Monday, 26 July 2010

Event Day

It was the Co-op Members Bee-spoke Day at YSP yesterday and we had guided tours down to the Bee Project base at the boathouse, plus there was a couple of art workshops to make bee houses and an activity trail too.

It was a lovely day* and everyone who attended the tours seemed to enjoy the walk and then also seeing into the hives and all the bees.

It's been a busy weekend - i went to do a talk about the Bee Project at CCA Glasgow too on Saturday.

Tomorrow i'm off to France for a week - i'm going from Preston to Paris on the train (I can't wait) so i'll not up-date the blog for a few days.

* The day started badly: I had an unbelievably stressful journey to YSP with a taxi driver who had no map, didn't know how to use a satnav, who set off in the wrong direction thinking that West Bretton was 109 miles away from Huddersfield, who thought it was ok to stop on the hard shoulder of the motorway to re-set the satnav and also thought it might be reasonable to charge £71 for the fare when we got there over an hour later. Knowing the journey should only take about 20 minutes i gave him 20 quid. I fear that he might still be trying to find the exit of the YSP car park.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Bombus Vestalis

On Monday i was joined at YSP by Brian, an ecologist, to have a look around the site and do a survey of all the bee species.
We had a really great day - despite it being grey and rainy in Preston when i set off early in the morning it was a hot sunny day over in Yorkshire.

We spent the whole day walking for miles and trying to catch bees and identify them.

Here is a new species for the project - it's Bombus vestalis Vestal Cuckoo-bee.

It says in my Edwards and Jenner field guide: A widespread species, found in many habitats in England and Wales. It is only recently known from Scotland and is not currently known from Ireland. This species takes over the nests of B. terrestris.

We also found a number of solitary bees too - but Brian has taken them away to identify properly.

Thursday, 22 July 2010


While the bumblebees are enjoying the lavender near the centre the honeybees are busy loving the Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria. There is an area in the nature reserve part of YSP that is covered with Meadowsweet and also Rosebay Chamerion angustifolium.

I love visiting that area - i can stand surrounded by the flowers that sway in the breeze and breath in the sweet summer aroma.

Along with the honeybees I've found a few species of bumblebee there too (B. terrestris, B. lapidarius, B. pascuorum, B. hortorum, B. pratorum, B. lucorum, B.vestalis) and a couple of solitary bees - which i will update on the blog soon.


It finally happened - i got stung.

I was walking to my allotment with my friend Robina and as she knows that i'm collecting dead bees for the project she pointed one out on the path leading to the plots. I picked it up and cupped my hand round it. Two steps further and i got a shot in my hand - it stung me! After a brief episode of turning the pure Preston air a distinct shade of blue, i picked the bee back up (i'd dropped it when i got stung) and saw that it was already dead - i got stung by a dead bee!

By the way it's a Bombus pascuorum, Common Carder-bee.
And look how sore my hand is - i'm finding it difficult to type.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Near the visitor centre at YSP there is a boarder planted up with Lavender. A couple of weeks ago when it was just beginning to come out in flower there wasn't much feeding on it - but now it's in full flower it it absolutely buzzing with bumblebees (not so many honey bees). Yesterday wasn't very sunny and rain showers kept passing through, but it didn't deter the bees from feeding - they love it!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Bumblebee Conservation Trust

I finally got round to joining the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and i got my members pack yesterday. I should really have joined ages ago - the work they do is vital to understanding why bumblebees are declining and how and what we might do about it. In my pack I got a poster, pack of wild flower seeds, a car sticker and lovely enamel pin badge, plus a copy of their newsletter.
I'm really happy i eventually got round to joining them.

Friday, 16 July 2010


My friend Robina has just sent this link about S'Warm by the National Youth Theatre, a mass participation collaboration with Complicit involving more than 600 NYT members.
The group will 'swarm' London in a figure of eight for 5 days from 18th - 22nd Aug, reuniting at famous London landmarks to perform en-masse.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Other Bugs

While i'm looking for bees at YSP i'm also seeing lots of other bugs too. Not sure what any of these are images of - the third image isn't even of the whole bug - as it got away before i got a good shot of it. It shows its fantastic body shape though.

Bee Sex

The other day I was joined on one of my daily walks by Richard who has been working at YSP. At the back of one of the clearings in the nature reserve area on the site a couple of bees on a Foxglove caught our eye. Looking closer we noticed they were busy being 'attached' to each other...*

Being occupied with the task at hand, the bees weren't too bothered that i got so close to take photos. If you look very closely at the third image you can see that the female has her sting right out in the face of the lower bee.

