On the Mend

Dear Readers, I am pleased to say that my fever seems to have broken and I’m starting to feel a bit better, but still intend to take things steadily until I’m back up to speed. It’s always a shock to realise that you’re only one virus/trip/blood clot away from disaster, so let’s be careful out there, lovelies.

So I thought I’d start with a view from the back of the garden, beside the shed. In the late afternoon it’s the shadiest place to sit, which is a blessing at the moment.

The whitebeam is having a mini-mast year – it went berserk last year, but it’s not doing too badly in 2021.

Whitebeam fruit

And how about my splendid grassy-thing? I think it’s a Stipa but no doubt someone will tell me otherwise. It provides a bit of cover for the poor froglets, though if I was them I’d stay in the pond for now.

I have ivy growing over the oak sleepers (which are largely falling to pieces now but are valuable habitat anyway)

And although my husband cut the Virginia creeper back almost to the ground, it looks to be doing ok to me. It too provides a lot of useful cover, mainly for spiders I notice, and the colour in autumn is really something. It’s continuously reaching for the branches of the whitebeam and infiltrating the shed, and if it ever achieves the former we’ve had it 🙂

And in other news, how about this sweetheart? Every year gatekeeper butterflies put in an appearance just as the hemp agrimony opens its flowers. It makes me so happy, and this one is so new-minted.

And here is something exciting. I thought there was something strange about this bumblebee – it didn’t quite fit into any of the categories that I’d lovingly memorised. I asked the folk over at the Wasps, Bees and Ants group on Facebook, and it turns out that this little chap (for indeed he is a male) is either a Vestal Cuckoo Bee (Bombus vestalis) or a Gypsy Cuckoo Bee (Bombus bohemicus). As the former is much commoner in the South I’m going to plump for that. Cuckoo bees mimic other bumblebees (in this case the Buff-Tailed Bumblebee, Bombus terrestris). What a tale of skullduggery this is! In bumblebees, the queen-like cuckoo bee enters the nest and lays low until the resident queen has raised enough workers to support the intruder. Then, she kills or subdues the real ‘queen’ (she might simply drag the existing queen off her nest, a behaviour known as ‘mauling’). She may also kill the older workers who rush to defend the queen, but clearly it isn’t in her interests to kill too many or she’ll be unsupported (cuckoo bee females do not collect nectar or pollen themselves once they’ve found a nest).  The younger workers and any larvae are allowed to remain and become ‘slaves’, feeding the queen and her grubs. The cuckoo bumblebee does not produce her own workers, so she has to depend on the ones that she’s subdued, presumably through pheromone production. Cuckoo bees produce very few males, so I was lucky to see this chap enjoying himself on the teasel. Note the two pale stripes, and the abdomen which is a bit pointier than usual.

Well, that’s quite enough for today! I’m off to put my feet up. See you tomorrow…


2 thoughts on “On the Mend

  1. Anne

    I am pleased you are feeling a little better and am enthralled with your tale of the cuckoo bees – it could be turned into a fantasy thriller!


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