More About Bees

I am becoming increasingly more fascinated by bees and can report that in my garden I have identified, Buff-tailed-bumblebees, Tree-bumblebees, Garden-bumblebees, a Mining-bee and a Hover-fly which looks very similar to a Honey-bee. Apparently Hover-flies have short antenna and only one pair of wings. One of the best sites I have discovered for simple identification of bees is Friendsoftheearth.uk

Hover-fly that looks similar to a Honey-bee.

A bee has a brain about the size of a sesame seed, (it is 20 times denser than a mammals brain) and they can do so many amazing things. Many scientists have spent years researching their behaviour, Dave Goulson  lecturer at the University of Sussex tells in his book A Sting in the Tale, about four years research he did while working at Southampton University. He wanted to find out how bees knew which flowers had plenty of nectar and which are temporarily low in nectar. He discovered that bees have smelly feet and if a bee had drained a flower of nectar another bee will be able to tell by the smell of the previous bees feet. 

The book I am reading at the moment.

I think bees are very clever and are confusing us all. Looking on the internet I notice more research has been done and some scientists say bees know which flowers to go to for nectar by learning scent patterns. This is what the Independent said in 2018,

‘A team of scientists from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Bristol studied how the arrangement of cells on flowers’ petals are arranged in patterns. These are recognised and learned by bees, enabling them to distinguish between flowers.’

Other scientists at Bristol University have done some research on what they call electric fields around flowers and this was published in 2013. 

The University of Bristol have shown that bumblebees can sense the electric field that surrounds a flower. They can even learn to distinguish between fields produced by different floral shapes, or use them to work out whether a flower has been recently visited by other bees. Flowers aren’t just visual spectacles and smelly beacons. They’re also electric billboards’

In other words we still don’t really know every skill or sense that a bee uses to locate the nectar they need. I have found out however that flowers make more nectar once a bee has had its fill. This was something I had wondered about as there are so many bees in my garden this year. I thought they would be draining the flowers and then have nothing left to eat but that doesnt seem to be a problem. Flowers are also very clever in the way they attract bees and then refill their nectar store to keep the bees coming back.

Bees collect nectar by sucking droplets with their proboscis (a straw like tongue), some bees has short proboscis will others have longer ones. Short-tongued bumblebees are able to extract the nectar from flowers with an open shape, like brambles and raspberries, whereas long-tongued bumblebees can reach nectar deep inside long, tubular flowers such as foxgloves.

This year one of the good things for me having been forced to spend more time at home has been to watch the bees in the garden. I realise how lucky I am that I have a garden and I don’t work in a stressful job. I have also been experimenting with knitting a slightly more realistic woolly bee and so I am adding the pattern to this blog.

Bee with pipe cleaner legs
Bee with crocheted legs.
I am not sure which species of bee this is!

Getting to know Garden Bees

I have to admit that most of my life I have not taken too much notice of bees. I have not been afraid of them because I believed they wouldn’t want to sting me and only do so as a last resort, unlike wasps. My ignorance was so bad that I didn’t realise that there were bumblebees and honey bees. I thought that all bees were black and yellow striped and fluffy looking. When I heard about bee decline and how important they were for pollinating and therefore our survival, I started to take more notice. I was amazed to discover there are several hundred different species of bee in the UK alone and that not all bees make honey, but all I believe collect pollen.

Tree Bumblebee on the cotoneaster

There is so much information today on the internet that anyone who wants to find out more has no excuse. Sites such as the different Wildlife Trusts , Countryfile , Blooms for Bees , and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust , to name just a few. It can be rather daunting however as within one species of bee the Queen, the Workers and the Male bees can be different sizes and have colour variations. As to really get to grips with bees would take a lifetime, I decided that with the lovely weather and restrictions on movement during lockdown, I would try to discover what bees visit my garden and learn to recognise them. 

Just received this by post, published this month May 2020

I have also been reading some really useful books on the subject such as The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon, hot off the press this spring. It is a most beautifully produced book with fantastic photographs, perfect for anyone of any age who would like to get to know a bit more about the world of bees. There is a book review here, Kids of the Wild.

I have also listened on Audible to the book by Brigit Strawbridge Howard, Dancing with Bees, a journey back to nature. Brigit writes about her love of the natural world and how important it can be for our mental health. She gives us a lot of very interesting information about bees and other garden wildlife. This book was published in Summer 2019. More information can be found here on Brigit’s Blog. I can thoroughly recommend both of these books for a beginner who would like to know more about the world of bees.

Anyway to get back to my garden bees. So far I have discovered four different species which I now hope I would be able to recognise again. The first and probably the one I have seen most of is a new comer to our UK gardens, the Tree Bumblebee. This bee has been very obliging and I have managed to take a few photographs.

