All posts by gs

Bees

In 2013, we looked for the plants in the Living Field garden that were most attractive to bumble bees and hive bees, from the first flowers in late March, to the time of the first heavy frost in October.  Most visitors were bumble bees of the commoner species, but occasionally hive bees foraged around.

Bumble bee hanging on field scabious head (Living Field/Squire)
Bumble bee hanging on field scabious head (Living Field/Squire)

 

We did not grow plants for the particular purpose of feeding bees, yet three areas were particularly active. One was the 10 year old meadow, where field scabious was the favourite; another was the legume collection set up in the west garden; and the third was a piece of rough ground in transition from a sown, annual cornfield to a more perennial community and containing tufted vetch and viper’s bugloss.

White melilot bloom and hive bee (Living Field/Squire)
White melilot bloom and hive bee (Living Field/Squire)

 

By mid summer, many of the bumble bees looked battered and ragged, hardly enough wing left to fly, the result of repeatedly navigating the tangle of vegetation. It’s in a bee’s nature to work itself to death for the hive, eventually falling to the ground or hanging under a flower head. We did not look for nests of the bumble bees to see how many were inside the garden; not did we observe the directions from which the bees entered and left, but that could be something to do in 2014.

Lucern bloom and bumble bee (Living Field/Squire)
Lucern bloom and bumble bee (Living Field/Squire)

 

Photographs and notes on these and other plants and bees can be viewed at The Garden / Bee plants. All species, including first-year plants of the two melilots, should be around in 2014.  (The melilots died after flowering in 2013.) Several plants in the medicinals bed should flower well this year, labiates such as betony, and borages and foxgloves.

[Update 10 September 2014]

Spring equinox

The croplands have not seen deep frost and snow this winter. They’ve basked in single-figure-Celsius warmth. By the spring equinox on 20 March 2014, the soil was not cold to the hand, and the winter cereals and oilseeds, sown last August to October, were almost covering the fields in a thin layer of green.

Sunrise is racing northwards now, as fast as it gets – and only three months to the summer solstice.

Back a year – to this day in 2013 – when large tracts of these islands were covered in deep snow and a deep cold that killed stock and set back crops.  The northern cropland got off lightly, yet the higher land here was white on 23 March 2013.

This was the scene on Dron Hill in east Perthshire, a great beech Fagus sylvatica, looking to Dunsinane but etched on white. Dron was an iron age encampment or fort, a reminder that crops and stock were tended here 2500 years ago, and long before that.

Spring equinox 2013 on Dron Hill, Perthshire (Squire)
Spring equinox 2013 on Dron Hill, Perthshire (Squire)