What’s flowering now: early May

Ealing is particularly beautiful in April and May. Many of the roads and parks near me are lined with white and pink blossom trees. On a sunny day you can stand under them and hear the hum of bees high above, and spot dark shapes flitting between the flowers. As the petals fall they become colourful confetti for the pavement, swirling gently in the wind.

Blossom

EDIT: Thanks to Honeymedic for his comment about the tree above – “It may be another cultivar but your first tree looks very like Eucryphia Nymansensis which does not generally flower until August but then the bees in my garden go mad on it. In its native Chile, Euchryphia Cordifolia is the source of the wonderful healing honey ULMO.”

Ealing also has many horse chestnut trees, which are now covered with white candles of flowers. These are popular with honey bees.

horse chestnuts

Though from a distance horse chestnut flowers appear white, they have a touch of yellow within when their flowers are un-pollinated and excreting nectar. After a horse chestnut flower has been pollinated, the yellow blotch turns a red/pink magenta to let pollinators know. Additionally after pollination the flower has a change in scent that bees pick up, so that they avoid wasting their time visiting that flower. Have a look next time you’re under a horse chestnut.

hairy footed bee on gorse

Me and Tom have been going for walks together and doing some bee spotting. Well, I walk and Tom gets pushed. We have four parks in walking distance and pretty gardens to walk past too. There are still a few front gardens which haven’t been turned into car parks. Can you see the bee above on gorse? Sorry for the bad photo but I have been using my phone as it’s light and I have so much baby stuff to carry.

hairy footed bee on gorse

I believe this gorse visitor is the beautifully named Hairy-Footed Flower Bee. It likes nesting in old walls and its favourite flower is lungwort (pulmonaria).

Bumble on pink flower

This might be an Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)? If anyone knows what the pink flower is, please let me know.

EDIT: Thanks to Lucy Garden, Julie, Amelia, Mark and WesternWilson for commenting that the pink flower may be a geranium. Amelia added “There are a lot of different perennial geraniums and I find them very useful in the garden as some are very tough and can smother anything in rough sites yet the bumble bees love them.”

Bumble on pink flower

I have been disappointed as I’ve not been seeing as many bumbles as I’d expect at this time of year. Was the mostly mild winter bad for them? I’ve been walking past sunny banks of green alkanet (evergreen bugloss) and not seeing a single bee.

Green alkanet (evergreen bugloss)

Green alkanet (evergreen bugloss)

honey bee on green alkanet

I did see a few honey bees on the green alkanet but not many. Perhaps they are distracted by the magnificent horse chestnuts.

Carder bee white nettle

This is a common carder bee on white dead-nettle. Nettles are such great plants for wildlife and I find them pretty too.

white dead-nettle

Tulip and forget-me-nots

People go crazy for big showy flowers like tulips, but arguably the delicate forget-me-nots behind are just as beautiful. A bee would prefer the forget-me-nots.

Daffodils

Daffodils are still around, but they’re not a great flower for honey bees. If you look at p.26 of the BBKA News April 2011 edition you will see a couple of letters about daffodils. Daffs contain toxic chemicals (known as alkaloids) that include lycorine. The wild daffodil is pollinated principally by bumblebees — Bombus terrestris, B. muscorum, B. hortorum, B. lapidarius — and Anthophora plumipes (hairy footed flower bee). However honey bees are rarely seen on daffodils, and Adrian Davis from Canterbury BKA suggests that this is because they store food for longer than bumbles. Possibly by not collecting daffodil pollen (or nectar) they avoid the build up of lycorine in the hive.

IMG_1139

Anyone know what this unusual purple flower is?

EDIT: Thanks to Lucy Garden and Julie for commenting that the purple flower is an aquilegia aka columbine.

Tom one month old

Finally, not a flower but Tom a week ago.

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper living in Ealing, west London. I have been keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary since 2008 and created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully - future successes. Busy taking the British Beekeeping Association module exams too!
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30 Responses to What’s flowering now: early May

  1. Rachel says:

    Lovely post. Thank you. Tom is gorgeous. X

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  2. Lucy Garden says:

    The purple flower is an aquilegia. The pink may be a geranium. Lovely baby pic!

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  3. ksbeth says:

    how beautiful –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. julie says:

    Lovely photos. Looks like spring is in full bloom. Based on the leaf shape, I’d say the pink flower is some sort of wild malva. It could be a wild geranium, too, but their leaves are usually more toothy. The purple one is aquilegia aka columbine.

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  5. honeymedic says:

    It may be another cultivar but your first tree looks very like Eucryphia Nymansensis which does not generally flower until August but then the bees in my garden go mad on it. In its native Chile, Euchryphia Cordifolia is the source of the wonderful healing honey ULMO .

    Like

  6. Tom is looking very happy, I think he has been enjoying his walks to watch the bees. I would opt for the geranium ID. There are a lot of different perennial geraniums and I find them very useful in the garden as some are very tough and can smother anything in rough sites yet the bumble bees love them. I agree that May is a great month for flowers. Amelia

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    • Emily Scott says:

      I like to think Tom benefits from getting fresh air (well, as fresh as London air gets) and hearing bird song 🙂 Thanks for the info on geraniums, I hadn’t realised they were so good for bees.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lucy Garden says:

        My honey bees are all over geranium phaeum for weeks every year. It’s not as showy as other geraniums, with small dark purple flowers, but it keeps going for ages and it self-seeds, so I recommend it to all bee-keepers!

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  7. Mark says:

    I also vote geranium. Your son is going to grow up appreciating flowers and bees and that is wonderful.

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  8. Beautiful photos, especially the last one. Congrats! Hope you and Tom doing well…

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  9. Lovely photos. No shortage of bumblebees down here, I was by a bank of green alkanet yesterday and there was a steady stream of Common Carder Bees, also one rather worn male hairy footed flower bee, we also have a chaenomeles hedge and while it has been in flower there have been many early bumblebee workers scouring the orange flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like that last flower Emily! What a lovely baby you two have : ) Thanks for the spring flower shots, most refreshing to the eye and soul. And I agree, species geranium and columbine.

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  11. Brenda says:

    I’m new to your blog and admiring your new drone, little Tom, as well as your abundance of blooms. We are a little slower with spring here in Maine, but our bumblebees are out in full force. I love the info on the horse chestnuts. Fascinating how bees and plants work together to the benefit of both.

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  12. Wendy says:

    A lovely post about all the flowers around you. The horse chestnuts are looking glorious aren’t they? And so loved by bees – although mine are still finding the oilseed rape. It’s wonderful to see Tom!

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  13. Pingback: What’s flowering now: early May - American Honey Producers

  14. I do hope the first word Tom says is ‘Bee’. I have taught my nephew Zachary to say it very well 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  15. danny.p says:

    great post Thank you. love the photos so nice seeing the flowers around your area

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  16. theresagreen says:

    Having a baby is the perfect reason to get out for a walk! Lovely post – you timed his arrival perfectly to coincide with the beautiful spring blooms and their visitors.

    Like

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