14 July 2012 04:29 PM
I have been amazed at the number of bumble and other bees on Comfrey and Phacelia tanacetifolia. I have found that Phacelia is best grown in blocks rather than single plants.
Both flower over a very long period.
14 July 2012 06:13 PM #1
I agree fully with your verdict !
Have you noticed that there are two ways that bees can work Comfrey ?
The smaller and long tongued ones enter the flower from below. (Here I’ve noted pratorum, hypnorum, pascuorum and hortorum.)
Others do “Nectar Robbing” and make/use holes at the side of the flower tube close to the top. These are Short Tongued species of BB (terrestris, lucorum) + honey bees and their method allows them to gain access to the nectar despite having short tongues. Honey bees use the holes made by BBs. If you take a look at freshly fallen flowers, you can often find flowers with holes in the side.
And you can also see such behaviour on Runner Bean flowers.
You might also notice that Comfrey flowers are often a bit bruised where the bees hooked feet have gripped hard on the flower. This tends to be towards the bottom of the flower tube.
As to Phacelia, I once visited an open day at Rothamsted Research and there was a large patch of this plant there maybe 20m x 20m. You could hear the excited and busy buzzing from hundreds of bees working the flowers from about 50 m away !
Phacelia seems to be grown in Pheasant Food patches in the countryside around here - and perhaps more widely. It looks good and provides useful bee-fodder.
14 July 2012 09:55 PM #2
Hi Clive, yes I have noticed short tongued bees making these holes in comfrey and runner bean flowers. I will certainly check out any fallen comfrey flowers to look for the bruising you mention - thank you.
I see you are now a “Hive Member”. I wonder what you will be called next, or is this the ultimate title?
Is there a member of Admin who could explain this procedure?
14 July 2012 10:32 PM #3
Oh dear, I think I’d rather be a “Colony Member” than a “Hive Member” it makes me sound like a Honey Bee worker not a BB worker !
And I guess if I am a BB worker, then I should be a Long Tongued one at that, rather than a Short Tongued one ......!
I should have some photos showing the bruising on comfrey flowers, so will try to add one later.
PS. Picture now added. To my eyes the brown areas on the petals are damage from bee feet etc
16 July 2012 09:46 AM #4
I see what you mean. I did check my comfrey but found nothing like that but there are very few flowers left. I need to cut the plants back to get a second flush of flowers.
Sparrow - Sue
18 July 2012 01:00 PM #5
Top 2, tricky.
Lavender would have to get a mention - get the right one and they’re covered in bees almost all the time
Then probably Pulmonaria (lungwort) - for the earliness!
27 July 2012 01:58 PM #6
Hello , just wanted to add that whilst at the Volunteers meeting at Sandy last Saturday we were all amazed to see the amount of Bumblebees, particularly Cuckoo Bees on some Wall germander, Teucrium Chamaedrys.
Most of us made a note all vowing to make sure we got some for our gardens.
My Lavender and Knapweed are the real favourites right now, it’s so good to see so many Bees in such a tiny garden
13 August 2012 03:27 PM #7
Hello, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the posts on this forum. I only have a tiny garden, but have stuffed it as full of plants for bees as I can. If it is of help to any others with small spaces the plants I have found to attract bumblebees are as follows :- Pulmonaria (early and long flowering) Chives (dual purpose, cut some for the kitchen, but leave to flower, the bees love them) Geranium ( the cup shaped flowers are perfect for the shorter tongued bumbles) Lavender (try to plant more than one kind, as the vary in flowering, and this will expand the season) Monarda (great to watch the bees fight to get into the tubular flowers,chose the smaller varieties) polemonium northern lights ( this is a beautiful, and very long flowering form, easy to grow and split, flowers for months) Echinops (again chose the smaller varieties, the white form is small) Agastache, (take cuttings or use self seedlings as not always hardy) Astrantia (loved by bees and other beneficial insects, lots of smaller varieties to chose from) Salvia, Allium sphaerocephalon (bulbs can be grown in pots, I have seen up to five bees feeding on one flower head) Scabious, Echinacea (smaller varietes) Eryngium (fabulous plant, and will attract lots of bees, watch out though they are spiky) Calamintha nepeta(similar to cat mint without the associated problems, mine is called ‘Blue Cloud’ I only have one plant and have counted as many as 20 bees,3 species, on it at one time) Cultivated varieties of knapweed. I have achieved a garden buzzing with bees, it took me a lot of trial and error, so I hope this is of use to some of you
14 August 2012 09:26 AM #8
Some great suggestions above, I can see I’m going to have to make a shopping list. Can I add Foxglove as another that Bumblebees love.
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