* Or one could be giving the other a piggyback

Butterflies and Moths

Also last week there were hundreds of Gatekeeper butterflies on the roses too and all along the bank near the lake at YSP - plus the steep slope down to the river was fluttering with lots of a brightly coloured day flying moth - either a Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet or a Five-spot Burnet - two very similar species and i'm not sure how to tell them apart...

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


One plant that was really full of bees, bugs and butterflies last week was the rose that lines the outlet from the lake. Although almost completely inaccessible, i managed to climb down the bank over the wall and see that there were lots of insects feeding on the flowers.

I found it difficult to catch anything though and got nettled up my arms and legs, plus i left my scissors in the bushes (after collecting a sample to press), but the smell was heavy and sweet and i sat for a while listening to the water running and the bees buzzing.

The roses fell apart when i tried to press them - so i don't think it'll be such a good pressing, but we'll see.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Queen Marking

In a Where's Wally? style exercise me and the beekeeper, Ivor, spent time looking for the two new queens in the YSP hives. He'd previously removed the old queens (and put them in smaller hives to the side) and as we'd seen new queens cells we hoped that new queens had hatched, had mated and were now laying eggs. Ivor is obviously much better at spotting the queens than me (we'd potentially still be there looking) and it didn't take long to find the first one.

He marked her by gently placing a ring with wire front over her to stop her from moving away and then put a dot of bright blue water based ink on her back so that she's easier to spot in the future.

We then had to do it all again with the second hive and find their queen and mark her too.

The weather has been good this year so Ivor mentioned that both queens were doing great by laying so soon - the good weather has meant that both have been able to mate over a number of fine weather days and lay almost as soon as possible. Bad weather can hinder this as she'll not go out in bad weather. The queen has to mate with about 10 - 12 males as she'll not go out again.

Here are the entries to the hive log books:
Hive 1: New laying queen; brood in all stages on 5 frames; queen marked blue; honey super half full.
Hive 2:
New laying queen; eggs and larva on 2 frames; queen marked blue; top brood box full of honey; super full; second empty super added.

One thing to note: I mentioned to Ivor that i hadn't seen so many bees around at the end of June / beginning of July and he said beekeepers call it the June Gap - when all the spring plants and blossom etc have died away but the summer plants aren't quite out fully yet. So, it wasn't the football after all...*

*see Lull blog entry below.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Lost Camera

The last couple of days at YSP have been great - Ivor the beekeeper came and we did lots with the hives (which i'll up-date soon); I walked miles around the site looking for bees and collecting plant specimens to press; and there was a small group of people from Lancashire Artist Network that came to the boathouse to visit the project.

In amongst all this when i got home last night i couldn't find my camera. I couldn't remember where i might have left it and spent the whole evening, most of the night and early this morning thinking through my time at YSP to try and work it out..... happily it's been found (a relief to my housemate who has had to endure hours of me recalling where i went in a step by step account of the past 24 hours).

Because of this I don't have any photos from the last couple of days - apart from this Polaroid of poppies in the corn field. The bumblebees seem to really like the poppies - bobbing from one to the next.

I'll up-date all the other info when i get my memory card back.

Comments Book

When the display for the Bee Project came down at YSP in May I was able to see all the comments in the book from visitors. There is a lot of comments in the book - here are a few:

"Pls save the bee while we still have got a chance, don't wait too late!"
"We love bees! bzzzzzzz they are very under appreciated!"
"Bees love our garden as it has 'wild' areas. Let your privet hedges flower - smells great and bees LOVE it."
"I have buff-tailed bees living in my garden stone wall in Derbyshire - long may they continue there."
"I think bees are cool"

Quite a few people seemed compelled to do drawings in the book too - three of which are above.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Bee Mimic

I don't think i've looked so closely at everything that flies around so at YSP i'm discovering all sorts of beautiful insects.

This image is of a bee mimic (a fly in a bee suit) so that predators think it's more dangerous than it really is and therefore avoid it and don't eat it: Batesian Mimicry.

At a flash glance this fly really looked like a bee - it's only when looking closer that you see it's not.
A couple of ways to tell (i've been told) are that bees have 4 wings and elbowed antennae, but flies only have 2 wings and short stubby antennae.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


I went back to the laboratories at the Uni in Preston last week with my bag full of dead bees i've collected.
Adam worked out how to use the camera that attaches to one of the lenses on the microscopes.
I must say i'm loving the images of the bees in extreme close up: the colours and shapes not entirely clear.

I'll definitely go back again and try and take more images of dead bees that i keep finding (on a walk on Sunday i found 10 dead bumblebees in total - 6 were from around a bumblebee nest in the ground - i'm beginning to wonder if bees drop dead at my feet).