All of a sudden I hear the low drone of buzzing, somewhere above my head and below the conservatory roof.
As spring flowers in our gardens, parks, patios and balconies the buzz of bees, wasps, hoverflies and other insects is never far away. The array of blooms and flowering herbs in my garden such as Rosemary, Sage, honeysuckle, hebe’s (and probably far too many lavender plants) leads to many flying insects inadvertently straying into the conservatory. Most will find their way back out through the doors, window or ceiling vent after visiting a few house plants.
From the buzzing around my lavender plants I know the bees appreciate these, not just for the rich nectar but also the vibrant purple colour, which is one they see most easily. They are also fond of my foxgloves, which have both pretty and handy spots to show exactly where the nectar is.
To be honest, I find the low lilting buzz of the bumble bee quite hypnotic, whereas the insistent hum of the industrious honeybee foraging away seems so energetic in comparison. We have a south facing wall in the garden that has become a bit of a hot spot for mason bees. We don’t disturb them and they for their part seem happy to ignore us. Maybe it’s because of their solitary nature (like tawny mining bees and ivy bees) living in single holes, carved out of the mortar between the bricks of our old garden wall that they are happy to share our garden peacefully. They are also very good at pollinating my flowers and fruit trees so it’s a win, win situation for us both.
Even wasps in the garden in early spring time have their benefits. This early in the year worker wasps are searching for protein to take back to the nest to feed grubs. The grubs then secrete a sugary substance as a reward to the wasps. Any aphids or green fly on the plants in my garden will be good pray for wasps, and I’ve no objections to that. It is only later towards the end of summer that wasp problems are an issue. When there are no more grubs to feed, worker wasps look for alternative sources of sugar, this includes fermenting fallen fruits , sugary drinks and anything sweet in the house or scraps in the bin. They are also more aggressive at this stage as the social structure of the wasp nest begins to dissolve.
Bees and other insect pollinators are vital to our ecosystem, essential in the production of many fruit and vegetables as well as flowers. But with their dwindling numbers and their natural habitat disappearing (97 % of wildflower meadows have disappeared over the last 60 years according to Friends of the Earth) the humble garden has become important to their survival. Friend of the Earth are organising The Great British Bee Count for the whole of May 2015, with the aim to provide an accurate annual snapshot of the UK bee population. It is hoped the data will help experts to fight the decline in bee numbers. I’ve already downloaded the smartphone app and I’m busy trying to count the mason bees, if they would only stay still a bit longer!