right.) There were just a few remaining blossoms which I could not bring myself to cut down, much to my father’s bemusement and slight irritation! I left them, untidy stragglers that they were, for the bees.

my pasc lincs sept sm  

What I now know is Bombus pascuorum on the remaining lavender in Lincs in September.

The bee above is, I am pretty sure, a male, due to the long antennae and I can’t see a pollen basket either.  They are called “carder bees” because of their habit of using “combed “ bits of vegetation and moss to cover over their nests which they will make in tussocky grass or in old deserted animal burrows. Here is a delightful clip of a carder bee nest in the UK from Maria Fremlin on Youtube, along with some lovely humming sounds of summer. At last we have a warm day here today.



They are very hairy little bees, never losing the thick tufty gingery hair on their thorax. Some bumble bees develop  a definite bald spot here, as did my bombus hortorum,  see my post “A Forlorn and Balding Bee”. Again my source for nearly all my bumblebee info is from the excellent

I sat and watched them for some time buzzing round the lavender and saw how they have a very endearing way of  swinging their little front legs forward when approaching a flower, preparing to land or grasp the flower.. so here is my carder bee approaching the last of the lavender. 


carder sketch 2 carder bee sketch3


The Common Carder Bee, Bombus Pascuorum and Lavender

bombus pascuorum sml

Watercolour and pencil on Arches HP.  6 x 8 inches.

I realise that this is the last of the Bumble Bees I intended to paint for the exhibition, but of course there are others, and some very interesting ones, that we could see in the UK. So I just might try to fit in a “Shrill Carder Bee” or the recently arrived “Tree Bumble Bee” or even the Short Haired Bumblebee who is coming back to us from New Zealand.. you can read all about these at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

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Blogger Dirty Girl Gardening said...


Great post... these pics are darling!

21 February 2010 at 03:39  
Blogger Cheryl said...

As someone who is passionate about the humble bumble, this post was a delight to read. The illustration are so beautiful, you have a wonderful gift. Thank you for honouring our bees.......

21 February 2010 at 17:50  
Blogger Africa Gomez said...

Wow, what a lovely post and drawing. "There were just a few remaining blossoms which I could not bring myself to cut down" It could have been me! Every September my lavender hedge becomes very untidy with dead flowers and to stop the urge to tidy it I always remind myself that if a single sprig remains, a Bombus pascuorum will surely visit!

27 February 2010 at 23:00  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Hi Blackbird thank you so much I like this one too. I find these particular bees quite enchanting.. somehow bees and herbs seem to go together really well.

28 February 2010 at 21:58  
Blogger Unknown said...

Okay, so THIS one is my absolute favourite. Because I love lavender (bedroom is done in a lavender theme, I have dried lavender flowers everywhere, lavender essential oil, etc) and of course bees, so this won wins for me.
Val do you have a Cafe Press or Esty shop or anything like that? Do you sell prints of your work, or just the paintings, or what do you do? I don't know that I've ever asked you this but I so love your work, and wishI had some way of supporting you even modestly.

1 March 2010 at 23:40  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Jodi! say the nicest things! .. yes this one is a fave and I love lavender too. I am thinking of a set of 6 cards.. but will wait till all pics done. difficult to choose. will let you know .. Val

3 March 2010 at 00:49  
Blogger Craft and Activities for All Ages said...

I have a Blog "Craft and Activities for the Elderly" - I was looking for an idea to do with Lavender for our July 2011 calendar (I put up a calendar for each month and it can be downloaded and coloured-in/painted by groups at Day Centres etc) Would you let me use your Bee and Lavender sketch for the July calendar? - I will link it back to your Blog. Thanks Nancy

9 June 2011 at 14:25  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

HI Nancy hope you get this .. can you email me re the image. I have tried to leave a comment on your blog wiht no success.That image is not avaiable but if you would like another I could probably do a quick outline for you??
email me from the link on my home page

9 June 2011 at 18:57  
Blogger μέλισσα said...

Hi. I just wanted you to know that I really enjoy your sketch 3 of the bee and I actually am going to get it as a tattoo on my foot. I've been looking for the perfect one for a while and I just love the raw sketch look that yours has.

11 February 2012 at 23:34  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Melissa. You then owe me some money! You neither asked my permission nor offered to pay me, I suggest you email me and I will send you a modest invoice. Using my image for your tattoo without my permission is stealing. You dont go to a store and just take what you want without asking or paying for it, do you?

3 March 2012 at 07:39  

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