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Watching Bees in the Garden.. UK

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Tuesday 6 July 2010

Watching Bees in the Garden.. UK

During the last three weeks at home in Lincolnshire I spent some time in the garden and out and about in the village, bee spotting. This does involve staring into other peoples gardens which can be misunderstood, but also leads to some very funny and interesting conversations.

I am still struck by how very few people know about the bees, but then are completely enchanted to find they have, say a little leafcutter chewing the rose leaves or the beautiful B lapidarius busy in the lavender. It’s not that  they are disinterested, it’s just that, like me, they had not really noticed them before.

But, once you know, it is as if a different level of existence has suddenly been made visible. One of criss crossing flight paths, complex flower relationships and preferences, courtship, nest building and the struggle to survive all going on under our noses amongst these most endearing of creatures.  Once pointed out, most people are completely captivated. 

In the Garden

I should explain that the garden is a quiet changeless place,  untouched now by my elderly father and only occasionally subdued by the equally elderly gardener, my sister and me when I go home. Wildlife is happy here, rabbits and squirrels hop and skip around the lawns and hedges unafraid.  Pesticide free for many many years it is a very natural garden and although flowers have been reduced to what is easy and low maintenance, there are certainly enough to attract some lovely bees.  

I also found this photo the other day. This is my Dad who made this lovely garden over some 44 years.  Taken a couple of years ago when just a sprightly 90 year old, now at 93 he can’t get out so much, but still watches the action through the French windows.  Like us here in Florida the squirrels are a source of endless amusement. (He does not approve of this photo as he thinks it portrays him as scruffy and simple.. both of which are very far from the truth, but I like it because it is simply a lovely garden photo!)

The Bees
In the old stone wall in the garden amongst the ivy there was a Bombus pratorum nest and these delightful little bees were everywhere. On the blue geranium cranesbill, the chives, the blackberries, green alkanet and latterly the lavender which was just in bloom when I left.

I found a drowsy overnighter on the chives one morning and this male resting in a blackberry flower being warmed by the first rays of sun. His drooping antennae indicate he is probably sleeping. He has positioned himself to be supported by the petal at the back while anchoring himself onto the stamens and the petals to either side. He was oblivious to me and the camera and only moved after about 5 minutes of full sunshine. sleeping male prat sm

This little Megachile male ( centuncularis?) spent most of its time upended headfirst in the pink geraniums, scrabbling about to get reach the nectar.

  mega appoaching fl mega male in flower

He stopped on a leaf just long enough for me to get a photo.. but they are very quick

megac male sm

And I was so pleased to see the very handsome Megachile willughbiella again. This one was all over the lavender and I did manage to get a few photos. This bee is next on my list to draw, he is just gorgeous! Unfortunately you cannot see the feathery front legs very well on this photo, which identify this pretty bee so well, he also has a loud buzz! What a complete delight it was to watch him…
will male

During the 6 weeks of my UK stay flowers came and went in the garden. The honeysuckle had a brief 2 weeks of glory. I watched the Garden Bumblebees Bombus hortorum, long tongues already unfurled, alight on the long stamens and push their elegant heads down into the flower tube. They sometimes stand on the stamens with their back feet and grasp the petals at either side for stability, it’s an action rather similar to us humans opening a cupboard to look inside.  
b hort honeyhort on honeysuckle
I spent a happy hour with Ursula at her wonderful Easton Walled Garden where we watched a bit of nectar robbing in progress by Bombus terrestris on her honeysuckle.. when we looked at the blooms it was amazing how many of them had holes in the base! …sadly no photos!

Here are two other bees whose identity I am still not sure about.. (I am asking on BWARS..)

This little bee, I first thought was Lassioglossum morio the Brassy mining bee because of the very obvious bronze sheen. He was hot and tired when I rescued him from Dad’s greenhouse. He posed nicely for me on a piece of lined paper cooling off. We are still not sure but Alan at (Norwegica’s Aculeate blog ) who has been so much help to me thinks maybe an Osmia sp.. so I am wondering if it is Osmia caerulescens?
 morio small

And then this one, on flowering laurel. There were many of them. andrena

It is quite a big bee with a hairy gingery thorax and a black very shiny hairless abdomen. An Andrena of some sort? Andrena haemorrhoa female perhaps.

