What’s flowering now: mid August 2012

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.

Bee in bindweed

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 AFrenchGardenJulia @ 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:

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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35 Responses to What’s flowering now: mid August 2012

  1. disperser says:

    Here in Monument, Colorado, the bees are slowly turning off from the Russian Sage (nearing it’s end) and going gangbusters on the Bluebeard Shrub (which are just beginning to flower). That would normally keep them until late September, but there are signs of an early end to the summer (the hummingbirds are already in full migration, and I think they will be out of here before the end of August).

    Never did get to building those tubular hives . . . maybe next year.

    Nice post.


  2. I’m a long ways from you (eastern Nebraska, USA) but I’m quite sure the pink flower with the stripe is a type of mallow.


  3. Beautiful photographs! We’re having a rather rough year here in northern California too, though our problem is quite the opposite — the spring and summer have been so dry that there was very little nectar this year, honey harvest is looking dismal, and a lot of beekeepers around here are feeding their bees already. (If only we could have swapped weather for a few weeks!)

    The stripey purple flower looks like a mallow; the lavender one above it, perhaps a wild geranium of some kind? The spiny yellow knapweed Star Thistle is a major honey crop around here, but it too is pretty withered and sparse this year. Your purple thistles look so lush by comparison!


    • Emily Heath says:

      Sorry to hear you’ll be having a poor harvest. I visited California last year and don’t remember it ever raining. I got crazily sunburnt, so much so that my tan line took about 9 months to wear off. We have been feeding too but because the weather has been too cold and wet for the bees to leave their hives! Thanks for id’ing the flowers 🙂


  4. Kathy says:

    Lovely pictures. I especially like the second one with the pollen on the honeybee. But the cute little spider picture is good too. We have passed our wild raspberry and blackberry season. John worries over what the bees are finding this time of year, but they are busy so I have to remind him that just because he doesn’t *see* what they are getting doesn’t mean they aren’t getting anything. They do like my fennel which is taking over the herb garden.


  5. willowbatel says:

    Several verities of oregano are in bloom right now, and a cloud of bees surrounds the small plant I have. I got it from my neighbor, who has a large patch of it. The plants are in constant motion because so many bees are constantly taking off and landing on them. A darker verity of oregano is at my aunts house, with pink flowers instead of the white ones my oregano has, but the bees aren’t quite so fond of that.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Ah yes, I think I have some oregano in a pot outside and the bees like all the little flowers. Lovely to watch them when they’re excited about a plant.


      • willowbatel says:

        Yeah, It’s not often you get to see bees in such large numbers away from the hive like that. Our Catmint is also blooming, but I don’t think I’ve seen any bees on that. And they’ve completely deserted the succulent ground cover that’s blooming. I think it’s all going to seed.


  6. Frank says:

    My bees are out collecting from Himalayan balsam. I was startled and curious when i first notice ghostlike greyish bees turning up aty hives. Many just have a stripe if the whitish grey pollen down their thorax. Apparently this is characteristic of the balsam. Mostly they seem to be going there for nectar, but i have seen a few coming in with this marking and the same colour in their baskets.


  7. It’s lovely comparing what’s flowering in different parts of the world. I think we have very similar flowers to the UK. I would guess at Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) for the first pink flower and Common Mallow (Malva neglecta) for the second. I’d say your thistle type plant is definitely a thistle, the birds will love the seeds. We still have lots of bees apart from the Carpenters which have almost disappeared now. I notice that as the seasons change and the flowers change the bees change from one favourite to another.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Thanks so much for your brilliant identifying of the mallows, I have updated my post to add your comments. The bumble bees will not be around too much longer here I think, but the honey bees will go on foraging until the last big crop of the year, ivy.


      • It will be interesting to compare the timing of the last bees and what they are feeding on over here. We have a lot of ivy over here but I had never associated its flowers with bees. Our ivy tends to flower very high up, now I know, I will watch it.


  8. What lovely happy-bee pictures!
    And I think the spider among the thistledown is Araneus diadematus, the garden spider – which will be huge and obvious in its orb webs everywhere as autumn comes…
    Best wishes 🙂


  9. Hi Emily, I have so much to learn about plants and flowers. I am moving to the countryside in two weeks time, so I am hoping to reconnect with nature.


  10. Alex Jones says:

    You take great bee photographs. The bees in Colchester are swarming over the flowers, and there are now large numbers of butterflies. I think the bees are making up for lost time.


  11. Hi Emily, I visited this post when I got the email, but my comment did not go through. I too believe you have Mallow in the image. It is good to see the bees out working considering your summer weather. Here it has been so dry, they have been working their tails off to collect all that they can.


  12. More red pollen in our hives this weekend must mean a good source of dahlias nearby. A local gardener must be having fun watching our bees! Lovely pictures, Emily 🙂


  13. milapostol says:

    Around here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve seen bees on blackberry blossoms, anise hyssop, and lots of herb flowers such as thyme and marjoram. I would like to prune the marjoram, but can’t bear to trim the food source for the bees!


  14. Hi, Emily,
    Here in Northern Kentucky, it’s chicory, a field weed related to radicchio and the endives. The pollen is bright white, very visible in the comb, but I don’t know what the honey is like. The searing July heat has been rough on the grasses, so weeds have the advantage, and there are acres of blue chicory blossoms. Some good rain has revived our white clover, and my laissez-faire weed controls left a lot of burdock which they seem to enjoy. I am happy to hear they like thistle, because that’s starting up too.
    Botany (self-taught) pretty much IS my thing, so it’s great to see images and hear what more experienced beekeepers are finding of benefit to their colonies. I’ll send some images.
    Shady Grove Farm
    Kentucky USA


  15. Pingback: Flowers For Bees – A Great Trade « Petals and Wings

  16. Fascinating! I’ve been trying to decide what flowers to plant (in boxes – no garden, unfortunately) that would help bees and butterflies since watching Sarah Raven’s BBC2 series about their diminshing numbers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013pw23). I’m also beyond happy to discover that there is such a thing as a neopolitain icecream bee. That may well have made my day.


    • Emily Heath says:

      Brilliant! Even boxes can be really helpful for bees, especially bumblebees, which are more willing to visit small clumps of flowers. I read the ‘neapolitan icecream’ description on another blog and was really charmed by it.


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