Honeybees in the garden

Posted: Wednesday 2 July 2014
by Richard Jones

The honeybees are doing a fine job out there today. This morning it's the turn of the Veronicastrum virginicum.

The honeybees are doing a fine job out there today. This morning it’s the turn of the Veronicastrum virginicum. It's on the receiving end of the bees’ nectar-removal and pollen delivery service. Like other insects they're paying no heed to the bizarre flattened and fasciated inflorescences to which this particular plant is prone. Maybe it even makes their work easier - a broader, smoother landing surface and increased florets. Who knows?
From my own observations, I think honeybees are having a much better year of it in 2014. The warm, dry start to the year may have benefited both them and the flowers. Everywhere I go across southern England, honeybees have been a right distraction as I’m trying to see what other flower-visitors are about.
This, amidst all the sour news about bee problems, declines and insecticide residues, is a reminder that trying to understand the environment is a complex and confusing business. What do my optimistic anecdotal observations mean? In the great scheme of things, probably nothing. However, one sobering conclusion is easy to make: the environment is much bigger than the tiny confines of my artificially bounded garden.
Honeybees are, of course, the ideal organism to demonstrate this because although the're dripping off all of my flowers I don't have a colony in the garden. Neither do my neighbours. Even the allotment down at the corner of the next street is hive-free at the moment, after the keeper moved away. The likelihood is that the honeybees are flying many hundreds of metres, possibly even several kilometres, from their nest to my nectar flow. On the journey they'll have to negotiate inhospitable roads, obstacle buildings, unfavourable eddies of wind, pollution from car exhausts and heating vents, pesticide toxins from other less insect-tolerant gardeners, not to mention facing the gamut of usual predators, parasites and diseases. It’s a dangerous world. And yet me fiddling in the garden, planting a few bee-friendly flowers, can have precious little influence on protecting the colony from these or other dangers back at the hive, or on the bees’ other foraging expeditions in other directions.
My garden, no matter how environmentally friendly it might be, is just a small part of the world where wildlife operates without regard to the petty details of private ownership, or inconsequential fenced boundaries.
Today the bees are active. I hope they are having similar successes in other gardens, those over which I have no control.

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oldchippy 02/07/2014 at 18:01

Hi Richard yesterday I saw a female stag beetle on the path when I was out with the dog there is a lot of fallen tree near by.

philippa smith2 02/07/2014 at 18:03

Old Chippy...........aren't you the lucky one......ages since I've come across a stag beetle