Bombus lapidarius
love lavender, don’t they! This was about 7.00 early evening, the light on the new lavender is beautiful.
blap in lav 

And finally the funny tiny little Hylaeus, white faced bees which once you know they are there, are everywhere!! You just have to spot them. They do look more like black flies! This one, which I think is an Hylaeus hyalinatus female, was busy upside down on a pink geranium which I had brought inside…rather a surprise for her and just a bit of luck for me! hylaeus

….. and yes,  I am back in steamy Florida very jetlagged and hot, waiting for my mind, brain and energy to arrive, which all seemed to go missing somewhere over the Atlantic…. I wonder if we will ever be reunited? :)


Blogger Dan said...

Oh dear, after reading your blog for quite a few months now, the only one I still instantly recognise in my garden is the one with the orange backside!
The garden sounds wonderful, untouched, unspoiled and much loved by nature.

6 July 2010 at 18:45  
Blogger Kimberly said...

Your father looks fantastic! What a proud, strong man! Love the photo!

Great post about bees. I was never interested in them as I'm very allergic. However, as I learned more about them, I realized they're not interested in me. Watching them is truly fascinating.

6 July 2010 at 18:58  
Blogger Liz said...

Wonderful photos and lovely subject. I too love Bees and pay them a lot of attention, and as you say it's amazing when you discover new Bees or interesting Bees such as leafcutters!

Many of my plants are for the Bees and Hoverflies, this year they have especially loved the White Clover - which attracted many, many types including the tiny and very fast Blue Mason (which I posted photos of a couple of blogs ago)

6 July 2010 at 20:18  
Anonymous greenman said...

Very good to know that you and your bees are well.
Lovelly to see your dad. It must be difficult to watch the garden from the inside when he loved to see the outside!

I still love to buy 3 more bees from you. Is that possible?
I'd love to make a quartet of bees.

6 July 2010 at 21:56  
Blogger John said...

Lovely photos, Val. Fascinating how you now see the world with this unique perspective of bees. They are all around us, aren't they?

Your dad looks so young!

Glad you're back!

-- John

6 July 2010 at 23:03  
Blogger Threadspider said...

What a delightful post, and belated congratulations on the Exhibition.I am one of the newly converted to the joy of bees and will be looking forward to a book of British bees with great excitement.
Good luck with moving back again

7 July 2010 at 18:13  
Blogger Ellen Rathbone said...

Welcome back, Val! Sounds like your exhibition was quite the success! You should post photos of it if you have any, for those of us who couldn't fly over! :)

And have a safe move back to England! I can't imagine anyone really missing Florida (as I sit here in 90-degree weather and over 90% humidity - in northern NY), but I suppose you've made some ties. At least you'll be closer to your folks!

7 July 2010 at 18:56  
Anonymous Marcia said...

Hi Val, so lovely to see your bee photos again and the pic of your Dad is wonderful - you are lucky to still have an old man in your life, I miss mine (Dad) dreadfully, he died 7 yrs ago, it still feels like yesterday when we used to have long chats, twinkly blue eyes and gentle smile . .

8 July 2010 at 05:57  
Anonymous Stacie Shepp said...

Val, This is great! I invite you to share this on I will send you an e-mail with more information!

9 July 2010 at 22:47  
Blogger Gabrielle said...

I so enjoyed this post. Your affection for family, bees, and gardens is so clear in your writing. I think you have a gift with words as well as pencil and paint. Sorry I've been a bit out of touch lately.

16 July 2010 at 04:50  
Blogger sharp green pencil said...

Thank you all so much.I am sorry for late replies.. It has been impossible to get to the blog this last week and I have so much catching up to do!

Dan ..:) if/when the book comes out you will be the first to know!

Kimberly.. you are so right! They are really not interested in you but it must be very difficult if you know you are allergic to their stings.. but thank you for taking the time to think about them!

Liz...The blue mason is wonderful I really want to make another painting of it..but it will have to wait a while. I will get over to your blog to have a look at the photo asap!

Geenman.. yes of course to the prints.have sent you email!

John.. the bees are everywhere..even my friends who are not really interested in bees keep telling me how many they have seen!:)

Threadspider.. so glad you are enjoying your bees! I think you are becoming a bit of an expert.. BWARS is such a good resource.. but still dont have positive ident for my morio??

Hi there Ellen.. I must admit the heat really did hit me when I came back as did the mosquitoes..UK will just be ..well.. different!

Marcia .. thank you as always..yes Dad is fine..I am just sad he cant get out in the garden so much now. I took a fresh rose into the house every day while I was there,,just so he could see and smell them..but its not quite the same is it!

Stacie... thanks very much for your kind words. I did have a look .. but cant link the blog to the site and dont have time to duplicate posts.. but will be back ..

Gabrielle.. how very kind you are...and lovely to have your comment as always. AS you can see I am also very out of touch!!

18 July 2010 at 11:59  

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