Gardens with bees in mind; miracles of the waggle dance

This bee is in flight near a hydrangea head and is harder to spot!

This bee is in flight near a hydrangea head and is harder to spot!

For some years now I have been planting my garden with bees in mind.

My daughter even gave me a pollinating bee log for a birthday present.  That was fraught as it was not delivered personally I believe it to be languishing at the nearby school, Pipers Corner School. WARNING the rest of this paragraph is a bit of a tirade about the local school ‘stealing’ my possessions so skip to the next if you cannot stomach it.  They have signed for a retained parcels in the past – even quite valuable ones.  If it is a tracked parcel I usually eventually get the name of the person who has signed and then if that person is employed by the school the crime is solved.  The pollinating bee log was not a tracked delivery and was delivered in the final weeks of the school’s summer term.  I am a logical person and in all probability with timings and past examples in mind, they were at the root of the problem.  They would of course deny it but for a school who says in their code of conduct that ‘they value other people’s possessions’, their lack of concern about mine upsets me.  In addition, the head refuses to accept that she should get any post wrongly delivered there back to me as a routine matter and has not answered 2 letters I wrote to her on the subject.

Back to the matter in hand.  The Bees larder.  When our new oil tank was delivered I created a surround from buddleia of various colours but especially bee friendly ones of while and blue/purple hues.   One small hedge has been planted with lavender at its roots and the large bed at the back has also been edged with lavender.  I have purchased borage and other bee friendly plants and seeds and we already had lots of promising material – holly and ivy near the hives, thistles and honeysuckle, apple and plum trees, masses of daffodils and snowdrops for early forage.  My neighbour’s gardens, one in particular, are a wonderful source of forage and we have sufficient areas that have been allowed to go wild so there is clover and dandelions galore!

Information about loss of wildflower habitat, sources of free wildflower seeds and observations about making your lawn bee friendly can be found here

It had been a surprise however as prior to today I had not been aware that my bees had found their way to this larder suitable for gourmet honey bees.  I started to wonder whether they always flew south from their hive entrance.  Then my OH mentioned that he thought teh bees had found the hydrangea by the back door.  How right he was.  It was teeming with honey bees and I had to assume they were mine.  The camera was grabbed and numerous photos taken.  Sometimes I think the bee moved just at the cru8cial time so I’ll probably have as many with just flowers as with bees.  I was going to look up the colour of hydrangea pollen – but no need I am sure I can assume that it is the colour of the full pollen baskets I could see on most of them – a pale beigy creamy yellow.  Not spectacular as pollen goes (and many are like the most wonderful artist’s palette).

I started wondering why they had suddenly discovered these plants.  Perhaps they know when plants are at their best and so they collect pollen from something else that will be over first before moving on?  Of course teh famous waggle dance allows one bee who has located a source of food to pass on its location to the rest of teh hive so that explains why suddenly so many had found it.  there is a youtube video of the waggle dance here  the smell of the pollen on the bee doing the dance will of course be a clue as to what the source is as well as the dance itself adding specific information about the exact location.

The more you watch bees the more interesting they become.  Or perhaps I am becoming more of an anorak and that is how it seems.  I feel so peaceful when I watch them.  Most people, when bees approach do their own version of a waggle dance -the message of which is – help, I am frightened, kill this tiny insect before it hurts me.  Yet with a little knowledge emotions can be so different.  Awe and wonder about how this colony works together.  David Cameron’s Big Society is visible here!  The propolis they make is so antiseptic etc they would never suffer with MRSA.  The honey is so pure that it has been broiught out of Egyptian pyramids and is still edible.  It is now being used more and more in relation to helping those with burns.  The pollination of crops is so much to our benefit that we are threatened if the bees die.

Wouldn’t it be great if your town or village did a bulk buy of of seeds of bee friendly plants and each household sewed some in their garden or in the verges?

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