I have designed a knitted bee that has a resemblance to the Tree bumblebee. I will add this pattern to my next blog post for anyone who would like to try knitting one. The Tree Bumblebee has only been here since about the year 2000 but does seem to like the flowers we have in our garden. More information can be found HERE

The second species I have noticed in the garden is the Buff-tailed bumblebee. This one is a bit confusing as apparently it is the Queen whose tail is buff coloured but the workers have white tails. They have two yellow stripes not three like the Garden bumblebee. I noticed one of these bees on the cotoneaster but it would not stay very still for me to photograph consequently my picture is very blurred.

Buff Tailed bumblebee

I found a bee lying on its back in our dining room, thinking it was dead I got a piece of kitchen roll to pick it up. When I put my hand near the bee it moved and clung onto the paper towel. I quickly took it outside and placed on some weigela flowers, the bee immediately moved into one of them. It spent about thirty minutes eating and resting before flying off. I believe this was a solitary bee called a mason bee. I have now bought a home for mason Bees and really hope someone moves in https://www.masonbees.co.uk

We also have some bees nesting under our shed but to be honest I am not sure what species they are but could be the Buff tailed. I have noticed a bee on our walks which seemed to like to burrow into hard ground and I think this may have been a Mining Bee.

A small selection of UK bees.

My next blog will have details of knitting your own Tree bumblebee or possibly bee species of your choice.

Learning to Forage

I have been fascinated for some years with the idea of foraging and being able to eat free food from the countryside. Some of the obvious items such as blackberries we have eaten for years and almost don’t think of these as wild. In the last couple of years I have made Elderflower Cordial from the flowers and last Autumn Elderflower Jelly from the berries.

With more time at home at the moment during lockdown I have been trying out other recipes. The first was wild garlic pesto. I found a recipe on line and substituted wild garlic for basil,  walnuts for pine nuts and strong cheddar for parmesan. It was delicious and I used some to flavour pasta and also spread on chunky homemade bread. The flowers of wild garlic can be eaten and these look good as a garnish to decorate salads etc.I posted my efforts on Facebook and was challenged to make a tart which included wild garlic, dandelion leaves and stinging nettles. The recipe suggested seem to use large quantities of all three so I decided to make a cheese and egg quiche and add as many leaves as I could gather. The original recipe was for Wild Garlic, Nettle and Dandelion Tart,  which does have useful information on how to prepare the wild leaves. I then made my usual shortcrust pastry, lined a flan dish, added the prepared leaves, filled with grated cheese, 4 beaten eggs mixed with half a pint of milk, cooked at 180 C until well risen and golden about half an hour. It was delicious.I have always loved dandelions as a flower, they are such a lovely bright yellow colour, the leaves have a most interesting shape and seed heads are amazing.  They are also very important in the Spring for bees and other pollinators but this year I have been even more aware of them in the fields and grass verges. I decided to have a go at making dandelion flower jelly. Altogether it took about 5 hours. One to gather the flowers, 2 to remove the petals, 2 to simmer the petals in water, so not an efficient use of time. I eventually ended up with one jar of jelly. I have since found several recipes for dandelion honey and this does seem quite popular so I may have another try. I am also going to try dying fabric with some dandelion petals.I have noticed that the elderflowers are in bud but not quite out yet so I made some cordial from hawthorn flowers. The recipe is here Hawthorn Blossom Cordial I really love this recipe and the flavour of the flowers, I would even go so far as to say I prefer it to the elderflower cordial.There are so many wild plants that can be eaten but also many that are very poisonous so I am very careful to stick to the plants I can be very sure of.

Show the Love

Every February since 2015 the Climate Coalition have encouraged people from all walks of life to join in one of the biggest climate movements yet to Show the Love for our earth. This is what they say on their website,

‘Join us in 2020 to start new climate conversations, and in making and sharing green hearts to #ShowTheLove for all the things you want to protect from climate change. It has never been more important to make your voice heard to the people who have the power to make a world of difference.’

https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/show-the-love

In February, Belper will be holding a series of events and courses related to climate change. These are:-

Our Carbon Footprint: 1st of February at Strutts 9.30-12.30. 

