Wednesday 23 March 2011

Bumblebees, Honeybees, Archangels, Box

Last Sunday when the sun came out after what seemed like a winter of aeons, I looked out of the window at the garden, saw all the work that needed doing and despite the good weather an enormous lethargy come over me. I wanted to crawl back into bed with a book!

But instead I decided to take a look at what was out there and grabbed the camera on my way.

The first thing I found was a group of Red Deadnettles (or Archangels) all in bloom in the long sere grass, which we leave unmowed for the insects. Bending down to take a photograph I heard a buzz and out flew this bumblebee, followed shortly by a second.

And something stirred in my dormant self: Isn't this Spring? Aren’t I part of Bungay Community Bees? Haven’t I just been reading reading the newly published United Nations Environment Programme report, Global Honey Bee Colony Disorder and Other Threats to Insect Pollinators, which states a clear need for the presence of many more wildflowers? Am I not preparing a series of wildflower bee walks this year? Wake up Watson!

This is from p.5 of the UNEP report:
"Bumblebees are highly social, like honeybees, but with smaller, less structured nests, that can consist of up to 1 000 bees. Bumblebee colonies are annual; the entire colony dies out each year and leaves only mated queens to hibernate through winter. The queen will start a new colony in spring. Bumblebees pollinate tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries, just to name a few. Bumblebees are the only pollinators of potato flowers worldwide."

Red Deadnettles are a native wildflower and a major source of pollen for bumblebees during March and April as they wake up after the winter. They are a modest plant and I didn't take much notice of them at first, but the more I look the more beautiful they become.

I still remember the days before I gave any plants, let alone wild ones, any thought at all, beyond their being pretty or tasty. Then in the 90s I started visiting every kind of territory from waste grounds to canal and riverbanks and seashores getting to know our native wild plants. I became totally hooked.

It's only since becoming involved with Bungay Community Bees though, that I've been paying more attention to the relationship between flowers and bees. And realising that what started out as a personal interest is really about being connected with the web of life.

I'll be talking more about wildflowers and bees on the blog over the coming months. Right now I'm off to track a bee walk through the market town of Beccles with fellow Transitioners Charlotte and Netta. You might like to take a look at this great national wild flower project, River of Flowers.

Pics: Spring Morning March 2011; Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) on Red Archangel; Honeybee on Box Tree flowers

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