Small Wonders

Bee and flower

 

There’s a dead tree stump in the hedge by our drive.

Old tree stump - home to hundreds of tiny bees

Dead tree stump next to our drive which has been left untouched for over 20 years. The plant growing up the side is a prostrate, sprawling type of campanula. Rather untidy, but I have always tolerated it because it is loved by pollinators.

It has been there for years, and until a hot sunny day last week, I hadn’t paid it much attention. I don’t know what made me look that afternoon, but I noticed the stump was surrounded by a haze of insects.  At first I thought they must be flying ants, but it seemed a bit early, and they didn’t have the right ”jizz’.  I got down on my hands and knees for a closer inspection and was amazed to see hundreds of tiny black bees crawling in and out of the woodworm holes.

Tiny black bees approaching the tree stump.

 

Woodworm holes, now home to bees

Close up of ash stump showing the wood worm holes that are now homes for campanula carpenter bees.

I found my insect field guide and, for once, was able to identify them almost instantly.  It helped that knowledgeable friends had taught me that there were many, many, types of bees, not just the stripy fuzzy ones, so I had a good idea of what I was looking for.  The book only gave me the scientific name, Chelostoma campanularum, but it did tell me that they lived in wood worm holes and specialised in campanula flowers, which I have in abundance in my garden.  A quick search of the internet told me that these fascinating little insects had the far more user friendly English name of campanula (or harebell) carpenter bees.  I also learned that they couldn’t turn round inside their holes so went in tail first to off-load pollen and head first to disgorge nectar.

I went back outside with my camera and, sure enough, nearly every campanula flower seemed to have a little black bee inside it busily gathering pollen, and I managed to see, but not photograph, them reversing into holes to deposit their loads.

Bee collecting pollen from a campanula flower

Close up of a bee in a campanula flower

I won’t ever look at that tree stump in the same way again, and am very glad that we never thought to remove it.

 

 

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