This seems to have been a bumper year for bees in the garden. Local photographer Les Pickstock has been here on a few days and taken some great photos of our bees. In particular we seem to have got lots of bumblebees in the garden.The existing borders plus a new nectar border is positively ‘buzzing’ with our little furry friends – and Les also found a harvest mouse!

Bees visit flowers for nectar and pollen, and it seems that they are attracted to blues, mauves and purples and yellows. The most common bumblebees that you can expect to see are:

  • Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)
  • Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)
  • Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)
  • White tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)
  • Garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum)
  • Common Carder Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum)

We seem to have quite a few of these in the garden with a definite nest site for the white tailed bumblebee.

Bees species have different tongue lengths so they can access a variety of flowering plants. The Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) has the longest tongue, and has a distinct preference for flowers with deeper throats. In the past the wide variety of wild plants provided ample nectar and pollen for this bee, but modern plants, especially hybridised  or ‘architectural’ plants such as bamboo and  palms do not attract the garden bee. Traditional flowers with deep tubular throats such as Wild honeysuckle, Larkspur, Monkshood, Comfrey, Cerinthe and Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) are what it needs – try growing a few of these to save the Garden Bumblebee. Here are some other  flowering plants that attract bees in the summer and autumn. They can be grown in garden borders, and in herb gardens – do take care if you are cutting  herbs or flowers as bees can be burrowing inside for pollen.

  • Achillea (HP)
  • Agastache (HP)
  • Aster (HP)
  • Buddleia (H Shrub)
  • Cosmos (HHA)
  • Dahlia (Single flowers) (Half hardy tuber )
  • Echinops(HP)
  • Eryngium (HP)
  • Eupatorium (HP)
  • Heliotrope(HHA)
  • Hyssop (HP)
  • Lavender  (HP)
  • Marjoram (HP)
  • Monarda (HP)
  • Mignonette (Reseda)
  • Penstemon (HP)

KEY:   HA – Hardy Annual, HHA – Half Hardy Annual, HP – Hardy Perennial

P.S. Great excitement here as Les also took a photo of a harvest mouse, which is quite rare for where we live.