Lungwort – Pulmonaria officinalis family Boraginaceae
Now that the Winter aconites have gone and most of the Crocus are gone, it is time for Lungwort to emerge. Lungwort is a lovely garden plant and very popular with queen bumblebees such as Bombus pascuorum, Bombus hortorum and Bombus terrestris. It is one of the few plants in flower during this period.
It’s not just bumblebees that come to nectar at this plant; when you see a bee with a darting flight, it could well be the hairy-footed Flower-bee (Anthophora plumipes). This solitary bee has a massive tongue length of 14mm and can forage up to several km from their nest site. They are particularly fond of Lungwort and other plants with a high nectar reward such as Comfrey. The males are brown and the females are black with yellow hairs on the hind legs to collect pollen. In our area, the females are more ginger coloured. You can easily recognize them as only the females have pollen baskets.
The flower-tube of Lungwort is too deep for honeybees so you will not see any of those drinking nectar; they may collect pollen though which they can reach.
Its flowers are beautiful as you can see from the pictures. I grow this plant underneath trees and shrubs where it thrives. There are many members in the Borage plant family that are good for pollinators: Forget-me-not, Viper’s bugloss, Alkanet, Comfrey. All well worth planting.
Females of the hairy-footed flower bee live between 5-7 weeks on average. The females prepare 3-8 nests and each nest takes about 4 hours to complete. The females leave behind a scent after they have visited each flower so that they know which one to visit. This is efficient as the bee cannot afford to lose time visiting flowers that offer no nectar. They breed in soft walls and studies have revealed that some nesting places have existed for over 50 years (O’Toole and Raw, 1991)
A fascinating species indeed.