volcanic bees

One of the best things about knowing your own space very well is looking out for the reappearance of favourites each spring.

The garden was created very much with plants in mind, and when we designed it we gave thought to the shape of borders, the siting of features, the placing of the trees and shrubs, the pond and the paved areas. Afterwards came the joy of planting and watching the return of old favourites season after season.

But in the past couple of seasons my attention has been won over by the invertebrates who have colonised our garden.  When I first identified a Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva), it was sitting on my shoe and at that point I had no idea we had a nursery in the garden.

Last year I found a few tell tale holes in the border under where the Autumn flowering sedum grows. Tawny Mining bees make little volcanoes of soil as they excavate their nests, where they lay their eggs and provison them with pollen and nectar. The volcanoes only last for a short time whilst the bees are busy and then they weather into the borders or lawns to be forgotten for another year.

This spring, I have been inspecting the area where they nested to witness their reappearance. And  today a flash of fox orange reminded me they were about, and I was lucky to find a small male bee, thinner, less orange and sporting a white moustache, cold enough to tolerate me picking him up on my fingertip and allowing me to admire him for a few minutes. And I marvelled that this tiny life that has been dormant below the ground for the best part of a year had chosen this day to emerge and share the same space as me for a few weeks.

Lovely information sheet available from the good folk at the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARs) HERE.  They are important pollinators of fruit blossom, and coincidentally, the first of my plum blossom has just opened.


If ever a month were well named it is March and on this first day of Spring, it is time for a new post.

I began to write the last one on March 8th, unpublished as many of my posts seem to be, where I speculated on how the vagaries of the weather in this latitude change from winter to Summer and all seasons in between  in 24 hours, mostly prompted by a visit to Stonehenge where we were whipped by hail laden winds on one day, only to spend a day in the garden in pleasant spring sun the next. There was a sense of the pent-up energy of Spring in the air that day, and seedlings sown in the cold frame were just emerging.

Two weeks later, March has truly marched on. Not the tentative steps towards warmth and growth of February, each one made and then held back by chills, the promise shown and then hidden away again. No, March is the Roman God of months, relentlessly pursuing the single goal of growth. No longer is there a  feeling of spring pent-up, but of  it being released in the first great outpouring of energy that brings buds and birds nests, butterflies and bees and hosts of golden daffodils and chunky broad bean shoots and trays full of seedlings on every windowsill.

As I type this the sun has just peeped over the garden wall illuminating the daffodils, the sparrows and starlings dragging dead plant matter out of the borders to build their untidy nests under the gutters and the bluetits manicuring the lawn as they pull moss for their duvet of a nest in the birdbox. In the hedge,  the blackbirds attempt their annual exercise in triumph of hope over expectation as they start to construct in leaf and twig, stem and stalk. I always feel most sorry for them, rearing youngsters for cat food as they seem to. It took them 4 attempts last year to produce fledged youngsters. You have to admire their persistence.

The first butterfly I saw this season was a Comma but since I have seen Brimstones and yesterday as I went to collect the line dried washing from the garden, another ecological benefit of air drying the laundry became obvious when I spotted a new and very beautiful Ashy Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria) perched on the top of a sheet, chilly but wrapped well in her fur coat. She is a little early for her favourite fruit tree flowers, but the buds are swelling on the pear and she wont have to wait long. About a cm long, these little bees are peaceful and harmless and fantastic pollinators, and the only black and grey striped bee in the UK.