What’s flowering now: late June

After a week of rain and cloud the weather seems to be on a turn for the better, just as the weekend arrives. The bees will be pleased; the rain will have helped flowers produce nectar and the sunny weather will give them a chance to collect it.

In Elthorne Park, which borders on the canal near my house, I found plenty of bees today. The dog roses which the bees loved so much back in May have come to an end, but the blackberry brambles are flowering everywhere. And some new flowers are also out – hopefully the June gap is coming to a close.

A honey bee enjoying a thistle, which produce quite large amounts of nectar and pollen.

Honey bee on these pretty white flowers – a previous commenter has told me they are likely to be ground elder or the less glamorous sounding hogweed. Whatever they are, bees, flies and ladybirds adore them.

Honey bees on blackberry bramble flowers.

Hello Miss Buff tail

A buff-tailed bumble bee. These bees prefer old abandoned mouse holes in shady places that don’t get too hot in midsummer. A full grown buff-tailed bumble nest is about the size of a football.

White and red clover is out. Red clover is very popular with bumble bees but not honey bees, as their tongues are too short. Both bumbles and honey bees love white clover. I thought this might be a common carder bee on the white clover above. This species usually nests on the soil surface under leaf-litter or moss and is common in gardens throughout the UK which don’t have their lawns mowed too often.

The legume family, including clovers, vetches and trefoils, have bacteria in their root nodules which are able to turn nitrogen from the air into nitrates that the plant needs to manufacture protein for growth – in other words, they make their own fertilizer. This means they can afford to put more protein into their pollen, making their brown pollen especially nutritious to bees.

You can barely see it, but that black dot against the grey cloud is a bird of prey hovering up above, finding food in a London park squeezed between major roads. Its body flashed red as it hung above me, making me wonder if it could be a red kite.

Lavender is always popular. The air was humming with bees flying between its purple flowers. It usually flowers from July to August in the UK, but has been flowering in London a few weeks now. The honey is medium to dark amber in colour and strongly (deliciously!) flavoured.

Walking through the park and seeing the bees on the flowers makes me convinced that worrying about things like mobile phones is a red herring. Bees need food and a home: give them the right flowers and a place to live and they will come. Unfortunately we have destroyed huge amounts of their natural habitat. Over 95% of the UK’s natural unimproved grasslands (hay meadows and chalk downlands) have been lost (Bumblebee Conservation Trust). Less than 2% remains of what we had just 60 years ago, the rest having been ploughed up and replaced by cereal fields, or ‘improved’ with fertilizers which cause grass to grow very quickly and squeeze out flowers like clovers.

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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8 Responses to What’s flowering now: late June

  1. Always love the photos. What’s with the worrying about mobile phones?


    • Emily Heath says:

      There’s been a lot of reporting in the media recently about a study done by a Swiss researcher named Daniel Fevre. The study found that worker bees piped more when ringing mobile phones were placed in hives, piping being a noise bees can make by vibrating their bodies against the comb at a high frequency. They often make the noise before swarming, so Fevre suggested mobile phones might be a possible cause of colony collapse disorder, where all the bees disappear, but that more research needs to be done in more natural conditions (because who keeps their mobile in their hive?!).

      Unfortunately the study was widely misreported by the media, including the Daily Mail. Most of the journalists must a) either not have read the study or b) just ignored it completely and drew their own conclusions. So we got headlines like ‘It’s official – Cell Phones are Killing Bees’: http://inhabitat.com/its-official-cell-phones-are-killing-bees/.


  2. Ashley says:

    The leaves in the background of this photo are ground elder: https://adventuresinbeeland.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/l1020348-e1308923508710.jpg?w=640&h=359

    Hogweed has rounder hairier leaves.


  3. willowbatel says:

    do you know if the park that you walk through uses ‘weed and feed’ for the lawn? Most weed killers also kill clover unfortunately.


    • Emily Heath says:

      I’m not sure, but the conventional part of the park is cut too short for clover to really take hold. It’s only the bumpy outer fields by the canal that are allowed to grow a bit longer. Wish cutting grass ultra short wasn’t fashionable.


  4. cindy knoke says:

    Beautiful shots!


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