The balmy temoeratures of Sunday brought out a trio of new queens, from a large white-tail through a mid-sized ginger carder nectaring on hellebores to a tiny meadow bumble. The last was sitting under a pile of twigs grooming her fur as if just emerged. She was just below the day’s star attraction, an early hybrid berberis, so had not far to go for food.
All berberis are highly rated as short-tongued bumble forage* but this very spiny bush is earlier than most, usually opening a few days after the first queens emerge. Its tiny clustered flowers are almost globular and often down-facing, protecting the nectar.
Although forsythia is often listed as a bee shrub, I have not seen it patronised by bumbles. Maybe the open often upward-facing ttrumpets of its blooms don’t protect pollen and nectar adequately from the weather.
As for the buff-tail queens, there were at least two around, one of them scouting for nest sites around a South East-facing hellebore bank.
*Kirk and Howes, Plants for Bees, IBRA 2011.
The Irish Pollinator Initiative has put out a last-minute call for anyone with an interest in pollinators to fill in the EU’s on-line survey. This consultation exercise feeds into a proposed European initiative on pollinator protection.
The survey form covers concerns about pollinators, levels of awareness, etc. Unless you take up the option of adding a free-form comment, it will only take take a few minutes
Closing date is Thursday April 5th; link to the survey below.
Public consultation on an EU initiative for pollinators | European Commission
We are well ahead of the game in Ireland, with a plan at national level – the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan – that gives a set of strategies and achievable targets for organisations and individual growers. In the last two years, awareness and understanding of our native pollinators have grown exponentially, and conservation projects are springing up all across the island.
Let’s make sure our island’s level of interest is reflected in the consultation.
As usual, the first queen to show up was a dark Bufftail, coasting around on the sunny morning of March 25, checking out for forage plants.
In this area at least, native plant food stocks are very low for the time of year: only the occasional dandelion, a patch of coltsfoot, very little of the red dead nettle, which often flowers right through the winter.
As for pollen, the earliest willow, Salix purpurea, had started flowering by the end of January, was set back by the East winds, and is only just recovering.
By the afternoon the bufftail Queen was moving around a patch of hybrid hellebores, and at seven in the evening was working systematically on one clump of dark red semi-doubles, apparently gathering pollen.