Bees

Our garden is alive with bees of all kinds. I'm not an expert on bees I just love watching them and listening to them at work. In 2009 we had at least two nests in our garden - Buff-Tailed Bumblebees in one of our compost bins and Red-Tailed Bumblebee in a hole (probably a disused vole or mouse hole) in a flower bed. 

I've had a go at using the Natural History Museum identification charts and putting a name to some of the species I see in the our garden.  If you are an expert and I've got it wrong please let me know.

Providing high-yielding nectar and pollen plants from March through to October is the best way to attract bees.  

Here is my list of plants most visited by bees in our garden (other plants are visited as well but these are the "favourites"):

If you want to support Bumblebee conservation then join The Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

In our garden bees seem to find plenty of natural sites to nest, but in a smaller, tidier or town garden it is well worth providing an artificial site. Click here for the BBCT factsheet on nest sites.

Buff-Tailed Bumble Bee

I think this is a Buff-Tailed Bumblebee which is a widely distributed species common in gardens. 

Bees really enjoy Heleniums, feasting on the ripe florets (showing yellow pollen) around the rim of the disc. When you watch a bee on a Helenium just starting to mature like "Indianersommer" here, the bees work their way round and round the disc "hovering" up the pollen and nectar.

 

Nepeta "Six Hills Giant" is one of the Buff-Tailed Bumblebees' favourites.
Scabious like ochroleuca here are great bumblebee plants.
These again look like White-Tailed Bumblebees enjoying a feast on Echinops ritro
Centaureas are one of the favourites of bees in our garden. Probably a Buff-Tailed again on Centaurea Blewit
A veritable Buff-Tailed heaven on Echinacea "Rubinstern" and Leucathemum "Marion Bilsland".
The pollen sacs on this Buff-tailed are very full.
Early Bumble Bee

Centaurea Blewit is popular in late spring / early summer.  The expert from the BCCT tells me its a drone (does this mean male???)

Carder Bee

I think this is a Carder Bee. Cirsiums, like "Mount Etna" are really popular with bees in early summer.

Carders, like all bees, love Centaureas like C. karabagensis here.
Tree Bumblebee

New to the UK in 2001 and now present across England and Wales, we first saw them in our garden in May 2012.

 

Honey Bee

Honey Bees abound in our garden, but don't usually arrive until towards the end of June. 

Red-Tailed Bumble Bee

Red-Tailed Bumblebees are quite a bit smaller than the Buff-Tailed. Here you can clearly see the long tongue inserted into a disc floret of Helenium "Kokarde".

Red-Tailed Bumblebee on CentaureaCentaurea montana varieties are really popular.
Red-tailed bumblebee on Centaurea nigraThere is much talked about growing wildflowers to attract insect. Cultivated and foreign varieties are just as popular. The Red-Tailed doesn't care that the Hardheads (Centaurea nigra) he/she is sitting on is the cultivated form "Elstead"
Bumblebees enjoy the late flowers of the perennial sunflower Helianthus Monarch.

Its always tempting to identify a bee (or bird or plant for that matter) as something rare. This individual has a more amber tail than the distinctly orange-red tail of the Red-Tailed pictured on the knapweed above, and in a flight of fancy I could assume it is the rare dark form of the Knapweed Carder bee. However that bee doesn't really live in Cheshire so let's assume it is a Red-Tailed.

Solitary Bees: These are more difficult to identify. These include Mason bees - living in brickwork, mining bees and leaf cutter bees. Any help with identification much appreciated.

See how this one has collected lots of yellow pollen on its abdomen.

The flower by-the-way is Centaurea Caramia.

I think that this one is a Tawny Mining bee photographed on a Hemerocallis leaf in April.
This is, I think, a Leaf Cutter bee on an Astrantia.
This is another Mining Bee, possibly Andrena haemorrhoa.

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