Bees and Aberdour Railway Station, Fife

bees in Aberdour

You’re not going to believe me – but see those two bumblebees on the plant in the photo above – they buzzed right past my nose heading straight for the plant pot which is located in Aberdour High Street, just at the railway station entrance.

Anyway, I was a bit alarmed by the size of the thing which buzzed me so close and so I had to have a closer look. It was actually TWO bees flying together, tum to tum, the upper one holding on to the lower one as it flew. Jack of course, being a bloke said they must be doing the dirty deed! Think again – said I, as that’s not how they do it!

I can only think that we saw a bumblebee self-rescue service in action as when they reached the plants in the tub they proceeded to do what bees normally do. Maybe one bee saw the other one in trouble on a pavement, and decided to do it a favour and take it to be re-vitalised. You quite often see them worn out crawling along with no energy to fly.

Am I being completely daft? Probably, but have you seen two bees flying tum to tum, holding on to each other?

The railway station at Aberdour is famous locally for having a great display of plants, especially in the summer, and a lot of work goes into it, to make it pretty for travellers passing through. You can have a look at photos of it here.

A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson

A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson was first published in 2013 and it’s apparently a Sunday Times bestseller but it was via Joan at Planet Joan that I heard about it.

I’ve always loved bees and never been able to understand people who are frightened of them, such as the plumber we had who refused to go into our old house using the front door as the cotoneaster was alive with bees, silly man.

This book is very informative about all sorts of bees, written in a very amusing and readable fashion, despite the scientific facts within it. Dave Goulson has made bees his life’s study and is a very successful academic who has worked in several different universities in the UK, including Stirling University, not that far from me, so some of the information was very local to my area.

At one point Goulson describes: gangs of males can often be seen clustered together, reminiscent of a group of men propping up the bar in a pub. – which is just exactly what I have thought when the bees sound positively boozy with so much pollen.

I had no idea that the Perthshire soft fruit industry relies on importing bees from abroad, because the local bees wouldn’t be able to pollinate the vast quantities of plants involved. It seems crazy to me, surely we could have someone here breeding the bees.

Coincidentally, just as I finished reading this book I noticed a report in one of the local newspapers about a nasty disease infecting bees in Perthshire, you can read about it here.

A Sting in the Tale ended up being an entertaining read although I know that if I had been the author’s mother I would have been very worried about him as he was growing up. He describes how he had an obsession with nature which meant that he was on the lookout for animals and ended up scraping up roadkill in an attempt to practice his taxidermy skills on them. Being one of his childhood pets was not a good place to be as he invariably did them to death somehow or other. He did sound a bit like an incipient serial killer, but he turned out fine in the end. It just shows that you can worry too much about things!

My only gripe about this book is that there are no photos in it, I could have been doing with some to help me identify bees in my garden. Have I ever seen a carder bee for instance, much mentioned in the book but new to me? I googled carder bee and lo and behold it seems that the bees in the nearby nest and guzzling my bee bar plants are, I’m fairly certain, carder bees. I’m chuffed!

Garden and Bees

back outside

I noticed that a lot of weeds were pushing their way through the bottom of the garden fence from the scrubby land at the back of our garden. Rather than risk breaking and squashing the plants in my border I decided to see if it would be possible to get at the worst of the weeds from the other side of the fence. The grass isn’t quite as high as an elephant’s eye, but not too far off it!

back outside + K

Check out my hideous gardening togs, they keep me well covered up anyway. First I had to force my way out there as the back gate opens out the way and there was a lot of greenery to push it past. Almost as soon as I started clearing away some of the rough grass, just by grabbing handfuls of it and pulling, I realised that I had uncovered a strange wee nest structure. I thought it must have been something constructed by a field mouse at first but a flurry of bee activity made it obvious that the inhabitants were bees. And yes, I do have ground elder creeping into the garden too, what have I done to deserve that?

Bee nest

So that was just about the end of my weeding, I pushed my hand under the fence into the garden to reach some goosegrass which was scrambling under it but I didn’t want to disturb any more bees. I could see that they must have at least one more wee hoose further along, going by their activity.

I’m quite chuffed that they have chosen to set up home so close to the garden, but I suppose to them it’s like being on Tesco’s doorstep, or maybe even Waitrose!
Bee nest

Bee nest

bee's nest

I feel I’m doing my bit to keep the bees happy anyway. I was a bit worried that they would abandon their home because it was definitely more open to the elements than it had been. So I checked it out the next morning and overnight they had covered up the top opening as you can see from the photo above, and were going in and out via a lower opening. I need to get that book about bees which Joan reviewed recently, Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale.

And this foxglove is one of the flowers which is attracting them, although I think that that is a different sort of bee.

foxgloves

Gardening

I spent the afternoon clearing out my compost bin as I couldn’t stand the ugly monster being in my garden any longer, especially since it doesn’t seem to be very good at composting stuff.

It does seem to be fantastic at preserving potato skins though and there were hundreds of teeny potatoes growing from the potato eyes, not what I wanted at all.

I had to pick through the worst of it and put it in the ordinary bin, thank goodness the bin men are coming tomorrow. I think about half of the material which I had added to the compost bin had partially rotted down but there were even leaves which were still complete, and they were thin delicate ones, nothing leathery.

I was able to spread some compost around and the female blackbird was having a great time picking through it all.

This has been a disastrous year for birds in my garden. I was thrilled to bits when I realised that a song thrush was building a nest in a conifer just feet away from my washing line. Sadly they hatched out on what was an absolutely freezing windy day and I only discovered that they had hatched because I hadn’t seen the thrush coming and going. So, I don’t know what happened. Maybe a cat got the parents or they just died from the cold.

A few days ago I found a tiny gold finch which had drowned in the old jelly pan which the birds use as a bath. There is a big stone in the middle of it for them to perch on but obviously the baby bird wasn’t strong enough to get itself onto it.

My Californian Lilac perished in our very long winter and a few smaller plants too but a lot of the plants which were looking very sorry for themselves earlier, have recovered really well. They have enjoyed the sun recently and it’s all beginning to look quite lush.

I am a wee bit worried about the bee situation because there don’t seem to be nearly so many about now. I have lots of bee and butterfly friendly plants and in past years my place has been the bee equivalent to a local pub. Often they sounded very boozy and drunk but I don’t suppose they suffer from hangovers!

I’m hoping that the bee numbers will increase throughout the summer. I’m going out to the garden now to scatter a few slug pellets around. I don’t like doing that but the compost bin was a very successful nursery for slugs and I know if I don’t do something I will have no hostas left by the morning.

One great thing about living in Scotland is the very light nights which we have. You can still garden after 10.00 pm easily.

How can I get rid of that compost bin?