blog

Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Phacelia buzzing

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In one corner of the rosybee site we plant 'crops' specifically to provide the bees with a boost. These always include sections of borage and phacelia because, for a large area, they provide maximum benefit and are very reliably grown by scattering the seed on the surface (as we don't have any seed drill machinery).  For the last two weeks the phacelia has been in full flower and buzzing. I have never heard such a loud noise from bees while foraging. It is really quite an experience to stand in the middle of that sea of pale purple flowers and be surrounded by a mix of bumblebees and honeybees manically darting from bloom to bloom. The bees I spotted included honeybees, buff-tailed, red-tailed and garden bumbles, common and moss carders, and I think I even saw hairy-footed flower bee. It was difficult to count bee density because they were moving so fast but it averaged around 12 bees per square meter, which is very high.  Fabulous.

Leafcutter bees

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A friend of mine has this very successful bee hotel in her garden and this year it is being used by leafcutter bees.  They lay their eggs in short tubes and then seal the end with a neatly cut section of leaf.  You will know if you have these bees in your garden because they cut near circular sections out of soft leaves, usually herbaceous perennials I have to confess that the bee hotel is being completely ignored. It may be too exposed or that the holes we made are too small. I noticed that the bees here are choosing the larger holes. We will try again as I would love to be able to watch these bees at rosbybee.

Bramble bees

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There were so many bees on the newly opened brambles that the other flowers need not have bothered! Today was hot and great clump of bramble (blackberry) bushes in one side of our site has begun to flower. I had been wandering around in the sun with the camera trying to see what the bees were favoring when I was attracted by the buzzing.

It was covering in black darting dots, mainly honey bees but I also spotted, white, buff and red tailed bumblers, carder bees and some black shining mining bees.

The oil seed rape is still in flower so it was great to see the honey bees on something else. This should also help produce a better balance of honey; oil seed rape honey is very quick to set but bramble if the opposite.  We will be taking another honey harvest as soon as the oil seed rape is over so we will see how it compares.

Update on our wildflower seed trial

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I was very disparaging about trying to get a nice looking meadow effect from seeds last year and, our initial experience was all about weeds. Now we are in June and the area we planted (about 500 square meters) actually now looks stunning although not rich in variety or bees. We still have lots of dock, thistles and creeping buttercup which were such features of its original really wild look but the oxeye daisy is in full bloom and visually dominant.  We did have some pink campion but that is now finished and if I look amongst the daisy and grass I can see a few other things coming through but not much.

However, its objective is to support pollinating insects and on that score the oxeye daisy is clearly a hit with a wide variety of hover flies but with only an occasional solitary bee.  I did manage to catch this shot of a leafcutter bee on one.

Today we saw lots of different bees

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Each nice day this year, I have been struck by how few bees there seem to be either in the garden or at any of the planted sites at rosybee. Today was different; there was a gentle buzz even when the sun was behind light clouds.  This was particularly true of the contoneasters in our garden which was buzzing so noisily that I spent at least an hour trying to add to our stock collection of bumblebees. The following is the full list of bees I saw today.

Common bees found in sun:

  • Early bumblebee
  • White tailed bumblebee
  • Red-tailed bumblebee
  • Buff-tailed bumblebee
  • Common carder
  • Tawny mining bee
  • Cuckoo bumblebee

Foraging in light shade

  • Moss carder
  • Garden bumblebee

and some more unusual ones:

  • Tree bumblebee (lots of those so we must have a local nest)
  • Coastal leafcutter (not sure what that was doing in Oxfordshire)
  • and I think, a hairy footed flower bee - see picture and please tell me if you know better