My walk to work is taking longer again as the garden wakes up with the warmer weather. It's warm enough to sit for a while and listen to the birds beginning their mating rituals.
There's a Blue tit eyeing up the nest box on the garage again - maybe this year he will find a mate to share it with. Listen carefully and you will hear him calling.
I say "he" but it's quite difficult to tell the difference between Bluetits - I'm basing it on his lack of activity apart from lots of chat. You can read a little more here and here
Listen carefully for a low humming noise and you may be lucky to find a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris). She will be stocking up on food but if you see her hovering low to the ground she is searching for a nest site, probably an old mouse nest. Once found, she will raise her first brood of workers alone and needs plenty of nectar rich plants to feed them before sending them out into the world to feed the next broods.
A little smaller, you can't mistake the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum). A vibrant copper thorax, black abdomen and white tail makes this relative newcomer easy to spot. You may muddle it with the Common Carder Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) but these never have a white tail. Tree Bumblebees often nest in old bird boxes and holes in trees - very different from most of the other UK Bumblebees. A few years ago we had a nest behind the weatherboard on our house and this was the catalyst for me beginning to draw bees.
I get a lot of Carder bees in my garden but I have never managed to get a decent photo or find their nest site.
This beautiful Buff-tail was resting for a long time on the trunk of my Mulberry Tree and I wondered if she was newly emerged from hibernating amongst the roots. You can see a collection of mites hitching a ride. These are mostly harmless - according to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust:
"Most bumblebees have many tiny mites clinging to their bodies. In most cases the mites are difficult to see, but sometimes they can cover large parts of the bumblebee’s body.
The good news is that most of the mite species that live with bumblebees are fairly harmless to them and are simply clinging to the bumblebee so that they can be transported to new nests. When in the nest, the mites usually feed upon the wax, pollen, nest debris, and other small insects, so do not feed on the bees. Then, when they reach a certain stage in their life cycle, the mites cling to worker bees, and are transported onto flowers. From these flowers, the mites then attach to other visiting bees, and are transported to new nests.
However, the mites may present a problem if an individual bumblebee becomes so heavily infested that it is unable to fly because of the weight of the mites. If this happens, you can try to remove some of the mites by gently brushing them with a child’s paintbrush."
A much higher pitched and faster buzz alerts me to the Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) - there has been a male about for a few days now but I haven't spotted a female yet. The male is gingery brown and has the hairy legs, where the female is all black. Not the best photo, they are a bit quick, but you get the gist. They seem to prefer the Lungworts (Pulmonaria spp.) aka Soldiers and Sailors, and I'm pleased to say these are thriving in my garden.
If I had known then what I know now
I would have started this diary years ago
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