After visiting Coleshill Church on Monday I went along to a Bee Hunt at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens later in the afternoon led by Naturalist, Artist and Photographer Steven Falk who has recently written a super bee identification book (with illustrations by R C Lewington).
After a short talk on bees we set off into the gardens to see what species we could find. As we went to turn right it became apparent that quite a few people were running towards us and there were thousands of honey bees swirling round in the air in the direction of the Greenhouse. At this point the beekeeper who looks after the hives in the gardens appeared to take control of the situation but even so we walked in the opposite direction along the top of the Upper Wilderness. I don't think I have witnessed bees swarming before so it was quite a coincidence that the day before we had thousands of honey bees in our garden who eventually formed a swarm on a tree in the garden next door but one and I also read on Twitter of two swarms occurring at Ladywalk Nature Reserve.
I know that swarms occur when the queen bee leaves a hive taking workers with her but Wendy if you are reading this post do you know please if it tends to happen at the time of year?
Steven "at work" catching bees in the net for close up views.
Narcissus Fly Merodon equestris - this hoverfly (a bumble bee mimic) lays eggs on plants, such as daffodils, narcissi and bluebells, and the larvae move into the bulbs and consume them.
A Drone Fly Eristalis tenax. This hoverfly mimics bee drones (male hive bees) (hence it's name).
Male Early Bumble Bee Bombus pratorum - I was able to gently stroke this bee as the drones do not sting.
Honey Bee (I think!). Any mistakes with id are mine as, although I made a note of the species we saw, I failed to note which I took photos off so have had to rely on my memory and id guides at home.
As well as quite a few hoverfly species we saw Common Carder Bees, Early, Garden and Tree Bumble Bees, Honey Bees, Mason bees and tiny mining bees plus several other species I missed as I lingered (and failed) to try and get more bee photos. This walk and an earlier one recorded 15 species of bee altogether. The walk was so informative and I learned such a lot thanks to Steven who also kindly taught me several things I didn't know about the Canon SX50 as he uses the same camera.
The Gardens are doing a lot to help bees
A few photos from the walk round the Gardens.
Castle Bromwich Hall (a side view) - the Hall is now a hotel.
Birthwort growing in the gardens - this is a rare plant in the wild in Warwickshire.
Batty Langley Vegetable Garden
The Gardens are full of pollinator friendly plants - here a type of Comfrey
Then onto the Extra Gardens which are outside the walled gardens.
A pair of Blue or Great Tits are nesting in the cone!
Red Campion and Green Alkanet
One of the three ponds
Then back into the main walled gardens - thankfully no sign of the Honey Bee swarm.
I was really pleased to get my bee book signed - thanks Steven. There is another bee walk(s) on 21st August which I shall definitely be attending. A great way to spend a few hours.
1 hour ago