What a wonder our little crab apple tree (Malus ‘John Downie’) on the driveway is! It is covered in a thick snowy crust of pink and white blossom and is humming with the hypnotic sounds of bees and insects, hovering as they select the freshest, ripest flowers.
Selection takes but a moment … there is a pause to sup up that lovely nectar … then they are off to the next fragrant blossom.
The scent near the tree is of a fresh, delicate apple aroma. (Care must be taken when sniffing of course. There are honey bees everywhere.)
Seeing their full sacs of pollen I wondered how much pollen a bee can carry, compared to its body weight? So I asked ‘Google’ and unsurprisingly, the numbers are there. Here’s what Emily Heath responded (from reference material by both Celia Davis and Mark L. Winston):
“The typical loads collected by a foraging honeybee are:
Nectar: 30-50mg (but can take up to 100mg, a bee’s weight is about 90mg)
Water: 25mg (max 50mg)
Pollen: 16mg (8mg x 2 pollen baskets on their legs)
This isn’t necessarily all at once, about 58% of foragers will collect nectar only, 25% pollen only, 17% nectar and pollen. Nectar collection is more energy efficient as they can carry more, but bees are prepared to travel further for pollen as it is a lighter load. Water is collected from a nearby source.”
Impressive though, isn’t it?!
Visiting bumblebees are just as loaded up as the honey bees. This one looks like a Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) clinging tightly to the petals while gathering resources.
There are also quite a lot of, what at first sight, look to be small plain black bumblebees. On close inspection they do have red tails though. I think they are likely to be worker Red-tailed bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius)
There are a number of different kinds of hoverflies visiting the blossom too, but I need to get my ID book out to find out which kinds they are.
One striking thing I’ve noticed with the bumblebees around the blossom this year is how often they seem to fly with their tongues (in their sheaths) extended forward. Normally these would be folded under their heads/body during flight. I am guessing that this type of foraging, with so many flowers in close proximity, must make tucking tongues away too energy inefficient.
Just below the apple tree there is a patch of lathyrus vernus which is also much visited. Long tongues are required to get down the throats of the pea flowers. Happily, I managed to take a fairly clear picture of a bee’s tongue/sheath to share (it’s easier when the bee is stationary!):
This evening, when I took the dog out, I noticed that the blossom is already beginning to fall. Hopefully though, there’s been plenty of successful pollination. So now we keep our fingers crossed for no more damaging frost.