Bags of Bees and Blossom

I’ve not managed to blog anything in the last few weeks, but it’s not been for lack of things going on in the garden. Almost the opposite in fact – spring is here and so much wildlife in our garden is stirring, that I can hardly keep up with it!

The apple tree has been in full blossom the last few weeks. 2017 seems to be one of those years where the whole tree turns pinky white with flowers. Comparing this year’s photo (top) with 2016 (below), there is a huge difference in the amount of blossom. It is also in full flower a lot earlier – this year it peaked mid April, last year what little there was peaked in early May. Due to the mild winter or just a natural cycle?

With an apple tree full of blossom, you would of course expect a load of bees. What I hadn’t expected was this Girdle Snail sitting pretty in the middle of it all!

Apart from the stray molluscs though there were indeed plenty of bees. Honey bees were probably the most common. We get lots in the garden, I’d love to know if someone is keeping bees nearby (feel they owe us a pot of honey if they are!)

There have also been plenty of these small Red Mason Bees (Osmia bicornis)

and these slightly larger Buff-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris)

I usually only see these Ashy Mining Bees (Andrena cineraria) flying low around the grass, so it was nice to catch one up in the tree. I’ve got a soft spot for this species – probably because it’s one of only two Andrena species I can identify at a glance with its distinctive black and white colouration.

The other Andrena species I know easily is this female Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva). The females have this amazing bright red bushy appearance. I thought we had them in the garden last year, but never managed a photo to confirm. This year I finally snapped one, which made it the 27th confirmed bee species for the garden (actually now at 28, but more on that in another blog post).

As well as the above, I’ve also spotted Hairy Footed Flower Bees, Red-tailed Bumblebees and at least one other Andrena species making the most of the blossom. The final one that I actually managed to get a (bad) photo of was this Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum). These relative newcomers to the UK are one of our most frequent and distinctive bumblebees in the garden.

The Tree Bumblebees have also turned up in a most unlikely place this last week. Our next door neighbour was clearing out his garage when he moved a bag of waste fluff from the tumble dryer. Much to his surprise the bag was full of bees! A colony of Tree Bumblebees had decided that a bag of tumble dryer fluff was the perfect place to nest and they weren’t happy at being moved. I offered to take the fluffy bag of bees, but with hindsight I should maybe have thought it through first. I put the bag under a lean-to cover we’ve got, where we sit out if it’s raining.  Unfortunately this is probably where it’s going to have to stay. I can’t leave it out in the open, as the fluff will probably set like cement if it gets wet and I don’t want to entomb the bees in their nest. I also daren’t move it again as it might crush the nest. So we’ll have to share the lean-to with a bag of bees for the summer.

I then spent about an hour yesterday lying flat on the floor trying to get photos of the bees coming and going from the bag. As it happens they seem to be accessing the nest right next to a small smiley face sticker that’s somehow ended up in there amongst the fluff. It makes me smile every time I look at these photos!

Tree bumblebees
Tree bumblebees

The Tree Bumblebees aren’t the only ones to have been popping up in unexpected places. The new nest box that we put up back in January has unfortunately not attracted any nesting birds yet. But I was surprised to spot this large bumblebee bouncing about inside it a few weeks ago. I’d have settled for a bee nest in the absence of a birdy one, but after a few minutes clumsily wandering around, it buzzed off.

Bee in box

So it’s only April and we already have, quite literally, bags of bees in the garden!

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