National Bee Unit Varroa Workshop – Part 4 – The enchanted garden

After our day of workshops on the evil little varroa mite, Emma and I were itching for a chance to catch the last rays of sunshine in the Roots & Shoots garden, a horticultural training centre for young disadvantaged students.

We were lucky enough to meet David Perkins on our way round. David runs an Environmental Education outreach programme and manages the wild part of the garden for Roots & Shoots, keeping it welcoming for wildlife. It soon became clear that he knows an incredible amount about solitary and bumble bees. Below are some shots from his garden, which would just be the best garden ever for a child, because it features all sorts of overgrown paths and even a very dangerous dragon’s den…

In the ‘safe’ part of the garden, away from the dragon’s fire, we came upon a flurry of bees feeding from an apple tree hedge. After taking several blurry shots I was quite pleased with the one below of two honeybees. Bees may not be the most dangerous subjects for a wildlife photographer but they must be one of the fastest!

Honey bees on apple flowers

The garden was full of fascinating little signs like this. The more I read this proverb, the more I’m not sure I understand it fully; can anyone explain it to me?

Now this, this is David’s solitary bee home, or should I say castle. It is a copy of the Trellick Tower in London. When I said David knew a lot about bees…

Below you can see how some of the holes have been inhabited and contain mud, which solitary bees collect from the nearby pond. David explained to us that in many species of solitary bees males and females need different size holes. Males are slightly smaller than females. They hatch out earlier in the year to be ready for the females, so at this time of year there’s more males than females. We saw one male trying to approach a female but she shook him off; David said this was probably because she had already mated.

In the picture below you can see a red mason bee zooming home on the right hand side of the pic. There were lots of these lovely furry red bees.

David opened up the side of the bee tower so we could see the tubes inside. He didn’t get time to tell us much about them, but I’m guessing the yellow stains will come from pollen.

I was really saddened when David told us that his camera has recently been stolen, along with hundreds of bee photos on it. He came across as such a kind, gentle man and has given so much to the local community through his work in the garden. I hope he can afford to get a new camera soon.

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 National Bee Unit Varroa Workshop – Part 4 – The enchanted garden

  1. Beautiful photos, Emily! A lovely post to remember our exploration of the enchanted garden! 🙂


  2. I have one of the mason bee hives/homes in my garden. Haven’t detected any action yet, but I live in hope….


  3. I love mason bees! Do you know what species you have?


  4. I too liked the images. Red bees, are they special to your area? I never saw a red bee. The head in the last image is a nice photo, but a little spooky.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Having looked on Wikipedia, the Red Mason bee is native to Europe. Most mason bees are metallic greenish, blue, or blackish, so you may be more likely to see those colours in the US.

      Yes, the head is quite melancholy looking. She needs a few bees nesting in her hair to cheer her up!


  5. I believe the gist of the proverb (if such it be) is that each entity has its own way of being, and just because one type of animal behaves a certain way is no reason to expect that a different animal will or should behave that way. If we can drag Shakespeare into this: “This above all: to thine ownself be true.”

    Steve Schwartzman


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