Not bigger bees, but more colonies! I have doubled the amount of hives I have – not too difficult when you only have one to start with.
I’ve purchased a colony (the one on the right in the photo above) from a very reasonably priced local source. This gives me options if one colony goes queenless at some point.
The colony on the left is the swarm I took from Drew’s parents’ tree. They have been moved from a six frame poly nuc into a new National hive I’ve purchased from a Cornish supplier, Heather Bell Honey Bees. The hive cost £134 ready assembled, which is a good price. I just had to paint it with a special low volatile organic compounds (VOC) paint as the wood isn’t cedar – I chose a cheery yellow colour.
Here’s the hives all closed up and secured with ratchet straps – there are badgers in Drew’s parents garden. I left the nucleus propped up against the hive for a while so that the last few bees would leave and walk up into the entrance.
Back at home, I have been enjoying July’s balmy weather and the arrival of solitary bees in the garden. I had thought my Stachys byzantina (Lambs ears) purchased from Rosybee -plants for bees were a bust at attracting bees. How wrong I was! The wool carder bees I was hoping for haven’t arrived, but what I believe is a species of Anthophora (flower bees) has.
A whizzy, high pitched little bee has been visiting the Lambs ear. It zooms up and down between the flowers, hovering hummingbird-like for a second before its long tongue darts in. When you get a momentary look at the tiny face – before it disappears again into a flower – the eyes are pale green.
I’ve been told by @apiculturalLdn and @rosybeeplants on Twitter that it may be Anthophora furcata, Anthophora bimaculata or Anthophora quadrimaculata. You can see a little video I made of it in action – Anthophora flower bee. Check out that tongue!
I am very pleased with the Lambs ear plants. Their silvery, elegant leaves feel so soft and velvety – perfect when you have a toddler running about. Lambs ears never seem to be plagued by aphids and need no watering as the furry leaves are so efficient at collecting rain droplets. And they are said to be good for soothing bee stings too!
In the recent unusually hot July evenings I have been enjoying pottering about in the garden, watching the local creatures – our fish nibbling at the pond surface, cooing wood pigeons, fledging thrushes being fed by their parents, the neighbours’ cat rolling in our catmint. And most of all the buzzing bees, going busily about their business. I think the plant below might be purple loosestrife and the cuddly gingery bee is a Common carder bee.
Is there any greater pleasure than sitting out at 9pm reading about bees, no need for a coat, a mini magnum in your hand, while solitary and bumble bees patrol your Lambs ear? Surely not.