I've one more story to tell from my trip to Nymans Gardens the weekend before last, for if there was one late February flower that was luring the Honeybees more than any other, it had to be the winter heathers (Erica carnea and E. x darleyensis) - they were HEAVING with them.
Here is a Honeybee on one of the white cultivars of E. carnea, but they weren't fussy at all which ones they went to. White or pink, purple or magenta, it didn't seem to matter.
Heathers unfortunately aren't de rigueur these days, but I actually quite like them. And bumblebees and early flying butterflies benefit from them too. Maybe it is having seen Erica carnea growing wild in the Alps that also helps me love it. And unlike most heathers, they can grow on non-acid soils, and even sort of cope on chalk.
But two things struck me. One was that you often go to a big visitor garden and are amazed by how many Honeybees there are. You come back and plant the same flowers in your garden, only to have almost nothing visit them. The simple reason is that these big gardens often have hives tucked away, so of course there are 50,000 bees on site all hungry and looking for food.
The other thing as I crawled around on my belly taking photos was to realise that bees have hairy eyes. How itchy is that?! Here's the same photo blown up:
It turns out that they are part of the bee's toolkit for judging air movements while they are flying. How cool - in a weird way - is that? It turns out that flies and even butterflies have hairy eyes too. Wildlife never ceases to amaze me.
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