Fork-tailed flower bees (Anthophora furcata) in the garden

In my garden, I have placed several logs given to me by a forester. Some of these logs are old and soft. Introducing dead wood into your garden is good for  wildlife as many invertebrates and amphibians find shelter underneath logs.

A species of solitary bee that nest in rotten wood is the fork-tailed flower bee, Anthophora furcata. It is a long-tongued species with a tongue of about 12mm.

With its long tongue, it can reach nectar which is hidden deep within the flower. Such flowers are for example hedge woundwort, Stachys sylvatica and black horehound, Ballota nigra.

Stachys sylvatica

Ballot nigra, a long-flowering native wild flower.

It is a fast flying species so it needs a lot of energy. The flowers mentioned above have high nectar rewards (unlike for example ox-eye daisies). Another plant they like is wood sage, Teucrium scorodonia.

Below a female collecting pollen from wood sage and you can see her pollen basket.

In my garden, all three plants are present and in good numbers. Bees love their plants in bulk so not the odd plant here and there but loads of the same species in one spot. This makes foraging efficient and bees have to be economical when collecting food as flying costs a lot of energy.

Fork-tailed flower bees are a rather scarce species so I am quite happy to see them year after year. It also proves that if you create the right conditions, the bees may come and perhaps even nest in your garden. Learn what the bees need and if you provide that, they may come and stay.

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Wild mignonette and weld – magnets for pollinators

For years I have been growing wild mignonette, Reseda lutea, in my garden. It is sometimes  biennial but in my garden mostly perennial. Its close relative Weld, Reseda luteola, is a biennial plant. In order to keep some in the garden, you have to keep some open space so that they can self seed.

They were once used as a dye, especially weld. The plant contains luteolin and was used to paint wool but one needed a load of this plant so when artificial colours became available, the plant was no longer used that much. 


They both produce pollen and nectar. They are very popular with all sorts of insects as the flowers are not deep so the nectar can be reached also by those bees that have shorter tongues.

They prefer sunny and dry conditions.

In my garden, lots of solitary bees visit this plant, especially those that are part of the Hylaeus family. In this case, it is most likely Hylaeus communis or hyalinatus. Often with bees, it is impossible to ID the species without assessing it under a microscope. Hylaeus bees are also referred to as yellow-faced bees and from the picture you can see why. They are small and the males have more yellow / white on their face compared to the females.

Beekeepers love both Reseda species as they are excellent for honey bees, and have been giving the highest category 5/5 when it comes to value for honeybees.

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No pesticides needed in my garden to tackle “pests”

After the cold April month with a predominantly Northern wind, I welcomed the warmer weather in May. We also had some much needed rain. Our weather is quite inconsistent these days with highs and lows. The cold spell has resulted in a high number of aphids.

Plants did not grow well and one may be tempted to spray against aphids but in my garden, I never use any chemicals whatsoever. Now, a few weeks later, most of the aphids are gone since their natural predators such as ladybirds have appeared and consumed the aphids. If you have enough diversity in your garden, there will be natural predators to deal with pests. Please bear in mind that aphids themselves are on the menu for so many species.

Harmonia axyridis is an invasive species from Asia and in my garden the most common ladybird i am afraid.

Another so-called pest in the garden is the spindle ermine, Yponomeuta cagnagella. Their only foodplant is the spindle, or Euonymus europaeus.  The moths are eaten by birds, spiders and bats. The caterpillars can envelop the plant in webbing and it looks unsighty. Ichneumonids or ichneumon wasps and birds feed on the larvae.

Again, no need to use pesticides and let nature do what it knows best. Fascinating to me is how a tiny moth was able to locate its foodplant among the thousands of shrubs in gardens. Amazing, isn’t it for such a small creature.

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Native shrubs and trees

A lot has been said about why we should grow native trees and shrubs. However, a wildlife garden with non-native plants can be wonderful for wildlife; we all love lavender and the butterfly bush is popular with all sorts of butterflies.

As foodplants however, native plants really have some benefits. The common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna can be a host plant for over 300 organisms. The flowers provide pollen and nectar for pollinators and the fruits, haws, are important for birds in autumn and winter.

Below one of 5 young hawthorns.

Other trees and shrubs which I have planted are the blackthorns (beware of the suckers!) which is also very spiny and offering food to many moth caterpillars as well as a nesting

place for birds.

Wild privet, when allowed to flower, is attractive to many bumblebees, butterflies and leafcutter bees.

The pricky barberry, Berberis vulgaris offer protection from cats and the flowers offer food to solitary bees and bumblebees.


Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, is a beautiful native climber. The scent of its flowers is overwhelming. The Garden bumblebee loves the flowers and so do hawk moths. 

The fly honeysuckle,  Lonicera xylosteum is native to a small part of the Netherlands and also popular with bumblebees.


Field rose, Rosa arvensis offer pollen to all sorts of insects. The leaves are very popular with leafcutter bees that use the leaves for their nests.

If you have space, a Prunus avium is a great addition to the garden. The flowers are beautiful and offer food to all sorts of bees.

Hazel, Corylus avellana, looking very pretty with its fresh leaves. The leaves of this shrub are popular with all sorts of insects so well worth planting. 

All my shrubs and trees are locally sourced: in my case, they come from locations where they have been growing for hundreds of years so very adapted to our climate and are grown without pesticides.

