Tag Archives: bumble bees

I’m in Clover & Bees are in the Parsley

O wow. Someone gave me a bee chalet, for solitary leaf cutter bees. Here it is: the next best thing to a honey bee tree hive, for me.

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There it is, now, up on the grapevine wall, near the pear tree, the harakeke/flax in flower, the rosemary, forget-me-nots.

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The dormant leaf cutters are inside the little hole and they will settle in the tiny cardboard tubes in the diagram  when they hatch. I hope. And I hope they love all the nearby parsley flowers, too like the bumbles and an occasional honey bee (very few around this summer).  They love the flowering fennel, too. I wonder what a parsley/ fennel honey tastes like? Is it super-healthy?

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honey bee in parsley flowers

There are bumbles out on the zigzag,too. In among the thyme. And more parsley flowers.

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thyme with parsley stalks and flowers

And then there’s the clover.

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bumble in clover

I didn’t have much clover in the past and I used to pull it out. Even though I knew about clover honey, it’s a weed, in a lawn, I thought. But suddenly there’s a whole lot more and I’ve learned that clover is pollinated by bumble bees, so maybe it’s a sign that the bumble bee numbers are increasing. Clover also also fixes nitrogen, which is good for the soil, on the zigzag especially. So I’m letting it flourish.

If you’d like any parsley seeds, I’ll be posting them out and delivering them in a couple of weeks. Just let me know.

The Year’s Last Bees?

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Quinces. Waiting.

It’s autumn here. Native and exotic birds busy among the apple trees.The quinces are good this year and I planned to make quince paste over this long weekend, from my favorite Elizabeth David recipe. Many thanks to the bees for all their pollination help, six months ago.

There are still lots of bee-loved plants in the garden, even on the otherwise empty table where I kept the plants to sell. Just a couple of pots left, with straggly alyssum and basil fino verde plants that I wouldn’t even give away.

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the almost denuded plant table

And occasionally a bee in the lavender.

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Bumble bees a little more often. Also in the lavender. But soon they’ll all be gone, until spring.

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I wanted to make the quince paste. I wanted to prepare the garden for winter. But I’m trying to complete a project. And I’m struggling. Sometimes with interruptions, like the City Council spraying old man’s beard nearby. With Roundup.

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old man’s beard

 

This meant I had to leave, to work in the town library. The plants and the bees didn’t have that choice. Did the wind carry Roundup all over this hillside? I don’t know. Triumph spray; and Conquest for pasting on places where the weed was cut back. Battle-winner names.  I hate them.

I dream of bee colonies in our trees, love everything I read about apicentred tree hives, but I think this is the wrong place for them. Will think more fully about it when I’m up-to-date with everything else. Will that happen soon?

Some Bee-Loved Plants Leave Home

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Gazebos going up on Ghuznee Street. We were down Leeds Street, just past the most distant gazebo pictured.

So Out in the Park became Out in the (Car) Park, as part of a much bigger event, Cuba Dupa.

And our Bee-Loved stall was there, under one of these gazebos, thanks to my qi gong teacher, Fan, who contributed some – very popular – plants of her own. And to Tasha Haines, whose lovely eye and generous heart are always valuable to have around.

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Fan womanning the Bee-Loved stand (Maeve Lonie poster being blown about behind her, Anna Keir bunting in foreground)

We also advertised qi gong and sold some women’s film-related things.

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And Anna Keir’s quirky crafts.

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Anna Keir birds

It was fun. And good to talk with visitors, share the plants and the accompanying handouts.

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Until a Wellington gust lifted the row of gazebos. Twice. The gazebos were dismantled and we went home early.

I was proud of my plants, from heritage seeds, in their biodegradable Fertil pots from France, in their organic compost and growing sturdily: alyssum, two kinds of basil, bergamot, borage, calendula, coriander, parsley. Many flowering or about to flower. All attractive to bees. All going to provide seeds that their owners can use next year.

Now it’s time to prepare the garden for winter.  There are still bumble bees in the lavender. And the anise hyssop is flowering. But daylight saving ends soon.

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anise hyssop with ratty leaves – not sure what caused those.

 

Bees In The Blossom. And Other Winged Insects

It is DRY. I have to restrain myself from dragging the long hose onto the public zigzag. I need to know what will grow well out there, even if neglected, even in a drought.

