The garden is buzzing!

Wild garden by David Price

Reserves officer David Price is underway with a wildlife garden, planning a 'long banquet of flowers' from early-flowering plants to those lasting until November, all favoured by the buzzing fraternity of bees and other insects

One of the pleasures of going outside in the last few weeks has been to see the queen bumblebees as they come out of hibernation. I can find them looking along the bottom of the hedge for nesting sites in old mice or vole nests or in the long grass, but they are easiest to see where they are feeding. After a long winter they need nectar and pollen now, so I need to have lots of early-flowering plants for the bees to stay in the garden!

I have seen them earlier on the crocuses, on blossom in the hedge, and on the catkins of willow, but the bee hotspots at the moment are the berberis bush and the erica heather plants. Comfrey, flowering currant and even white deadnettle are good places to look. Some of the plants they like are native, some not; some are planted and some are weeds. The golden rule in wildlife gardening for insects is ‘feed them and they will come’.

Managing a wildlife garden is sometimes more work than looking after a nature reserve!"

 

Sometimes, things go exactly to plan. We planted some lungwort a few years ago and now we are getting some hairy-footed flower bees, known for their association with this plant. We have honesty flowering vigorously, and I am expecting to see the pretty orange tip butterflies laying eggs on it very soon. Honesty is a nicer flower in the garden than the garlic mustard which the butterflies normally use, and they seem to accept the substitute. Less planned was the profusion of dandelions, which seem to be supporting large numbers of pollen beetles!

But I’ll have to keep feeding the bees (and the bugs, beetles and butterflies), in a long banquet of flowers lasting all the way until November. We’re growing lots of wildflower plugs from seed, which we’ll plant out soon. Managing a wildlife garden is sometimes more work than looking after a nature reserve!