Friday, 25 June 2010


It's been a weird coupe of days - even with lots of flowers out there didn't seem as many bees as usual. There is clover, trefoil, thistles and buttercups but it all seemed very quiet - I wonder why that is? It has been very hot: do bees stay in the shade when it's hot?
As it goes it was pretty quiet for visitors at YSP too - i reckon everyone was watching the England match at the world cup - maybe that's where all the bees were too.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Bombus pratorum

I found another species of bumblebee for the YSP list (takes the total to 8 species now). Bombus pratorum Early Bumblebee.

There is a few about - on the Thistles and Cotoneaster, but i got these shots of one while it was on the Ox-eye Daisies.

Here's what it says in my Edwards and Jenner Field Guide to Bumblebees:

Distribution and biology - A widespread species, found in many habitats. A regular garden species where it is a particularly good pollinator of soft-fruit flowers.

Nests - Made in a variety of situations, at ground level in the bases of bushes, underground and in holes in trees.

Flower visits - Often seen visiting the flowers of shrubs, especially Raspberry and Bramble, but also a wide range of other plants.

I think it might be male as its got yellow hairs on its face.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Badge Map

At YSP you can fill in a 'bee promise' card (to plant something in your garden that bees like etc) and in return you get a limited edition bee badge with one of my dead bee drawings on.*

On the card you can write where you are from and i thought i should collect all the information and transfer it on to a map of UK to see where all the badges are going. Quite a few don't put where they're from, but the ones that do get represented on the map.

A lot of badges are local / regional to YSP in Yorkshire, but they are going further afield.
The most northern in UK is Haddlington in East Lothian; the most far east is Chelmsford in Essex; and the most far south (and west) is Falmouth in Cornwall. Some have gone international: quite a few to Holland, a couple to Norway and one has gone to La Paz in Bolivia - cool!

*See also Bee Badges posted in March on the blog.

Thursday, 17 June 2010


All the Hawthorn blossom has gone and the Rhododendron flowers are fading, but the bees are now loving the Marsh Thistles Cirsium palustre. They're also loving Creeping Buttercups Ranunculus repens and the big Ox-eye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare.

Pictured here are the thistles - my net finally arrived so i spent the other day catching bees and crawling about in thistles, which isn't that comfy. But it was gloriously hot and sunny so i managed to put up with it.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Anticipation of Pain

I've been working on the Bee Project for a few months now and I've still not been stung...

I've been told that you're not a real bee keeper until you have been stung. When i'm blocking the entrance to the hives as i'm recording the sound of the bees or taking photos i know i'm making the bees irritable and frustrated. When i'm out looking for bumblebees and trying to get good shots of them i know they're not happy sometimes - they throw their legs up to the side in a 'get away from me' gesture. So, it's only a matter of time before i get stung good and proper.

Bees are seen as heroic and noble when they sting - they die after stinging, so they must have a real reason for making such a sacrifice. They are forgiven. Unlike wasps who we think deliberately go about looking for targets they can sting repeatedly.

Last summer i was walking to my mum's house and an insect of some description plopped on to the top of my head and stung me twice. It hurt SO much! What didn't help was that the day before i'd been to a funeral and was suffering from a bit of a hangover and I was on the way to the dentist. My mum decided to help by putting a massive greasy blob of vaseline on the sting site (and all in my hair too). Thanks mum. My wish was that whatever the insect was it eventually died a horrid death after it crawled off into the hedge - but as it stung me twice i presumed it was laughing its little insect head off while cruising for it's next victim of pain.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Bee Keeping Booklet

My friends Charles and Pauline gave me a Young Farmers' Club Booklet Bee Keeping. It is the fifth edition published in 1945.
I love that the chap is smoking a pipe in every image.

"A person who knows very little or nothing about bees should make friends with someone who does, and watch him handling his hives and stock. It is a good thing to find out in this way if one likes bees before starting on one's own. In most districts there is a Bee Keepers' Association, and by joining this and attending its meetings a great deal can be learnt."

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


I took over 500 shots during my last visit to YSP.
The ones I like the most were taken inside the hive. They are dark and
claustrophobic, ambiguous and a bit creepy.

I've put a few more images on my website too.

Monday, 7 June 2010


I decided to join The Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS) and my membership pack came last week. I received two of the past newsletters plus a member's handbook and the catchily named book Provisional atlas of the aculeate Hymenoptera of Britain and Ireland Part 7.

The handbook is really good with chapters on conservation, encouraging bees into your garden, photography, equipment etc. The Atlas is a little publication showing distribution maps and species profiles of bees, wasps and ants. It's fab.

Other things to note at YSP are that the bees are loving the Laburnum, Rhododendron and vetch (all shown here) plus they love the Whitebeam and Horse Chestnut flowers too.

Saturday, 5 June 2010


A while ago i met a forensic entomologist (like you do)*, and he invited me to look at bees under the microscopes at the Uni near me in Preston. So yesterday i took along my little collection of dead bees that i've been gathering for a while.

I entered a magical, mesmerising world inspecting these creatures in so much detail. The complexity of their eyes, the hair magnified, the breathtaking beauty of the wings and the individual grains of pollen collected on their legs. One of my dead bees had its sting out - in close up a gorgeous vicious weapon. I feel that i don't have the capacity of describing the visions in words.

I tried unsuccessfully to take photos down the lens, but Adam mentioned they do have a camera that can capture the images and i can use it next time. Really can't wait for the next visit.

* Forensic entomologist - someone who works with a highly trained team of insects to detect crime.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Bombus hortorum

I found another species of bumblebee at YSP:

It's Bombus hortorum Garden Bumblebee and it was feeding on White Dead-nettle Lamium album.

Quite a few different bumblebees were really loving the patches of dead-nettle and systematically drinking from every flower head on each plant.

My Edwards and Jenner book says this about Bombus hotorum:

: A widespread species found in many habitats. It may not be frequent in any particular area. A garden species.

Flower visits: One of two species which regularly visit Foxglove flowers, the other being B pascuorum. It also frequently uses Red Clover and Dead-nettles.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Catching Bees

Last night i went out to a lovely little meadow near to where i live in Preston. I went with a chap called Brian who is also keen on bees.

The evening was sunny and warm and the meadow was full of flowering dog daisies, buttercups, vetch, crane's bill and grasses. I had a go at catching bees in a net and then looking at them in an inspection tube before releasing them.

We caught lots - the fields were buzzing. We caught 4 species of bumblebee (pascuorum
, hortorum, terrestris and lapidarius) and also a couple of solitary bees. We also caught a couple of wasp species, hover-flies and a bee mimic - a fly in disguise. I loved it last night - wandering about in the flowers, finding new things to wonder at.

The middle image shows Bombus hortorum Garden bumblebee
The bottom image shows a solitary bee - with its underside covered in pollen.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Coming in to Land

I spent ages the other day sitting in front of the hive watching the bees coming in and out. I also made sound recordings of the buzzing. They don't like it very much that i'm in the way and eventually more and more come out and get more frantic around the entrance.

I took these shots of them coming back from foraging - laden with pollen.

I have to say i really don't like the smell of the hives. It's hard to describe - it's not sweet or honey like, but i think it's mildly unpleasant. My friend Andy thinks it might be the result of thousands of them feeding on lentil flowers.

End of the Display

The Bee Project display came down the other day - it's still there, only under a couple of layers of paint. Naughty children can no longer try to create a cat's cradle with the threads, or poke their fingers through the frames in the virtual hive.

The images here were taken by Adrianne Neil