Flowers for the bees and the excitement of a swarm.

Over the past few weeks I have been watching for bees in our garden, wondering how their numbers would be affected by the poor winter and late spring. A few bees came to the blossom on our neighbour’s apple tree but about a week ago we had an influx of bees when the raspberries came in to flower. Although I love the fruit, I had never been very impressed by raspberry flowers. Honeybees don’t share my sentiments and for a short period the raspberry flowers were very popular with these bees. Here is a picture taken about a week ago.
honeybee on raspberries

The bumblebees also tried the raspberry blossom but once the patch of comfrey at the bottom of the garden was decorated with its pastel flowers, there was no contest. Especially in the recent warm sunshine there has been a steady stream of bumblebees buzzing very audibly around the flowers. Here are some pictures, also taken about a week ago.  The first two show Common Carder Bees on raspberries and on comfrey. I love the details of bee anatomy these pictures show.  There is also one of another bumblebee on comfrey, probably a Buff Tailed Bumblebee, although it is difficult to be sure.

[I have been told that it is actually a Garden Bumblebee, see Comments]

bumblebee on raspberry
Common Carder Bee on raspberry
bumblebee on comfrey 3
Common Carder Bee on comfrey
bumblebee on comfrey
Bumblebee on comfrey

The town where I live, Totnes, has a busy Friday market. With the new season’s early holidaymakers the market felt busier than ever but there were also visitors of a different kind this week. At the market last Friday, one of the traders asked me if I had seen “the bees”. They went on to tell me that, earlier that morning, a swarm of honeybees had appeared over the market like a cloud, turning the air black for a short time. The swarm was still there, but now high in a tree at the edge of the Market Square. I had never seen this phenomenon before; the swarm was now a “lump of bees” hanging from a branch with a few bees flying round it. I had no camera with me so I could not take photos but it looked very like the pictures I had seen. I wondered how the swarm would be collected as it was about 20 feet above ground but apparently later that day the bees decided to fly off somewhere else.

5 thoughts on “Flowers for the bees and the excitement of a swarm.”

  1. I think your other bumble bee might be the garden bumble bee (Bombus hortorum) which I find particularly cute. I hope the swarm was able to find a good home or returned to the apiary it came from.

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    1. Yes, they are very pretty flowers and quite variable in colour; I saw some darker purple ones in the country the other day. To get the bees in focus I take lots of pictures and choose the best!
      One thing I am noticing is that, whereas there are plenty of bumblebees in the garden now there are no honeybees. This is only an anecdotal observation but it does make me wonder, especially after the poor winter loss figures for the South West. How are the bees doing in London?

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      1. It might not mean much that you’re not seeing honeybees. Honeybees like to focus on foraging on one flower species at a time, which means that they won’t bother flitting between different species of plants in a garden like bumbles do. Unless you have a large patch of a particularly nectar or pollen rich crop, you are unlikely to see them. This year has been much easier on the honeybees than last year’s cold, wet summer.

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