Day 2: Easing myself into 2020’s 30 Days Wild. Today is all about my favourite insect, bees; solitary, bumble and honey. I used to love participating in Friends of the Earth Great British Bee Count, but it hasn’t taken place for the past two years. With the weather continuing to be warm and sunny, I spent an hour sitting in the yarden enjoying the company of buff and red tailed bumblebees, blue and red mason bees, common carder bees and tree bumblebees.
Some facts on my visitors:
1. Tree bumblebees are new arrivals to the UK, arriving in the 2000’s.
2. Buff-tailed bumblebees are nectar robbers, if their proboscis is too short they bite a hole at the base of the flower to get the nectar.
3. Common Carder bees can have a colony of up to 200 bees.
4. Mason bees are solitary bees and a more efficient pollinator than bumble and honey bees.
5. Red-tailed bumblebees prefer to nest underground, sometimes in vole burrows.
Common carder bee
Blue Mason Bee
Red Tailed Bumblebee
The only bee I haven’t see this year is a honey bee, but there is time for that.
Have you spotted any bees? Do you have a favourite?
Day 23: Today’s blog is all about bees, honeybees. David and I drove to The Bee Centre in the grounds of Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, for a two hour pre-booked bee experience. After donning our bee suits and taking the obligatory photos, we (of a group of nine) were escorted to the outdoor hives. Kath opened up a hive and explained what was happening in the frames.
David in bee suit
Christine in bee suit
Christine and hive frame
Kath used smoke to make the bees (native black bees) more docile, while she inspected the hive. The bees gorge on honey, thinking there’s a fire so that they can take stores with them when they set up a new colony. We witnessed a drone (male) being born and lots of male/female brood cells and also the odd queen cell. It was fascinating to learn so much about life in a hive! Everyone has their own role and worker bees can fly up to three miles for food. The queen lays 2,000 eggs a day and is solely dependent on being cared for by the other bees. A worker bee can live up to six weeks whereas a queen can live to five years.
After meeting the bees we returned to the centre for honey tasting. The centre has an ethical and sustainable view on beekeeping and only extract honey when there is a genuine surplus. Due to this year’s wet June the bees are having a hard time and need our help! You can do this by planting more bee friendly plants, a helpful list can be found here.
Our experience really whetted our appetite for beekeeping and whether a hive would be something our yarden could accommodate?
Well week three has been a much more enjoyable week. I think the sunshine and 25°+ temperatures have helped raise the mood.
With a bit of forward thinking I was also able to plan my posts and managed to gather enough photographs and subjects to hopefully make the post more informative. Let me know your thoughts.
Day Fifteen: Thursday.
Last year I didn’t have much luck with growing my own vegetables. I tried growing peppers, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes. All perished. The only success of the summer was the maris bard potatoes, and I got two harvests from them!
So this spring I decided to get the same variety in the hope of getting a bumper harvest of gorgeous new-potato-type earlies. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. I planted the chits in March/April and waited for the plants to grow and the flowers to appear. This year nothing happened, save the plants in the grow bag yellowed and some died. I watered them during the dry spell and decided on Thursday to rummage in the soil to see if there were any potatoes grown. There were, but they all looked like this!
I was so upset! What had happened to my lovely potatoes? After doing some reading online I found there could be a number of reasons my potatoes looked like they had acne.
The spots could be a nematode, or microscopic worm.
There was a lack of moisture in the soil during hot weather.
The spots could be early blight, a fungus spread by rain and hot temperatures.
I suppose you only learn as a gardener if you make an attempt at growing. Perhaps last years harvest was a fluke? I have centurion onions growing in a bag too. I wonder what they will look like come harvesting?
Have you had a diseased riddled harvest? Let me know your stories.
Day sixteen: Friday.
All week, our female blue-faced parrot finch (Forrest) has been laying tiny white eggs. This got me thinking, how is an egg actually made? So I did a little research.
The egg as we know it is assembled inside out! The yolk comes first and is released via the oviaries. Fertilisation (if applicable) occurs once the yolk is released. The yolk then passes along the oviduct where the albumen and membranes are created. Calcification occurs at the shell gland and this produces the egg shell. Shell production can take up to 20 hours and the whole process lasts around 24 hours!
If you are interested to know more, then follow this link here, and here, and here.
Since 2015, when I began participating in 30 Days Wild, I have grown borage for bees. This year has been no different. I harvested the seeds from last years plants and sowed them this spring. Right on cue for June the new plants have begun flowering. The bees love them and they are also my something blue for 2017!
Day Eighteen: Sunday.
Having never picked our own fruit before I was very excited to try! I found a local farm, Claremont, on the Wirral, who have a pick your own season. So David and I visited this weekend. On arrival we opted for two small punnets and headed towards the field where hundreds of strawberry plants were growing. The farm was very busy with families. We chose our row and began foraging among the strawberry plants. We found big juicy fruit, the smell was delicious!
Having filled our punnets to the brim we took them to the farmer who weighed the harvest and the cost was £6 for the two punnets. I thought it was reasonable, with the guarantee that the fruit is fresh having picked them straight from the plant. We will definitely visit again.
Have you picked your own? What fruit do you prefer?
Day Nineteen: Monday.
Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed wrote a wonderful blog about plant pots for pollinators an initiative by Butterfly Conservation. They offer a planting guide for beginners and ask for participants to log their pots on a map and state what plants you have for pollinators. I have numerous pots and plants for pollinators so it wasn’t difficult to participate in.
Here are a few pictures of some of the plants I have in the yarden for pollinators.
Bumblebee on Dahlia
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
Some pollinator friendly plants are:
Perhaps you can plant a pot for pollinators and help out our hungry insects?
Day Twenty: Tuesday.
I’ve decided to showcase two bees who have been seen visiting the yarden. 1. the leaf-cutter bee and 2. the honey bee.
The hive is structured with a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
Prefer simple, open flowers.
Carry their pollen in baskets on their hind legs.
Day Twenty-one: Wednesday.
The Summer Solstice. Last year I got up at 4 am and listened to the dawn chorus. This year since having a long day at work, (and I mean a loooong day at work). I decided to look for alternative ways of celebrating the solstice.
Solstice is the Latin for ‘sun seems to stand still.’ Some see the solstice as the beginning of summer, whereas others see it as midsummer. The sun is at its most northerly position (and at winter it’s the most southerly). The solstice occurs due to the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°. In summer the Earth is tilting towards the sun and for the UK the summer solstice means approx. 16 hours of sunlight, the longest day. During the winter solstice the opposite occurs (approx. 8 hours of sunlight), meaning the shortest day.
Thought.co have some good ideas on how to celebrate the summer solstice.
I can’t remember where I saw it now, but I read that making a herbal brew was also a way of celebrating the solstice, so I decided on attempting a rosemary tea.
Rosemary is full of antioxidants (supports the immune system), has vitamins A and C and is helpful in boosting memory. Shakespeare in Hamlet, (act four, scene five,) has Ophelia saying (in her maddened state), ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ It can also aid relaxation, ease anxiety and help digestion. So I thought I would give it a try.
Ingredients (makes one small mug):
I used two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (cut fresh from the yarden).
One cup of boiled water or 250ml.
Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
Strain and drink.
I decided to drink the infusion whilst listening to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based of the William Shakespeare play. I listened as a muggy day turned to a cooler evening.
The infusion created a green tea. Rosemary is a very aromatic herb and the tea was very florally. I think I preferred the music to the drink.
What is your favorite herbal drink?
What a diverse week, week three has been! From failed potato harvests to gorgeous strawberries! I have tried to share new experiences and facts I’ve learned.
What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?