Monday, 20 April 2009

A new bee post

Yesterday, we decided to move our bee post from the very unsuccessful position it has been for a couple of years. It was too shady and not very visible to us, so we decided on a more exposed, south facing location in the garden. We made a new post, also on an ash branch, and drilled more holes in the old one just to make it a bit more attractive and secured it to the end of our trellis (it will be covered by a vine, clematis and rose later in the season). This is what the end product looked like.
Red mason bees (Osmia rufa) males have been patrolling and feeding in the garden since the beginning of April. They like to sit on the conservatory wooden frame, garden posts and leaves and then follow a route around the garden, stopping nervously here and there. I've seen them feeding on Grape Hyacinth and Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'.
Male Red Mason Bee, note the long antennae and the red, hairy abdomen
Male red Mason Bee feeding on Erysimum
Today, in the afternoon, barely 24 hours after the post were placed in their new location!, we've seen a male inspecting the holes (looking like it was counting them over and over) and then a female - the first I've seen this year - actually getting into a hole and kicking out some pieces of wood. When she emerged, she was briefly chased by the male. At some point we could see two males.

Male near hole

Male inspecting hole
Female in the hole pushing wood out
The bee posts will hopefully attract other bee species and their parasites, so I look forward to the next season of post watching.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Flower Bee Garden

Misty start and then sunny, if a bit cool, day today. After finally getting Comfrey (Symphitum officinale) in the garden centre this Easter, I think I have completed my Anthophora plumipes garden. To prove the point, a female fed successively on Tree Germander (Teucrium fruticans), Primroses (Primula vulgaris), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Lithodora diffusa. The Grape Hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) are almost spent now but the rest of plants are starting to flower in earnest. The Primroses (from wild seed) were only plug plants a couple of weeks ago and are now flowering. The patch of Cowslip (Primula veris) under the fig is blooming non-stop and it seems to be a favourite. Maybe the cooler days we are having are a bonus for the female Anthophora, as the males prefer to fly in warmer weather. As soon as the sun appeared this morning a female was feeding out, not bothered by males. I managed to get a few shots of her when feeding on the Tree Germander. I guess that the species in this area is more limited by food plants than by nesting sites. Given the abundance of Victorian buildings, with lime based mortar nesting sites should be plenty.
A. plumipes female hovering on Tree Germander
 I let the shovel aside and take the camera to get some shots of the early critters mostly enjoying the sun in the garden, including a wolf spider and a male red mason bee (Osmia rufa). I still have to get comfortable with the macro setting in the G10. I do miss the supermacro mode in the G6, it was much faster to get the camera ready for close-ups.
An illustrated compendium of A. plumipes garden plants follows.
Cytisus racemosus
Grape hyacinth
Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign'
Patch of cowslip
One of the first flowers of the Lithodora diffusa

Native flower internet providers (seeds and plugs)
Really wild flowers