Bees in the trees

Flowering Plum

This is my favourite time in the garden when my plum tree is in flower.  It heralds the official opening of springtime in the garden.

Bee gathering plum pollen

It attracts honey bees in their hundreds to fill the canopy with a constant motion and buzz that adds to the cloud of its special bitter sweet perfume that floats over the garden.

Bumble bee in plum tree

The bumble bees like to take the top flowers but this one has fallen asleep and stayed for the night amongst the flowers.

Carpenter in plum tree

The carpenters have been very active early this year and visit the plum tree as well as the spring flowers.

Goat Willow

The plum tree is not the first tree to provide pollen to the bees.  We have a willow at the bottom of the garden which I think is a goat willow (Salix caprea).  It is an old tree which we have inherited but it provides the much needed pollen very early in the year.

Bee flying to catkin

At this time of year it is mainly honey bees that come and load up with the pollen.

Wild bee in willow

There are also wild bees like this one and bumble bees that need the valuable pollen.

Apricot blossom

The apricot blossom just doesn’t do it for the bees.  It comes a poor third choice when the plum and the willow are flowering.  I have a feeling that the apricot tree produces flowers at intervals so that it can increase its chances of fruiting in case it produces flowers when there are not so many pollinators around.  I’ll try and keep a closer eye on it this year.

Border

The spring flowers provide colour in the borders.

White daff

And the daffodils brighten up a day when a thick grey blanket of cloud covers the sky and prevents any chance of a glimpse of the solar eclipse.

Hellebore (1)

The Hellebore provide lots of pollen too but it seems to be more appreciated by the bumble bees.

Bumble bee in hellebore

The bumble bees are difficult to see in the Hellebore but their loud buzzing gives them away.

New plum flower

Baby plum tree’s first flower

My plum tree is so important in the garden that I can’t quite imagine the garden without it.  In the summer it provides a cool parasol to dine under.  Its strong branches can support a swing.  It even has its own bee hotel!

That is why we were excited to notice what looked like a baby growing in the hedge nearby.  We looked after it and planted it out last autumn.  We were not sure if we had been looking after a “foundling” and that it would turn out to be another tree but this year it has flowered for the first time.  The flowers looks the same as our plum tree and it has flowered with it at this early time, so we are very happy that the plum tree is not on its own any more.

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32 thoughts on “Bees in the trees

  1. I love this – we have a plum tree in flower here on the farm and it seems as if every flower has its own visiting bee. The tree is alive with bees of all types, plus butterflies (or it was yesterday before today’s rain), and you can hear the humming from some distance away. If I had time I would sit under the tree with my insect guide and see how many species I could tick off the list!

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    • I love sitting under my plum tree on a sunny day and enjoying the perfume, watching all the action and feeling a part of it as you are inside the buzzing. I suppose with a farm you don’t get so much time to sit and stare. Amelia

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  2. Hi, I am interested in your apricot. I have a fan trained one on a south facing fence, it has had a few fruits in the past 5 years but I was interested in the fact you say the bees aren’t to bothered about it. Being as mine is relatively small (fence high ) do you think it would benefit from hand pollination ? I love the fact that you have the beautiful space for all your lovely fruit trees……. Sue

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    • I’m not too up on pollination but some varieties of apricot are self-pollinating and others do better cross-pollinated. It would be a good idea to check for your variety. I think probably the modern garden varieties will be self. In that case, I think hand pollination would be good as apricots can flower very early before there are a lot of pollinating insects around. Amelia

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      • Amelia, all self-pollinators do better if there is another of the same variety around….
        all self-pollinator really means is “you’ll get some fruit from this tree”…
        and Pauline carries a tickling stick in her back pocket at all times…
        it is a No1 sable paintbrush… for pollinating only… she’d kill me if she found me painting with it…
        so I wash it really carefully…
        no, seriously… I don’t touch it!

        And goat willows are excellent early bee feeders…
        there is a variety bred to be extra fluffy and rich in pollen.
        I was going to cut ours down this year and plant some more with the prunings…
        but it is to late to pollar it now… it is, as yours is, covered in bees!
        I’ll just trim it round the bottom and use the young growth from that to start a plantation near the verger!

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    • Well, it does drop a lot of plums so it isn’t too surprising one germinated. It’s just we are not too careful with our kernels in the garden and it could well have been an apricot or another fruit as they all look very similar when they are little. so we were lucky. Amelia

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  3. It is fascinating to notice which type of bee visit each flower. I’ve noticed that the honey bees are completely monopolising the rosemary now it is covered with flowers but before there were more carpenters and some solitary bees. I’m also interested in what you said about the apricot flowers, mine are flowering now too and I hope to have a crop this year, maybe I need to fertilise them.

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    • Have you noticed that there seems to be less pollinating insects on your apricot tree? You are warmer and a lot of insects must be active. You are right that it is interesting to see which flowers attract which bees, they are choosy if they have got a choice. Amelia

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    • Later on I sit under it watching the Andrena cineraria. They are lovely mining bees that nest in the ground under the plum tree. I like watching them pop in and out of their holes. Amelia

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  4. It’s a lovely tree Amelia! Glad the seedling has turned out to be an offspring. I have also seen lots of bumble bees on my hellebores and honey bees on other spring flowers. Now I am waiting for the pussy willow to open so I can stand below and listen to the contented (and loud) hum!

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  5. Fabulous post and photos.Such a range of early bee images. The honeybee on the willow is stunning. I must check our willows this year for honeybees. A shame you missed the eclipse, but I guess that it still got darker and cooler around eclipse time? I wish we had a plum like yours – they’re really marginal up here,
    BW
    Julian

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    • The dark coloured hellebore comes originally from my sister’s garden in the U.K. It is a prolific self-seeder and so useful for putting under deciduous trees where they sit happily and wait for leaf-fall to get more light and flower. Amelia

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    • It is really lovely getting sunshine to watch the bees working the willows. I am not getting enough sunshine this year, we are having much cloudier and wet weather than usual. Amelia

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