Category Archives: Pollination

Big Bumble

I am in the process of  tweeking a macro photography presentation for tomorrows workshop at the Ellis Bird Farm, when I came across this pic. Photographed in the front garden, this Bombus nevadensis queen is visiting the flowers of blue indigo (Baptisia australis), a favorite of the many smaller leaf-cutter bees we have had in the garden this year. The E.H. Strickland Entomological Collection page has a great description on the life history of this bee, authored by L. Vandervalk (2011) and based on D.V. Alford’s book, Bumblebees (1975):

Once a suitable nest has been found, the queen constructs an apple sized hollow structure within it. The queen deposits her eggs in parallel rows within a mound of pollen on the floor of the structure; she also constructs a honeypot for storing nectar. Newly hatched larvae begin consuming the pollen mound, requiring the queen to continue provisioning it. The queen periodically incubates her brood by sitting upon it and respiring to generate body heat. The larvae spin cocoons in the final instars, as do the pupa; the cocoons may be re-used later for storage of pollen or nectar. Upon pupation, the emerged adults take nectar from the honey pot. Once the nest consists of the new young workers and the queen it can be considered a social unit and is referred to as a colony.

Yes, this queen incubates the young! Read the complete description at the species page.

Thanks to Gary Anweiler for the ID!

(3 July, 2014. Canon T2i with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM Lens with a single diffused Canon Speedlite 270EX II. ISO 200, 1/100 sec. @ f11.)

Supporting Pollinators

Syrphid fly on lilac bloom

Syrphid fly on lilac bloom

Why worry about pollinators? Pollinators fertilize flowers that produce fruit and seeds that many animals need to survive, including ourselves! Recently, with bees in the news due to colony collapse disorder, many are concerned about honeybee decline, and how other pollinators can be supported. Gardeners and land owners can improve conditions for pollinators. When people think of attracting insect pollinators to a garden, usually the first thing that comes to mind is flowers for bees.  Yet there is far more to encouraging pollinators than growing a few flowers and there are more pollinators than just honeybees.

So what do we need to understand to support all pollinators?

1. Recognize that a variety of insects assist in pollination, including  native bees, and to a lesser extent, moths,butterflies, flies, beetles, wasps and sometimes even ants.

2. That all these insects have four stages of life: egg, pupa, larva and adult, and that all stages of their lifecycle should be supported.

To support all stages of their lifecycles in the garden they need:

  • nest and egg-laying sites
  • food plants for larvae
  • a diversity of plants that bloom in overlapping periods, throughout the growing season, for nectar and pollen feeders.
  • shelter to overwinter
  • a pesticide-free habitat

For more information on how to make your space more friendly for pollinators, and to learn more about pollination, check the following sites:

In Canada:

In the USA:

In Britain



The Week on Sunday #38

This Week on Sunday is book-ended by two videos from TedTalks. Both are new to me and worth seeing:

♦ From the 17 September, 2013–Marla Spivak on the many reasons that bees are in trouble:

♦ It used to be when you found a bug in your bread, you sent it back to the baker….now they’re adding bugs on purpose! Read how buggy bread has the potential to provide affordable nutrients to the poor in underdeveloped countries in Flour made with insects wins 1m for McGill-team.

♦ Perhaps the most bizarre adaptation to an insect’s face yet…

This is the larva of a neuropteran as photographed by J. Gállego, a Spanish nature photographer who works in Spain and North Africa. Visit his blog and Why Evolution is True for more on this amazing larva and the fantastic lacewing that it turns into!

♦ Using a white-background technique similar to that used by the  Meet Your Neighbours Project, David Liittschwager, shows how biodiversity plummets in heavily farmed land:  Cornstalks everywhere but nothing else , not even a bee.

♦ And to close, from the 22 of February this year: how flies fly, by a very entertaining speaker, Michael Dickinson:


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Farewell to Pollinator Week

Pollinator Week ended in the United States yesterday, but let’s not forget about these essential critters.