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left to right– borage, poppies, daisies

But it’s hard when I look at this borage (yes, the borage is back, in some places at least), these poppies. They are all stressed. The daisies seem very hardy. I’ll add them in other places next year.

In the regularly watered home garden, there are very few honey bees. But the bumbles are busy. And they LOVE the phacelia, now flowering abundantly. Even when there’s fresh borage nearby.

bumbles choose phacelia
bumbles choose phacelia, among borage, calendula, cornflowers
Bumbles in phacelia
going for it
phacelia with bee
this one so you can admire the phacelia leaves

I’ve added a little bowl of water in the back garden, for the bees. (A bumble bee fell in and was in bad shape when I came to the rescue. I put it in a shady place to recover. And then it was gone.)

The water hasn’t attracted the honey bees. Occasionally one comes by. This one had a lot of flower choice and went for a series of calendula blossoms.

honey bee in calendula

And I’ve noticed other winged insects. Here are two. I’ve searched on Google reverse image for them, without success. Are they busy eating little pests? I hope so.

another winged creature at rest

winged creature at rest

If you know what these are, I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve had a few ‘black’ poppies, too, with a range of colour. The insects, including the bees, seem to ignore them.

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(only slightly) black poppy

I keep watching.

Taking Care of Phacelia – My Favorite Bee-Loved Flower

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bee on phacelia, the mauve blossom in the foreground

I fell in love with phacelia (purple tansy) before I planted a single seed. Before I’d even seen a phacelia plant. Who knows why? A coup de foudre is often mysterious. And especially for something not yet seen. But if I hadn’t loved phacelia I might have given up. For this year anyway.

First off, not many phacelia seeds germinated. They drowned easily as tiny seedlings too. With so many seedlings to water – see early posts – I was sometimes a little careless. Eventually I planted half a dozen in the vegetable garden where I could keep a close eye on them. And four in the tomato patch on the zigzag, where the nearby hyssop, parsley and bergamot flourished.

But not the phacelias. Birds saw a space with fresh compost and scratched up the plants. None of the others, in more robust groupings, only the phacelias.  I rescued what I could.  And I covered them and their rescue Black From Tula tomato neighbours with this chicken wire cage (the net was in use in the vegetable garden).

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chicken wire cage poses on vegetable garden phacelias (where a bumble bee loves the the middle one)

One zigzag phacelia survived. (I visit it every day.)

The phacelias in the vegetable garden flourished and flowered. Even the one that I somehow broke, and mended with  gaffer tape.

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the gaffer tape is that red, supporting the broken bits of phacelia

Then the zigzag phacelia looked about to flower and the Black From Tulas were growing like crazy. So a couple of days ago, with great care not to catch the plants in the chicken wire, I lifted it off. Caught the phacelia somehow. And ripped it RIGHT OUT.

Broken roots. A nasty shock. For both of us.

I put it back, with more compost. And now I run to and fro to water it twice a day. Sometimes with compost-tea in the watering-can water.

phacelia laid low among other bee-loveds and the tomatoes
phacelia laid low among other bee-loveds and the tomatoes

It looks as though some stalks have died, but one is coming back (top left). Maybe two. Whew.

Uprooting the Borage: A Bee-Loved Flower Experiment In An Overcrowded Garden

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cornflowers at upper left, larkspur below, calendula in middle, surrounded by courgettes, tomatoes and sunflowers

My garden is overflowing. Flowers and vegetables packed in. Still too few bees. And all of them bumbles.

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silver beet, parsley, sorrel, calendula and two mauve phacelia in middle at top

More than ever, I regret my failure to transplant all the sunflowers to the zigzag. They’re now taking up far too much space and overshadowing tomatoes and herbs, the bee-loved plants that I hope will soon flower .

A couple of days ago I saw the borage and parsley growing and seeding like crazy and decided to make space by ripping out all the borages.

Two advantages. More space. And I could observe what (bumble) bees choose when borage isn’t immediately available.

No guilt involved– the borage is great in the weed bins and there are already tiny borage plants everywhere for the not-too-distant future.