Transition Belper and Belper Town Council are presenting a free course to be held at Strutts, Derby Road on the 1st of February from 9.30am – 12.30pm. The course, Our Carbon Footprint: Understanding and Managing the Impact, will be presented by Caroline Harmon of Marches Energy Agency. This is an opportunity to find out more about the threats we face from climate change, and what we can do about them. The course is free, but you will need to reserve your place through eventbrite.  Transition Belper     Belper Town CouncilShow the Love Event at St Peter’s Church – 15th of February 16.00-18.00

This is a drop in event suitable for everyone who would like more information on groups that are already active in the Belper Area. Come along to find out more about how each one of us can make a difference. We will have free Blue Hearts and Wild Flower seeds to re-wild parts of your gardens, information on the new Belper Community Orchard, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, The Woodland Trust and the Derwent Valley Cycleway. There will be a chance for the brave to sample edible insects and talk to kids from the Nature Savers Group. Ideas on living more sustainably, cutting down on single use plastic, local recycling initiatives, find out more about Extinction Rebellion and possibly print your own T-Shirt. Katherine Wheatley author of the book, Carbon Monster will lead some craft activities and have some books for sale. There will be refreshments of tea/coffee/squash, homemade cakes and biscuits. St Peter’s Church, Belper.

Zero Carbon Training at Fleet Arts – 22nd and 23rd of February 9.30-16.00

The course aims to further knowledge and deepen understanding of the climate crisis and inspire the change we now need, with examples of carbon neutral projects. It will include a combination of education, discussion, participation and fun! (Play the Carbon City Zero game). It will take many of us pulling in the same direction to enable change, and each of our actions can contribute to making a zero carbon future happen. http://fleet-arts.org

Climate Change is an issue that it is difficult to ignore as it is regularly  in the news showing us some of the devastating effects of Global Warming. I feel  it is important that we try to understand what is happening and then work with others to make a difference. There are things that we as individuals can do  but it is also an issue where communities can work together to make a difference. We need to be careful not to get bogged down in despair but look at all the amazing things going on worldwide and work with others to make a difference. There is hope and many amazing people rising up to lead campaigns.

Greta Thunberg https://www.facebook.com/gretathunbergsweden/ a young person who has inspired many to take the issues of Climate Emergency more seriously.

Amy and Ella Meek, young people leading a campaign against single use plastic. http://www.kidsagainstplastic.co.uk

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have announced a global prize to tackle climate issues, pledging “a decade of action to repair the Earth”. https://earthshotprize.org

David Attenborough who tirelessly campaigns  so that we can better understand what is going on. Sir David’s facts-on-climate-change

There have been many inspiring and worrying films in the last few years including TOMORROW and A PLASTIC OCEAN both shown in Belper. There is a new film 2040  by Damon Gameau is an upbeat documentary predicting our best selves saving the planet which we hope to show later in the year. 2040 Trailer

Woollen Woods 2019

This year, 2019 the Woollen Woods were slightly later than usual and this turned out to be a good decision as we were once again very lucky with the weather. As has happened in previous years some pieces were seen for a second time such as the stripy snakes.Most of the trees were decorated with new pieces however, with many trees being taken on by local groups. Transition Belper put up a Bee Kind to Nature Tree with an amazing beehive suspended high above our heads. A line of bees could be seen flying back to the hive and on close inspection a Queen Bee could be seen wearing a small handmade silver crown.  Continue reading Woollen Woods 2019

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield for the first time this week. I was very impressed by the variety of exhibitions both inside and out. The Park describes itself as a 500-acre outdoor art gallery and there are over 80 sculptures to see outside. The area was originally the landscaped parkland of Bretton Hall and so the setting is very beautiful. There is much to explore including Lower and Upper Lake , Menagerie Wood, the Chapel, Boat House, Shell Grotto, various galleries and much more.

We didn’t see all of it so there is plenty to go back for. Outside there is a group of figures made by Barbara Hepworth called, The Family of Man. I had been to her house and gallery in St Ives and hadn’t realised that she originally came from Wakefield.This photo is just one of the group which has been on loan to the park since the 1980s.

Continue reading Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Community Spaces in the North East

I have just returned home from a few days staying in a cottage near Whitley Bay in the North East of England. During the visit I was very interested to see two community projects which were both in different ways a little unexpected. The first was a Community Garden in the walled garden area of a National Trust House and the second was made for the community by an open cast mining company. Continue reading Community Spaces in the North East

Woollen woods 2018

We have just taken down the Woollen Woods and 2018 has been an amazing year. The sun has been very good to us and more individuals and groups have joined in the fun. I have written about previous years on this blog and also linked to videos Woollen Woods 2015 . This one was created for us by a Derby company https://www.ablewild.com . We were written about on the Angel Eden Blog in 2016 and there are links to videos on their page. Continue reading Woollen woods 2018

Belper in Bloom

Once again this year Belper will enter the RHS Britain in Bloom competition. The competition is now over fifty years old and is entered by communities in towns, villages and cities with different categories for each size of settlement. Groups are assessed for their achievements in three core areas: Horticultural Excellence; Environmental Responsibility; and Community Participation. Over 1,600 communities around the UK enter each year, participating in their local region’s  “in Bloom” campaign. From these regional competitions, roughly 80 communities are selected to enter the national Finals of RHS Britain in Bloom.Last year ‘Belper in Bloom’  was selected to represent the East Midlands in the Large Town Category in the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Britain in Bloom UK Finals.