Posted in Biodiversity, biodiversity, Biology, butterflies, Ecology, Fruit, Gardening, Gardening for wildlife, Nature, pollination | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A sunny day in February

Just got home from work and walked into the garden. The sun is shining and snowdrops are in full bloom. Galanthus nivalis is the official name for this plant and it is a good early source of pollen and nectar for honeybees. I counted tens of them and after winter, it is such a lovely sight to see the pollinators again.apis-mellifera

Bit difficult to photograph but you can clearly see the clumps of fresh pollen on the bee’s hind legs.


The first signs that the days are lengthening are visible: Flower buds of Pulmonaria montana can be seen here. Pulmonaria are important food sources for queen bumblebees and hairy footed flower bees. pulmonaria-montana

Winter aconites, Eranthis hyemalis brighten up the garden noweranthis-hyemalis

A new addition to the garden is Sanicula europaea, Sanicle. It is a rare plant in our country limited to calcareous woodland soils in the southeastern corner of our country. sanicula-europaea

Large thyme, Thymus pulegioides has kept its leaves. A lovely, aromatic plant which can be easily overgrown by more vigorous plants so one I have to keep an eye on to prevent that from happening.  thymus-pulegioidesThe garden is slowly waking up from hibernation it seems.


Posted in Bees, Biodiversity, biodiversity, Biology, Ecology, Gardening, Gardening for wildlife, Nature | 2 Comments

Deadwood in the garden

Deadwood is a complex range of different microhabitats, which evolve over time. Lots of invertebrates feed on dead wood and many fungi depend on it too.


In my garden, I have placed several logs near shrubs and trees. They provide shelter for amphibians, millipedes, centipedes, wood lice, bugs and beetles.

dead wood 1

I noticed several fungi growing on these logs. Deadwood provides habitats for creatures that live, feed or nest in cavities in dead and dying timber. It is a food source for beetles and for fungi and bacteria. In due course, the nutrients in these logs will be recycled and return to the soil and feed the plants and the soil organisms. Deadwood is also a source of organic matter and moisture. Foresters say that “Deadwood is the richest habitat in a healthy forest ” .

Fungi 3Fungi 2

fungi 1


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De wilde plantentuin in juni

Ik ben een groot liefhebber van wilde bloemen. De schoonheid en variatie is enorm. Tevens ben ik geïnteresseerd in ecologie en dan met name de wisselwerking tussen bloemen en bestuivende insecten, die zo boeiend en belangrijk is voor het in stand houden van onze ecosystemen. Om die reden heb ik in de tuin de voorkeur gegeven aan wilde planten want vaak zijn insecten daar mee verbonden: ze leven immers al duizenden jaren samen, denk bijvoorbeeld aan de Citroenvlinder welke alleen zijn eitjes legt op sporkehout of wegedoorn.

Juni is een bijzonder rijke maand qua bloemen en zoveel prachtige soorten staan in bloei dat ik dit even met jullie zou willen delen en wellicht dat zo ook meer mensen wilde planten in hun tuin gaan opnemen.

Wilde cichorei – Cichorium intybus. Een plant welke in de ochtend bloeit, populair bij tronkenbijen en de pluimvoetbij. Hemelsblauwe bloemen.

Cichorium intybus

Verfbrem – Genista tinctoria. Een soort welke alleen stuifmeel levert aan hommels en wat groter bijen zoals behangersbijen. Groeit ook op arme grond.

Genista tinctoria

Stinkende ballote – Ballota nigra. Stinkt niet echt maar ruikt wel sterk, een zeer goede plant voor hommels, andoornbijen en wolbijen. Bloeit erg lang, tot september.

Ballota nigra

Een andere soort welke hommels en andoornbijen aantrekt is de bosandoorn, Stachys sylvatica.

Stachys sylvatica

De beemdkroon is nog zo’n bijenmagneet: Knautia arvensis. Produceert veel nectar.

Knautia arvensis

De Heggenrank en dan met name de mannelijke bloemen zijn erg geliefd bij een groot aantal bijensoorten: honingbijen, hommels, behangersbijen, zandbijen, groefbijen en zo voort.

Megachile centuncularis

De mooie bloemen van de gewone ossentong, Achusa officinalis.

Anchusa officinalis

Ook de rode klaver mag niet ontbreken: Trifolium pratense. Rode klaver is erg belangrijk als stuifmeelleverancier voor hommels: het stuifmeel bevat een hoog percentage eiwitten wat op zijn beurt weer veel essentiële aminozuren bevat.

Trifolium pratense pollen

Klokjes, Campanula soorten zoals hieronder het prachtklokje, zijn erg in trek bij klokjesbijen en behangersbijen.

Campanula persicifolia

Rapunzelklokje is een elegante soort.

Campanula rapunculus


Lathyrus soorten zoals de aardaker – Lathyrus tuberosus, groeien goed op wat vochtige grond, bij mij staan ze in een mengsel van zand en klei langs de vijver.

Lathyrus tuberosus


Een van de beste soorten om bijen aan te trekken en vlinders is de grote centaurie – Centaurea scabiosa. Groeit goed op droge en kalkrijke grond.

Centaurea scabiosa

Hieronder samen groeiend met de schitterende beemdooievaarsbek:

Geranium pratense and Centaurea scabiosa


Op een zonnige dag is het ontzettend genieten: hommels, vlinders, bijen en allerlei insecten bezoeken de tuin, vogels vinden er voedsel en zo creëer je een een mini natuurreservaat in de eigen achtertuin.

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