I thought I’d update with some news about the bees – both those in the garden, and on my drawing table. However, as this post became quite long in the writing, I have decided to put the new drawings into a separate blog post (coming soon).
Improving the solitary bee houses:
Late last month I decided to improve the site of the solitary bee nests, both enlarging the number and type of nest available, and moving them from the decking, as I think that the vibrations caused by people walking about discouraged the bees last year. Above left I’m drilling holes in the untreated wood, then tidying up with sandpaper. Finally above right is the new site of the nests, sheltered under the roof of an old hedgehog house, and resting on some bricks for stability. Read more about making solitary bee houses in these new sections on the Solitary Bee Houses and Leafcutter Bees.
A tired bumblebee:
Temperatures have been increasing over the past weeks, and bee activity in general increasing with bumblebees and honeybees flying in and out of the garden. I have never been able to get a bumblebee to nest in my garden, so I have to make do with their passing visits. Last week I rescued a buff tailed bumblebee which I found in the house, upside down and appearing quite dead. However, her legs waved weakly when I touched her, and so I righted the bee in a dish and supplied her with sugar water. Above left you see the bee, and the tongue clearly against the glass and white paper of the dish. Centre: the bee rests on some fencing material before finally flying off about twenty minutes after I found her in the house. The bee above right in the fritillary was photographed a few days later – not the same bee, but quite engrossed in what she’s doing!
Some solitary bee activity:
This past Saturday there was a very warm sunny morning and many types of bees could be seen flying above the solitary bee houses, resting occasionally on the bamboo plants, where I managed to photograph a few! It was not an easy task, given that it was quite breezy and the bees were darting around very quickly in between brief rests on the leaves. But even when the bees settled it was difficult to focus on the small bees on the waving bamboo, as you can imagine. A photograph below shows the clump of bamboo which is above the nests – the bees were darting in and out of it most of the day. Click on the thumbnails for more detail.
These are not the Leafcutter bees, who will not make an appearance until early June.
The bee above left was a beautiful red colour, and the centre left shot shows the mouth of this bee, which seems built for rolling mud balls, and so I think this is a red mason bee (update – this is a tawny mining bee, identified from photographs here). Centre right a bluish bee – do you have any idea what it is? I saw both these bees (or perhaps more than one?) a few times during the afternoon. Most common was the bee above right, which was present most of the afternoon, and there seemed to be several of them. I am still finding it quite difficult to identify the various types of bees, despite referring to guides and identification charts and photographs. There are so many variations of colour and shape, and every species seems to look different from photograph to photograph! I’m still very much learning how to tell one bee from another, so if you can identify any of these bees I’d love you to get in touch – email link is below, or there is a tab above for making comments – thanks in advance!
Other bees, flies and wasps were also enjoying the sunshine. Including this honey bee, below centre, which can be identified by the pollen sacks, and this below right, which I think is a Narcissus fly, doing a very good impression of a bumblebee.
Fabre’s Mason Bees:
Finally, for now, a little note about “The Mason Bees“, by Jean-Henri Fabre, which I spent some time reading last week. It’s a fascinating and engaging read, full of the observations and thoughts of this pioneering entomologist. It really is a series of essays which describe Fabre’s first enounter with the bees while he was a schoolteacher, and a number of his experiments and hypotheses. The entire text can be read in several places online, including here at Project Gutenberg.
An update to this page can be found here: About the bees II.
A post about the bee drawings coming soon!
All images and text ©Christine Farmer Please contact me if you wish to use any of the images.