Monday, July 01, 2013

On bees and things

There has been much in the media recently on the decline of honey bees and the lack of insects generally in Britain.

This does seem borne out by my own experiences.  I have yet to see a honey bee in 2013, despite looking for them but two species of bumble bee have been doing well in our East Sussex garden

We have a nest of the tree bee, Bombus hypnorum, in the wall at the back of our house.  The plant that seems to exert a powerful attraction for them is the alder buck thorn, Frangula alnus, although it has tiny greenish, scentless flowers.

The whole of our bush trembles with them, but they do not seem very interested in larger, more colourful flowers. 

The tree bee is a relatively new species in Britain.  Having first been recorded in Wiltshire in 2001, it has now spread far and wide and seems quite untroubled by whatever it is that is bothering the honey been and many other insects.

A self-sown and small flowered cotoneaster is another plant they like and on this they are joined in smaller numbers by the early bumble bee, Bombus pratorum.

In the wider countryside there are some lovely flowering meadows like Jackson Pollock paintings.

They do have insects in them, but not nearly so many as one would expect given the quantity of flowering plants.  In this afternoon's warmth I was looking at a patch of white clover, Trifolium repens, a flower normally very attractive to bees and other insects, but there was no sign of any visitors.

Butterflies generally are scarce, but I have seen most of the species I would expect to see during the year so far, albeit in much lower numbers than usual.  Meadow browns, Maniola jurtina, have just appeared and are usually common by now, but I only saw two this afternoon while walking through what appeared to be an ideal meadowland habitat.

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