A few weeks ago, I shared my enthusiasm for bumblebees by describing a new planting scheme which I created in the old cut flower garden at Mothecombe, on the Flete Estate. I had become interested in the plight of bumblebees after reading “A Sting in the Tale” by Dave Goulson, which described his research into the mysterious and complex life of these industrious little insects. His enthusiasm was infectious, and soon I was hunting through the flowerbeds trying to identify our population.
Encouraged by what I saw, I dug up the beds of showy but unwelcoming flowers in the walled garden, and replanted with bee friendly plants. These included another two hundred assorted lavenders, to add to those which already bordered the roses. I had to leave some flowers for cutting for the cottages, but I can see the bees feel the same as I do about modern hybrids. We already have buddleias, eucryphia, and plenty of nettles and wild grasses in the woodland garden, which are smothered in butterflies and moths, and when I checked out our flower population on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website, we scored 5329 points ; I’ve no idea how they calculate it, I just ticked everything we have.
I was optimistic for a good response as our Home farm was run organically for many years, as are several tenant farms now, but unprepared for the response…..
WOW ! Where have they all come from? Instead of counting bees per square metre, I was counting per square foot. The lavender in particular is just alive with bees, all working away, no squabbling or “dog in the manger” behaviour. Whatever time of day I go out with my camera and bee ID sheets, they are still busy. Buff tailed, white tailed, red tailed,
carder bees , masonry bees , cuckoo bumblebees, and garden bumblebees, I have snapped hundreds of bees in my attempts to identify them and remember their individual characteristics. It has become a complete obsession. There is a great app, Bumblebees of Great Britain and Ireland, which is my constant companion, and I can even run their little videos, with sound, when I’m away from home!
An additional result has been the number of butterflies that feed with the bees. As well as the Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Cabbage White and Peacock that I knew from my childhood, I spotted a Comma,Gatekeeper, and most exciting a Chalkhill Blue ( why so far west?) The gardeners have snapped caterpillars of Giant Hawkmoths and some monsters which we still have to identify.
I do urge anyone looking for a new hobby, plant a lavender bush,a sedum and a buddleia, and enjoy the response. Or do come to Mothecombe Gardens on 14th September when we are open again, and have a go at identifying some different bees. They don’t distinguish between experts and enthusiastic amateurs, they just come!
Anne’s bee garden has been attracting attention from the local press, with a charming article in the Western Morning News. To view this article in the ‘Country Notebook’ by David Hill CLICK HERE
Anne Mildmay-White tells us about the success of the bee garden at Mothecombe House – CLICK HERE to read more
The Flete Estate Office,
Haye Farm, Holbeton,
Telephone: 01752 830234