Anthony’s blog

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author alone. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors or omissions.

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Attracting bees to nest in your garden

I've been trying for a few years to attract bees to nest in my garden. I get plenty of visitors, but no residents, so I've tried harder this year to make by garden more attractive for prospecting queen bees.

Queen bumblebees will look for nests in different places, often depending on the species. For example, the Tree bumblebee, Bombus hypnorum, almost always nests above ground in bird boxes and lofts. But most other bumblebees will nest in tussocks of grass, thick moss (like the Common carder bee, pictured left), or cavities under paving slabs, sheds and decking. They basically want a cavity that is large enough to accommodate a growing nest, which is well-drained and hidden from predators.

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It’s not often the Queen comes to visit…

One of our conservation officers for the South West, Aoife O’Rourke, had a surprise visit this morning. Here is her account of what happened:

So I sauntered down to the living room to have my breakfast this morning, only to notice that I had not one, but two visitors crawling around my floor- two very hungry Tree bees!! The Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) is one of the first species to emerge from hibernation, so I've seen a few flying around outside.

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Green manure

I’ve been studying for my RHS course, and recently read more about ‘green manure’. Green manure is when certain plants are grown in an area, with the intention that they will be dug into the soil at some stage to improve the nutrient content and structure of the soil. This has the advantage that no artificial fertilisers need to be applied, but more importantly will improve the structure of the soil, and genereally improves the health of the soil. Organic material is broken down slowly by the microorganisms in the soil, so it feeds a whole living system that contributes to the growth of plants.

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Some fascinating facts about bumblebees

I recently asked our Outreach Assistant, Rebecca, what the most interesting things she has learned about bumblebees since she started working with us. Rebecca's list was long so I've asked to write them down for everyone to enjoy!

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What’s the best lavender?

Until recently, I assumed that all lavenders were equally as attractive to bees and other pollinators. I almost always see something feeding upon all the lavenders in my garden, and I tend not to be picky when choosing them at the garden centre.

However, new research by Mihail Garbuzov and Francis L.W. Ratnieks has found great differences in the species and cultivars. The research, published in the Functional Ecology journal, compared the attractiveness of 32 popular summer-flowering plants to pollinating insects. The most-visited plants varied over the two years of the study, with Nepeta (Catmint) Agastache (Giant hyssop), Salvia (Sage), Hyssopus (Hyssop) and various lavenders being consistently the most often visited.

It was no surprise to Pelargonium (sometimes called annual geranium) at the bottom of the list, having hardly being visited at all. It was a surprise however to see that some lavender cultivars were close to the bottom, with very few visits!

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