Saturday 30 April 2011

The Bee and the Bee Nettle

I found a patch of White Dead-nettle, Lamium album, on my usual daily route. It is in a nicely kept garden and, although it could have left there on purpose, its days might be counted and it could be removed the next time the garden is weeded. If time allows, I stop for a few minutes each day to watch bees feeding on it. The White Dead-nettle is a member of the mint family and it is quite easy to recognise with its nettle-like leaves coupled with white whorls of flowers. Another name for this plant is bee nettle, which is quite apt, as it is an appreciated source of early nectar and pollen for long-tongued bees. One of the days I visited, I tool a photo of the flowers and when I reviewed it at home I found out I had inadvertently shot a male of Anthophora plumipes passing by in his patrol (above). Yesterday there were an A. plumipes female and a Bombus hortorum queen feeding at the same time. Both stayed for quite a while, fastidiously visiting every open flower.
A Bombus hortorum queen and a female A. plumipes (bottom right hand corner) feeding
Female A. plumipes and White Dead-nettle
For Bombus hortorum, a very long tongued bumblebee, the White Dead nettle is the predominant native source of nectar and pollen in April, although I have watched this bumblebee feeding on ornamental Hyacinths, Rosemary, Broom and Apple blossom in early spring.

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