What’s flowering now: late May

Yesterday I took a walk about in the park near my house and managed to get some surprisingly focused (for me) shots of bees on flowers.

I used the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Bumblebee identification page and Help Save Bees’ Bumblebee Family Chart to have a go at identifying the bumbles I saw.

Bumble on blackberry bramble

Bumble on rose

I think these two were Buff Tailed bumbles. The similar looking White Tailed bumble bee is said to have more lemony coloured stripes, whereas the Buff Tailed has more golden lines. If anyone thinks differently please say!

The wild roses are coming to an end now. The blackberries above have come out to replace them. Also popping their heads up are the glamorous poppies:

This one looked almost more like a garden poppy, but we also saw the smaller red field poppies. Field poppies only produce pollen, with no nectar. Bees are said to seek the pollen out as it is for some reason extremely attractive to them, perhaps because the poppies produce it in enormous quantities. Bees returning home with it cannot be missed as it appears quite black, but is actually a very dark purply blue on examination.

Poppies are quite an interesting flower because usually bee pollinated flowers are not red, as bees are red colour blind and see red as black. However, some red flowers such as poppies contain pigments that reflect UV light, attracting bees and appearing to them as bee ultra-violet. I didn’t see any bees on the poppies; possibly because I was walking at 4pm, whereas poppy flowers open between 5-6am and have often completed their lives by midday.

This pink flower was being visited by the bees, but too fast for me to get a photo. Any ideas on a name for this? The nectar lines guiding the bees in can clearly be seen.

What is this one, anyone know?

EDIT: The pink flower has been identified by Chelsea in her comment below as a Lavatera or alternatively by Nigel as a Wild Mallow.

Elderflowers are blooming in spectacular numbers. Here are a couple of bumbles enjoying them.

Bumble on elderflower

Bumble on elderflower

Buff tailed bumblebee on elderflower

Buff tailed bumblebee on elderflower

Buff tails again I think. With the drifts of elderflowers came our first sightings of honey bees. Whereas bumbles are happy to feed from small groups of flowers, honey bees don’t get out of bed for anything less than a big clump.

Honeybee on elderflower

Honeybee on elderflower

Elderflower isn’t listed as an important flower in my bee books, and from what I can find online it’s not very popular with the bees, so maybe this honey bee was struggling to find better forage available? With a hot spring the June gap may have come early.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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12 Responses to What’s flowering now: late May

  1. Chelsea says:

    I love the bumblebee shots!

    I think your pink flower is a Lavatera. One of the first flowers I picked out and planted myself when I was a kid!


    • Emily Heath says:

      Wow, thanks! Looking at pics of those on Google it certainly does look like one. It’s not a flower I’ve ever heard of before.

      Have subscribed to your blog as it looks fun 🙂


  2. nigel clark says:

    Hi Emily

    The pink flower is a wild mallow, and i think you will find that the plant you have labelled as elderflower looks as if it could be ground elder but is more likely a hogweed plant. They are a popular bee food plant in my garden at the moment which is the excuse for not weeding them out.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for your comments. I don’t know much about flowers and need all the help I can get identifying them. My reasoning behind labelling the white flowers elderflower was that a lot of people have been telling me elderflower is out in Ealing now, and also there seemed to be a faint elderflower smell in the area. Glad to hear the bees are enjoying your garden.



  3. greysqrl says:

    That poppy sure does look great!


  4. Bridget says:

    Good pics. Any time I try and take pics of insects I seem to fail or get a crap pic.


  5. Smoky Zeidel says:

    I live in California, and here, poppies are marigold orange. The bumblebees (and honeybees, and sweat bees) love them! I didn’t know that about bumbles being red color blind–that is interesting. Thanks, too, for stopping by my Observations of an Earth Mage Blog, Emily! I hope you’ll visit often. I know I’ll be back to read what you have to say.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks Smoky, I’ve subscribed to your blog 🙂 You live in a beautiful part of the world. I’ll be visiting California this August – but San Diego, so probably a long way from you. I can’t comprehend how big the US is compared to my little country!


  6. Martin says:

    I think you were probably right in the first place about the elderflowers, we live in the Highlands and they’ve only just come out here (it looks to me like hogweed in the background of the photos). And like you, I was interested to see lots of honey bees on the flowers, do you know if the bees are taking nectar or pollen?


    • Emily Heath says:

      The honey bee I photographed on the elderflowers – if that is what they were – had a little pollen in her baskets. Hard to say whether she was taking nectar too. Generally most foragers in a hive collect nectar, a smaller percentage pollen and a very low percentage will collect both nectar and pollen.


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