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  • More wild bees in the garden

    Miranda Hodgson on 29 Apr 2011 at 02:26 PM

    There are bees everywhere at the farm vegetable garden just now and in larger numbers than last year. Last week I found the eggs of leaf-cutter bees, but now other species are turning up. The nest of wild honey bees (Apis mellifera) in the wall of a cottage next to the garden, that I watched last year, seems to have grown. The two photographs below were taken exactly a year apart and show the difference in bee numbers. Although the bees have been using that spot for many years, I’ve never seen so many around the entrance. It is a heartening sight.

     April 23rd 201


  • Finding leaf-cutter bee eggs in compost

    Miranda Hodgson on 27 Apr 2011 at 10:28 AM

    We were up at the farm vegetable garden the other day, where I should have been busy weeding and sowing more seeds, but instead I had gone to see the nice lady who lives at the farm. We were rooting through her flower pots to see if the Canna rhizomes had survived the winter (they had), when I came across something exciting. Sifting through the compost, I unearthed what I thought were cigar butts for, at first glance, that is exactly what they appeared to be. A closer examination revealed them to the be something much more interesting: the carefully wrapped eggs of a leaf-cutter bee (Megachile centuncularis).


  • Ten things seen for too short a time to photograph

    Miranda Hodgson on 15 Apr 2011 at 05:18 PM

    Sometimes, the wildlife in the garden moves too quickly to be photographed. You turn around and, as you do, a brief drama plays out before you. It all happens so quickly; at times, so quickly that if you blinked, you’d miss it. I thought I’d write down some of those glimpses, before they are forgotten.

    There is a loud buzzing from somewhere. I look around and see a big bumblebee land at the edge of a hole in a stone wall and crawl inside. It doesn’t come out again. Must be looking for a nesting site.

    A sparrow flies up from a branch and catches a little white feather which is drifting down through the air. It returns to the branch and flourishes the feather for a moment before disappearing into another garden.

    Hearing rustling, I look towards the nearby fence where the sound has come from. There is a small gap under it and, just for a moment, the four tiny legs and tail of a field mouse are visible as it passes by on mouse business.

    A ladybird takes off from a flower and flies across the garden. I can just make out its wings as the sunlight catches them.

    Two bluetits busily check along the underside of some guttering. Looking for spiders, perhaps?

    Sparrows again, and they’re engaging in an energetic display in a rambling rose, hopping about, fluttering their wings at one another and cheeping at the tops of their voices. A few seconds later and they’re gone.

    I’m edging a lawn and uncover several worms and a great many red ants. Glancing up, I see that a robin is silently following me as I work and gathering up ants, which it flies away with, before returning for more.

    An uncovered earthworm noses its way across an area of freshly dug soil, searching for a suitable entrance. Having found one, it disappears into the moist soil below the surface.

    On a windy day, a bluetit lands on a thin branch, nearly falls off and quickly rights itself, but not before very briefly hanging upside down from the branch.

    Lastly, one where the camera wasn't to hand: I saw a pigeon climb into a half-full bird bath, settle itself, and go to sleep.


  • Holes in the lawn

    Miranda Hodgson on 11 Apr 2011 at 03:05 PM

    Having had some time off for an unpleasant injury, I’m raring to go again and keeping a close watch on what some of the other species around me are getting up to. There is a lot going on at this time of year, so much so that it can be hard to decide which thing to mention first but, on a visiting a few gardens recently, I’ve seen the same thing occurring in them all – little volcano-like mounds of soil with a hole in the top. These are the nests of Tawny mining bees (Andrena fulva).

    Tawny mining bees are found mainly in the south and central UK, though I have also seen nests along sandy woodland paths in Lincolnshire. These attractive, furry little bees are solitary bees and one hole represents one nest. The female will dig out several such holes and, in each, she will lay an egg and surround it with pollen and nectar for the larva to feed on.