It’s been a bad year for the bees. They have endured the very worst of British weather: rain, floods and grey skies have been passing for a spring and summer. But just in time for the Olympics, the weather has bounced back and sunshine has been restored! Are there any bees left to enjoy it? I took a look in Elthorne Park, a beautiful strip of grass and meadows bordering the canal near my home.
Yes! They’re still here. Above you can see a honey bee rolling in field bindweed. Rusty at Honey Bee Suite has a nice blog post on bindweed as a pollinator plant – it provides a snow-white pollen which is visible on the happy bee above.
The bee above is a honey bee, but I need help identifying the pretty pink flower, if anyone has any suggestions please. Botany is not my strong point.
EDIT: AFrenchGarden in her comment below has identified this as Musk Mallow (Malva moschata). Brilliant stuff! The Daily Telegraph Musk Mallow gardening page says: “In the centre of each Malva moschata flower there’s a tall stigma surrounded by a raised collar of stamens. This arrangement, slightly similar to hibiscus, leaves the nectar-rich base of the flower wide open to bees.”
They like these pink flowers too. Many of the bees I saw on them were covered with a dusting of their pale pollen. Again, I am stuck on the name of this flower!
EDIT: Helpful commenters AFrenchGarden, Julia @ Boorinakis Harper Ranch and Harvest Home Farm have identifed this as a species of mallow too, probably the Common Mallow (Malva neglecta). Those nice open flowers and tall stigmas again, mallow species seem to be a good bet for a wildlife-friendly garden.
The thistle type plants are coming to the end of their season (in last year’s ‘What’s flowering now‘ August post, commenters variously identified these flowers as thistles, knapweed or burdock). Whatever the correct answer may be, the bees love these purple flowers, while I love running my hands through the soft downy fuzz of seeds left behind afterwards.
Ted Hooper in his ‘Guide to Bees and Honey‘ says of Knapweed: “This is a flower of road verges, rough areas, heathland, etc. It flowers in July and August and looks rather like a soft non-prickly thistle. The bees work it readily for both nectar and pollen. The honey is dark and very strong in flavour – like cough mixture – and is excellent for blending. Pollen loads greyish-white” (p234).
I sat down and spent some happy time watching the bees on the thistles. There were so many bees busy at work it was hard to decide which to focus my camera on. A tip for bee photographers: thistle family flowers are easy to photograph bees on. This is because the bees take their time on the flowers, crawling slowly round them and sticking their proboscis in multiple times.
Not completely sure on the lady above, but she may be Bombus hypnorum, the tree bumblebee, or the neapolitan icecream bee.
No mistaking this lady with her bottom high in the air. She’s a Bombus Lapidarius, a red-tailed bumblebee.
A honey bee with creamy pollen in her baskets.
A cute little spider waits, her web soft with thistle fuzz. I’m not going to attempt to start identifying spiders, so if anyone happens to know…
Blackberry season is here. I saw one man filling a bag up with juicy fruits. Blackberry season means autumn is coming. The bees must start preparing themselves for winter.
What flowers are out near you? Are you seeing plenty of wild bees out and about?
See these great blog posts for more photos of the flowers British bees enjoy in August: