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.


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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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Solitary bees in the garden – June

We had a rather cold spring and June was not much better than May but the weather is improving. The Mason bees look somewhat faded and their time is nearly over, now the summer bees will emerge.

Dasypoda hirtipes is a beautiful species and in my garden they feed on knapweed, scabious and chicory. Below are two males foraging on scabious (Knautia arvensis)

Dasypoda hirtipes males

The females look different and they have golden pollen-collecting hairs on the hind tibiae. This female was quite cold so I could pick her up gently and take some pictures.

Dasypoda hirtipes female 1

The Fork-tailed flower bee is a solitary bee with a very long tongue: they love woundworts, betony, wood sage, black horehound, all these plants are found in my garden. They are difficult to photograph as they fly very fast but this male was resting on a leaf, cleaning his tongue.

Anthophora furcata male


Anthophora furcata

Wool carder bees are fascinating creatures, the males are territorial, defending a patch of horehound, betony or woundwort. This male was using the bee hotel to sleep.

anthidium manicatum 1


anthidium manicatum 4

Leafcutter bees are summer bees, they cut disks from roses in my garden which they use for their nests. Picture below is a male Megachile willughbiella.

Megachile willughbiella

Another species which one can see in the garden is Megachile centuncularis

Below a female with a beautiful yellow scopa, which they use to collect pollen.

Megachile centuncularis

Of course, there are many bumblebees in the garden as well, as the garden has been designed to attract a variety of bees. Red clover is very popular with bumblebees and a good source of pollen with high levels of protein and essential amino acids. I can sit for hours and study these beautiful and fascinating insects.

Trifolium pratense pollen

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Brimstone butterflies in the garden

Brimstone male butterfly

I turned my garden into a habitat for bees and butterflies. Albeit on a small scale, it is a wildlife garden. I work mostly with native plants with a few exceptions  such as Butterfly bush and Lavender.

Butterflies regularly visit the garden but I wanted to encourage them to breed. I knew that the Brimstone butterfly,  Gonepteryx rhamni,  is present in this part of our country so I decided to grow the only foodplants this species of butterfly uses: alder buckthorns and purging buckthorns.

Below: alder buckthorn ~Rhamnus frangula / Frangula alnus

Alder buckthorn rhamnus frangula

It was a sunny day in April a few days ago when all of a sudden I saw a female near the alder buckhorn bushes and I could see her laying eggs!  Interesting to see that she preferred alder buckthorns and not purging buckthorn which is the other foodplant the Brimstone butterfly uses for her caterpillars.

Below: purging buckthorn ~ Rhamnus cathartica

Rhamnus cathartica flower buds

By the way, both species of buckthorns are good plants for many pollinators. The flowers are rather small but rich in nectar.

Below: Female Brimstone laying eggs on young shoots of alder buckthorns

Gonepteryx rhamni

Gonepteryx rhamni b

Gonepteryx rhamni egg

Photo above: the tiny little thing on the right hand side is an egg, difficult to photograph though.

This really proves that if you create the right conditions, butterflies will breed in the garden.

Brimstone butterfly

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White Bryony – a valuable plant for the pollinator garden

Since a few years, I have been growing White Bryony, Bryonia dioica, in my garden. It is a perennial and poisonous plant. The flowers are dioecious  which means that individual flowers are either male or female. The male flowers are much larger compared to the female ones. It climbs to about 4 metres high and in my garden it climbs over an old Weigelia and Wild privet. It likes calcareous soils. It flowers from May until September which makes it a very valuable plant.

Brynoya dioica - White bryony

In my garden, it is one of the best plants for attracting pollinators: Tree bumblebees, Buff-tailed bumblebees, Early bumblebees, honeybees and many species of solitary bee like this leafcutter bee visit the flowers.

Leafcutter bee on White bryony

The male flowers are more eye catching and I like the greenish/ white flowers. Bees seem to be collecting both pollen and nectar. Below a photograph of a solitary bee species called Lasioglossum sexnotatum female busy collecting pollen.

Lasioglossum sexnotatum

Honeybee gathering pollen

bee feeding on white bryony

Bombus pratorum nectaring

Picture 1533

It is a fascinating plant. On a warm summer’s day, I sat nearby and watched the various species of bee foraging on this plant. In this way, I am doing my bit to reverse the declining bee population and it feels good!

Andrena florea is a specialist bee: It is a monolectic bee which means that when it comes to collecting pollen, the female is restricted to a single plant species for pollen: Bryonya alba. Without the plant, the bee cannot survive. The plant will also benefit because this bee will transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

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Aster cordifolius hybr. ‘Little Carlow’ – a bee and butterfly magnet

For some years, I have wanted to add colour to the autumn garden and it goes without saying that in a biodiversity garden, the plant of my choice had to be good for wildlife. There are huge number of plants available and I studied the Aster family. Now, with Asters that flower in autumn it has to be said that some Asters are not very attractive to butterflies at all, so please do some checking. Bombus pascuorum on Aster little carlow

Based on the colour of flowers and being highly recommended, I purchased several Aster Little Carlow, which is a hybrid of A.cordifolius and A.novi-belgii and in my garden it is a true bee magnet. As soon as the sun is out, there are tens of honeybees on this plant as well as several butterfly species, Hoverflies and Bombus pascuorum workers, the only species of Bumblebee still around apart from the queen bumblebees such as this queen Bombus hypnorum, the rapidly spreading Tree bumblebee. She is fattening up for the winter so she needs all the nectar she can gets.

Bombus hypnorum

If you have a spot in your garden, I can really recommend this easy-going,  lovely plant. The plant produces masses of small violet-blue flowers from late summer to mid-autumn. Grow to about a metre in hight so they may need staking.

Below: Hoverfly, which are also important pollinators, feeding on Asters.

Hoverfly on Aster

Below: Honeybees feeding on Asters, mostly for nectar but on this warm autumn day, I saw them collecting pollen.

Honeybee feeding on Aster little carlow


Can you see the pollen basket? Wonderful creatures, the honeybees.

Honeybee gathering pollen


The plants I bought from a nursery that uses no pesticides, an important consideration when purchasing bee plants.


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