When the rain continues to fall and the wind to blow, what’s a bumblebee to do but find itself a nice, cosy shelter with food underfoot.
I only managed to grab an hour’s walk today, once again dodging the rain showers that have been rolling in throughout the day. I thought I might blog about the wild garlic that’s covering every inch of the wilder areas in Penarth’s Alexandra Park but decided it would be better to wait until the flowers are at their peak as that would make for better photos. Then, as I was checking out the garlic and taking a few shots, my eye was caught by the number of insects sitting on their leaves, basking in the fleeting patches of sunshine, braving the weather on this mostly grey wet day. So here they are …
Bumble: verb; move or act in an awkward or confused manner (Oxford Dictionary).
Personally, I think it’s a bit sad that the beautiful bumblebee is associated with confusion and awkwardness of movement, though I admit they can seem rather stupid when they fly in the open windows of my apartment and then bump repeatedly against the glass trying to get out again. Most other insects seem able to work out where the open window is.
When it comes to finding nourishment though, they seem perfectly able to home directly in on the next delicious flower. And I’ve recently discovered that the bumblebee wasn’t always so named – it was originally the humblebee, not because it was considered modest or lowly but rather because of the humming sound it makes as it flies along.
‘If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.’
~ E. O. Wilson (1929 – ), American biologist, environmentalist, author
Isn’t she beautiful? While out walking in a local park I spotted this queen Red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius) enjoying the pollen of a newly opened willow flower … and I smiled all the way home.
I always have a little smile to myself when I see a Hebe because, of course, it’s a New Zealand native plant and reminds me of my homeland (though I was surprised to read today that they’re also native to South America, the Falkland Islands and one island in French Polynesia).
They’re tough plants. The two species shown here were photographed in 0° Celsius, in between hail showers, yet they show no signs of being affected by the Welsh winter and, in fact, are providing much-needed food for the few bees (that’s a Buff-tailed bumblebee in my photo) and other insects that are still out and about. As well as the cold, they’re also very tolerant of salty sea air so they’re a good plant for coastal gardens like those here in Penarth.
In case you didn’t know, the plant is named after the Greek goddess Hebe, daughter of chief god Zeus and his wife Hera. Hebe was barista on Mt Olympus, serving ambrosia and nectar to all the other gods and goddesses, until she married Heracles and became a stay-at-home mum to their two kids.
Perhaps it would be easier to ask ‘What’s not on the scabious?’ because it seems that almost every type of fly, bee, butterfly and beetle loves this plant, though that may also be because the Devil’s-bit scabious flowers in late summer – early autumn, when most wildflowers have finished flowering, and so it provides a last delicious taste of summer’s sweetness.
I’m in two minds about the current trend amongst city councils to plant beds of wildflowers in local parks. I’m told that the seed mixes are often imported from Europe because they’re cheaper, so they’re not necessarily flower species that would grow naturally in the local area. It seems a token gesture on the part of councils rather than any kind of commitment to the environment. On the other hand, I can’t help but enjoy the colourful flowers, and the insects also seem to benefit from them. What do you think?