When all else fails

Having spent the whole weekend running in and out of the house hoping to see some insects in the garden, I’d just about given up. The sun wasn’t warm enough, the flowers in the garden weren’t smelly or showy enough and all signs of life had deserted me. At lunchtime I decided it was time for drastic measures. Grabbing the camera, car keys and credit card I made tracks to the nearest plant nursery.

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d gone a bit mad but I know this particular nursery is a magnet for insects. Sitting on the edge of a large ancient wood on the outskirts of Corfe Mullen, Woodlands Garden Centre is a little gem. I couldn’t see anything to start with as I wandered between the uninspiring pots – it wasn’t until I reached the heathers that I heard the first buzz – and a humble buff-tailed bumblebee  bashed into my hand as I reached for one of the pots, shortly followed by a red-tailed bumblebee who was equally indignant.

I stood and watched these two as they went about their business – the sun was now shining brightly and looking up I spied exactly what I’d been hoping to see. A beautiful black bodied bee with a tawny brown thorax resting on the fence just above the heather pots. Slightly smaller than a honeybee I think it was an Andrena clarkella (the first I’ve even seen). Obviously a female with golden pollen laden legs.

Nearby on a plant label a smaller bee landed – a male. More dowdy and smaller. A male A. clarkella. Mr and Mrs?

This lovely bee is one of the first of the solitary bees to appear each year and loves to feed on pollen laden pussy willow. Funnily enough on my way to the till (with a pulmonaria – to try and attract a feather-footed flower bee!) I spotted a large cultivated willow in full bloom. Getting nearer it became obvious that it was early insect heaven – for me and the insects!

My first small tortoiseshell butterfly of the year was merrily feeding away, along with numerous buff-tailed and red-tailed bumblebee queens. The rest of the customers must have thought I was a bit strange as I stood gazing at the tree – every now and again clicking away with my camera. The female A. clarkella (I think) was there as well, along with numerous hoverflies.

If I could have got it in the car I would have taken the willow home, that’s if I could also have afforded the £60 they were asking! I’ll have to hope my £4 pulmonaria and 3 small pots of heather do the trick!


I can confirm that the flowers are working! Went out into the garden today and managed to photograph a gorgeous Comma butterfly (1st of the year) and a solitary bee (not sure what it is yet). They were photographed on the daffs – but were also taking a lot of interest in the heather and pulmonaria! Hoorah!


6 thoughts on “When all else fails

    • Many thanks Stuart. It was great seeing the A. clarkella (don’t know why but this isn’t a bee I’ve photographed before), and then yesterday saw a solitary bee (A clarkella as well?) in my garden (see final photo).

  1. The nursery idea is a great tip. I welcomed the first male Anthophora plumipes on saturday, visiting a clump of tete-a-tete daffodils, then 2 Pulmonaria flowers and then the only primrose flower open. My kitten seems to have the same fascination for bees than me, though, and took to chase the male about in the garden, and she can spot them/hear them, before I can. Oh this is going to be frustrating this year. I am going to have to lock her in the house when I go to the garden!

    • When ever I need an insect “hit” I go to a garden centre! Usually try to buy what ever is in flower there as well (especially anything the bees are taking a lot of interest in). That way I hope to have bee-friendly flowers in the garden practically every month of the year. Hope you have some bees left after the kitten has chased them all 🙂

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