I could have called it “Plight of the Bumblebees“, but here are some that are doing well in our city garden…

Buglife in the U.K. have initiated a call-out for a Pollinator Pledge. What can you do to to help save bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators? One way is in your garden: remove lawn, stop using pesticides and add more flowering trees, shrubs and perennials (preferably native). You’ll be doing a good thing to help sustain wild bee populations.


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The Week on Sunday #35

Welcome to this Week on Sunday!

♦ Today I will lead off with a preview of an amazing documentary – More Than Honey. It takes a look at the lives of bees and beekeepers in this era of Colony Collapse Disorder.

♦ You can learn more about More than Honey in the review at Scientific American.

♦ Not new ‘news’ but good news for fans of Stephen Dalton, the master of in-flight photography. Stephen developed his equipment and skills in the 1970’s to produce amazing books with photographs of in-flight birds, bats and insects. He is back with digital technology and practicing his magic again. In 2012 he was featured in MicroMagic at Festival Photo Montier, and now his work can be enjoyed at a more permanent gallery at the Cob Lane Gallery at Holly Farm, Ardingly, Sussex. Surely this should be a point of ‘pilgrimage’ for all those who were inspired to take up high-speed photography by Stephen!

JUMPING SPIDER (Philaeus chrysops)Corfu. © Stephen Dalton. Used with Permission

JUMPING SPIDER (Philaeus chrysops) Corfu. © Stephen Dalton. Used with permission.

Be sure to visit his website and his blog Life at Holly Farm for more information.

That’s all for this week!

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The UK Bee Walk

First, an introduction to British Bumblebees by Jamie-Lee Loughlin:

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the UK is gearing-up for another Bee Walk, a citizen science project that surveys natural areas to determine the state of Bumblebee populations. Here is the  notice I received yesterday:

Our bumblebee survey, BeeWalk, is now in entering its third season. The last two seasons have been hugely successful with the recruitment of 125 enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. However, in order to get effectively monitor populations across all UK regions, we need to your help!

Why walk for bees?

While previous bumblebee surveys have focused on collating individual records in order to accurately map bumblebee distributions, BeeWalk will be the first scheme to enable us to collect bumblebee abundance data.

This information is integral to monitoring bumblebee population changes and will allow us to detect early warning signs of population declines. All data collected will contribute to important long-term monitoring of bumblebee populations in response to climate and land-use change.

BeeWalk will be invaluable in helping us to conserve this dramatically declining and much-loved group of buzzing insects.

Methodology: not only is it useful, it’s also good fun!

Volunteers will walk a 1-2km route of their own choosing once a month between March and October recording all of the bumblebee species and the number of each species they see. If you are interested in joining this survey, please read carefully through the BeeWalk starter pack (attached) which includes recording sheets and detailed instructions. You could choose to upgrade to BeeWalk Pro (info also attached), a more detailed survey in which the flowers that the bees are foraging on are also recorded.

If you feel that you can fully commit to this important survey, email us with your name and address at:

With your help, we’ll gather enough information on bumblebee populations to steer conservation efforts in the right direction.

Unfortunately , they do not seem to have updated their website yet, but below are the two instructional pdf’s they provided:

BeeWalk Pack

BeeWalk Pro

Basic information on bee ID can be found on the BCT site, and a list of Bumblebee publications can be found at the Natural History Museum. Pelagic Publishing has also released an updated edition of the book Bumblebees by Oliver E. Prŷs-Jones and Sarah A. Corbet with plates by Tony Hopkins and foreword by Mark Avery

“This new edition embraces the wealth of information published on bumblebee life history, ecology, foraging, parasites and conservation in recent years. It includes a new chapter on the very real threats to bumblebees; their crucial role as pollinators of our native flora and crops; ways to promote their survival; advantages and problems posed by their commercial use; as well as updated colour plates, keys and distribution maps of all British species (including Bombus hypnorum). The book introduces techniques and approaches to original work so that anyone with an interest can usefully contribute to furthering our understanding and appreciation of these wonderful and important insects.”