And yes! The bees made for the other blue plants– larkspur and cornflowers.

bumble bee on larkspur
bumble bee on larkspur
cornflower
bumble bee on cornflower and yes! that’s a bergamot or hyssop in the foreground, still not flowering alas

I saw one briefly on the phacelia but didn’t have time to catch a pic.

my favorite, phacelia, again, among the tomatoes and awaiting a passing bee
my favorite, phacelia –again – among the tomatoes and silver beet and awaiting a passing bee

I even saw a bee among the nasturtiums.

nasturtium moment
nasturtium moment

Meanwhile, on the other side of the house the poppies are going for it.

poppies with 'fluff' – I need to learn some 'proper' names
poppies with ‘fluff’ – I need to learn some ‘proper’ names

And the bees love them. But I’ve noticed that once the fluffy bits around the seed head in the poppy centres disappear (often on the very day the poppy flowers– is it the wind, the bees, or just a normal rapid poppy change?) the bees avoid those poppies. The fluffy bits must carry the pollen. It makes sense.

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fluff free poppy

 

Bee-Loved Flower Mysteries

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red geraniums and weed mat on the zigzag

So I’ve planted the red geraniums. I hope they’ll grow into a little hedge that spreads across the weed mats, where mulch will soon replace those old rocks and bricks.  But now I can’t find the article that told me that bees avoid red geraniums. And why. I can confirm that bees see and distinguish all colours except red so they won’t see them. But that might mean that the bees will just fly straight past and into the spray zone. The geraniums won’t be a barrier. Is there another factor? The geranium scent perhaps?

Or the multiple petals? One reason to use heritage seeds is because new and hybrid flower varieties with double or triple flowers and new colours tend to produce less pollen and less nectar. Bees sense this. (And some heavily petalled old varieties, like peonies, are also unattractive to bees.)

And, in a related issue, how come the bumbles are right into our red poppies at the mo? I watch this wild piece of garden regularly and have yet to see a bee land on the calendula (yellow) or daisy (white with yellow centre) or cornflower (blue). But they visit every red poppy that blooms.

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there’s a bumble bee in that central red poppy

Susan Brackney’s Plan Bee explains that – unlike human beans (I’m reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG) – bees see ultra violet light. They rely on the location of the sun to help them navigate and they find their way on cloudy days because ultra violet rays penetrate clouds. And red poppies reflect ultra violet especially well. If we could see ultra violet light, we’d see red poppies shimmer in the sun and extra streaks and lines like airport landing strips, which show the way to the nectar.

I’m disappointed that there are few bees in the garden over this mid-summer time and that they are all bumbles. Not a honey bee in sight. And the only flowers they seem interested in are the borage – white and blue – and the lavender.

bumble bee in borage
bumble bee in the blue borage, early January
bumble bee on white borage
bumble bee (left) making for the white borage, same day

It’s especially disappointing because at last some of my new bee-loved flowers are in flower and so far the bees just whizz past them en route to the lavender and borage. They’re phacelia (purple tansy). Most of the seedlings died, so there aren’t many mature plants.

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lavender-coloured phacelia among the tomatoes and calendula – growing through a net which is protecting nearby seed beds from birds and cats

The alyssum doesn’t attract the bees either.

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alyssum

Nor the cornflowers. Though I did see one on this yellow flowering rocket (there for seed), in among the cornflowers. Briefly.

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rocket flowers among the blue cornflowers (aka bachelors buttons)

I’m following the action closely. Hoping to learn more.

And if you know anything about these little mysteries that intrigue me, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m disappointed

 

yes, they're out--
yes, they’re out–

The bees are out, on a fine morning. There are more of them in the borage today, but only bumble bees in the blossoming trees.

So I walk around and up to the neighbours’ side of the wall to see whether there’s something that obstructs the bees’ access, to get the bee perspective if I can. I look out and down. Is the washing on the line a problem I wonder?

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apples and pears in full flower, bits of other blooms. & the washing.

The blossom’s as close to the bee box as it seems to be from my place.

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pear, borage, nasturtium

Yep. I’d feel invited.

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To the pear blossom. And to the apple blossom just a bit further away. And they’re all safe. Never been sprayed.

(Some pears and some but not all of the apple trees attract codlin moth and pheromone traps have never been effective. When I prepare pears I often have to cut out the codlin larvae and wash off their frass.  And sometimes I have to pick little black bugs off the pear’s leaves, towards the end of the season.)

Will the bees find the blossom? No idea. I can’t see the problem.

And then I notice a bumble bee, on top of the box. It seems to be trying to burrow into a chip in the brick.

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As far as I know, bumbles are solitary. But does it smell that lovely bee smell? Want to be nearby? Or is it just looking for somewhere to live that’s close to the beautiful blossom?