Bees have been very scarce in our garden for a while now. I am thus concerned that the few flowers we have enjoyed this winter have fallen foul of the lack of pollinators.
BUT WE HAVE THESE:
While looking at the stunted, yet very pretty, self-sown cosmos I noticed it being visited by this insect:
A much closer view reveals it to look like this:
It moved to the next flower and was joined by this one:
Both have a long proboscis. There are a lot of ordinary flies about too, so I realise I need to stop thinking about bees, butterflies, moths and beetles being the only pollinators – nature makes sure there is a variety.
We all know that pollination takes place when a bee carries pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of another. Close observation reveals that the pollen clings to the sticky hairs on the bee’s body and is rubbed off as the bee flies from one blossom to another. The flowers in this and other photographs are Cosmos.
In addition to pollinating plants, bees collect pollen to take to their hives for food. The large orange-yellow bulges on the hind legs of this bee looks as though it is carrying baskets for this purpose – much as we would use a shopping basket.
These baskets or pollen sacs are known as the corbicula, which are made up of hairs blended together to form a concave shape. Once a bee has visited a flower it begins a grooming process during which the pollen that has gathered on the body is brushed down towards the hind legs and packed into the pollen baskets mixed with a little nectar.
It was Winnie the Pooh who declared: A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.
We all know how important bees are in the process of pollination. Last year the problem of foulbrood disease was highlighted in the media. The devastating effect this has had on the population of bees in South Africa is a threat to the agricultural industry as a whole, for bees are estimated to contribute to 95% of crops requiring pollination. Most of us enjoy their honey too. Certainly a garden that is visited by bees is blessed.
The problem for us is that some members of our family are highly allergic to bees. We used to have bees living inside our roof, but have had to get them moved several times over the years by a local apiarist who carefully smoked them out, placed them in a box and took them away to continue their productive lives elsewhere. This is because the bees can become aggressive at times: I have often been attacked whilst mowing the lawn!
While we always welcome foraging bees, our house has been blissfully ‘bee-free’ for some years. To my horror they have returned. The other day the garden was alive with a thick, dark swarm of bees that seemed to disappear after a few minutes. Then we noticed the odd bee buzzing around indoors during the day – lost? Last week we were disturbed by bees flying around the lights at night – why?
Looking up at the corner of our house, I realise that another swarm has moved in. Sadly, we cannot allow them to settle in and make themselves comfortable – our family is too precious for that.