Blooms for Bees: April

There have been many more bees on the wing this month: first sightings of red-tailed bumblebee queens (Bombus lapidarius), common carder queens (Bombus pascuorum) and of the first buff-tailed (Bombus terrestris) and early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) workers. There have been solitary bees too. Tawny mining bees (Andrena fulva) are nesting in amongst tussocks of grass in the pond bed, and hairy footed flower bees (Anthophora plumipes) zip from flower to flower in great haste.

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Tawny mining bee nest entrance

Despite an increased number of flowering plants in the garden, two places remain the most frequently visited by our buzzy friends. One preferred spot for foraging is under the old apple tree, where white comfrey plants run amok. This has been the place for watching hairy footed flower bees, and the comfrey has also attracted tiny early bumblebee workers, common carder queens and tree bumblebees (Bombus hynorum). Of all the flowering plants in the garden this month the comfrey has been the most regularly visited, and has hosted the greatest variety of bees.

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Female hairy footed flower bee
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Female hairy footed flower bee
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Early bumblebee (worker)
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Tree bumblebee

The hellebore patch comes a close second, continuing to attract buff-tailed and early bumblebee workers, now busily gathering pollen to take back to their growing nests. Buff-tailed bumblebees make their way in and out of a hole in the concrete plinth that used to support our shed, and is now used as a seating area. We’ve become accustomed to them coming in to land at our feet and wander into their entrance hole as we sit drinking our tea.

In a month that has been filled with flowers – daffodils and narcissi, scillas, muscari, hyacinths, tulips, violets, and pansies; pulmonaria, bergenia, viburnum, and kerria; magnolia, brunnera, celandines, dicentra; forsythia, clematis, cowslips, and periwinkle – it is surprising just how few are regularly visited by the bees. But two other flowers deserve a mention this month:

Fritillaries

Although we have only a few of these chequered blooms in the garden – a small group of just five or six – they have been frequented by the tawny mining bees, who have also been feeding on the forget-me-nots that grow nearby.

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Tawny mining bee

Summer snowflakes

These elegant white flowers burst into bloom as the daffodils are fading to provide a good source of nectar for the hairy footed flower bees, early bumblebees and tawny mining bees.

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Female hairy footed flower bee

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