Andrea Van Sittart, RHS Head of Community Outreach, reacted by saying: “Congratulations to Belper on reaching the UK Finals of this year’s RHS Britain in Bloom campaign. To represent their region on the UK stage is an incredible achievement and shows they are already at the top level of community gardening, going the extra mile to improve their local area and make it cleaner, greener and more beautiful for everyone.”

Belper has numerous  volunteers and groups who get involved with the towns involvement in Britain in Bloom. These include Belper Gardening Group, Transition Belper, the Open Gardens Team, Belper Goes Green, Friends of the River Gardens, Guides, Brownies, Scouts, local schools and for the first time this year St Peter’s Parish Community Garden. As well as volunteers, the staff at Belper Town Council and Amber Valley Borough Council, will be working to make Belper bloom. Once again this year they will be planting thousands of bedding plants in the parks and planters in and around the town, putting up hundreds of hanging baskets, keeping Belper Railway Station and the grounds of Strutts looking beautiful and keeping the Parks, Wyver Lane and other Nature Reserves accessible and well maintained.

This year as part of the town effort the Belper Woollen Woods are asking  local people who can knit, crochet or felt to make flowers which will be used to brighten up part of the route that the judges will walk along.Belper is a fantastic town full of residents willing to be part of Community events. So I am asking everyone who reads this to help make flowers for the Belper in Bloom Group. There are plenty of free patterns on the internet that can be used for events such as this.

I am a knitter so I am adding a few quick and simple knitting patterns to this blog post. However flowers can be crocheted or made out of felt.Flower OneOne main colour of DK Yarn (A) and a small amount of a different colour for the centre of the flower, (B). Needles size 3.25 (10)

Body of Flower Using Col A Cast on 60 stitches
Rows 1 –10 : K2, P2 across whole row. Row 11 : Knit 2 stitches together across the row (30 sts).
Row 12 : Slip 1 stitch, Knit 2 stitches together then pass the slip stitch over… repeat across the whole row (10 stitches).
Break off yarn with long tail and thread back through remaining stitches and pull tight. Join edges with mattress stitch

Centre of Flower Using B, cast on 20 sts, knit 2 rows, cut the yarn and thread through all the stitches. Pull the thread tight and sew base to the centre.

Flower TwoUsing 3.23mm (10) needles and DK yarn, cast on 160 sts, Knit two rows. Next row: Knit two together across the row (80 sts), Knit the next row.

Knit two together across the next row (40 sts), Knit the next row.

Knit two together across the next row (20 sts), Knit the next row.

Knit two together across the next row (10 sts)

Break off yarn with long tail and thread back through remaining stitches and pull tight. Join edges with mattress stitch.

The flower will naturally curl to make an interesting shape.

Flower ThreeUsing 3.25mm (10) needles and DK yarn, cast on seven sts

Row 1: knit,  Row 2: Knit 1, kfb k to last two sts, kfb, k1. (9 sts)

Row3:as Row2. (11sts),     Row 4: as Row 2. (13 sts)

Rows 5-8: knit,    Row 9: Knit 1 (knit two together through the back of the loops) twice,   k to last four sts, (k2tog) twice. (9 sts)

Rows 10-12: knit,   Row 13: (k2tog through the back of the loop) twice, k to last four sts, (k2tog) twice. (5 sts)

Rows 14-16: knit,    Row 17: knit 1, slip 1,k2tog, psso, k1. (3 sts)

Row 18: knit and then Cast off.

Make three or four more petals to complete the flower.

Sew lower sections of petals together by threading a length of wool through all five petals and pull up tightly.

Centre of Flower Cast on 20 sts. Knit 2 rows.

Cut the yarn and thread through all of the stitches and pull to make a circle, sew onto the centre of the flower.

Flower FourUsing DK yarn and size 3.25 (10) needles cast on 86 sts. Knit 2 rows.

Last Row, (Knit 2 sts, cast off 12 sts) repeat this across the row.

Cut the yarn and thread through the remaining stitches and pull up to make a flower that looks a bit like a daisy. Put in a few stitches to hold in place.

Flower Centre Cast on 20 sts. Knit 2 rows. Cut the yarn and thread through all of the stitches and pull to make a circle, sew onto the centre of the flower.

It would be fantastic if lots of people would help with this effort and we do not have very long before Britain in Bloom. The completed flowers can be left in a box in St Peter’s Church Chesterfield Road, Belper or given to me Anne Clark

If you would like to print off the patterns here is a PDF Flowers