The now annual Bumble Bee Conservation and Identification Course at Maddocks Farm Organics is run by the fabulous Dr Richard Comont from The Bumble Bee Conservation Trust .
It is without shadow of a doubt my favourite day of the year. I am a little obsessed with bees and I'm slowly learning to identify the different varieties.... very slowly..... as within each type there are Queens, workers, males etc etc and they all look different.
..... and some bees don't make it easy!
This year the conditions were perfect and we easily got the full big 6 - as the common most six varieties of Bumble Bees are called. (Garden, Buff-tail, White-tail, Red-tail, Early and Common Carder). The latter being held here by Richard - don't try this at home kids.
In addition, we also identified the Tree bumble bee and the Heath bumblebee which are also common across the UK although the Heath bumble bee hadn't been recorded in this part of Devon before but is undoubtedly found up on nearby Dartmoor.We also identified the Southern Cuckoo bumble making a fabulous 9 of the 25 UK species. Not too shabby....
Also honey bees and a queen Tree wasp, Dolichovespula sylvestnis. In addition we were delighted to see that there were numerous solitary bees and wasps which had taken up residence in our luxury insect hotel including the red mason bee
Not on this occasion but on previous ones we have also seen the Ashy Mining Bee which burrow in our bank by the polytunnel . Away from bees, Richard found a soldier beetle, Cantharis lateralis - not as scarce as he first thought, but the first one Richard had seen this year. He also collected a bug from one of our buttercups which proved to be Liorhyssus hyalinus - a species only really found in south Wales and the West Country in the UK Richard had ever seen. Other species included Swollen-thighed beetle, Oedemera viridis, Cinnabar moth, and the Scarce Violet Cosmet moth (Pancalia schwarzella), only a couple of mm long but stunning in orange with silver flashes. Whilst for some this is a lovely day out wandering around our beautiful organic flower farm which is not open to the public there is a serious side to this fundraising day. In the last 80 years Bumblebee numbers in the UK have crashed simply because there is not enough suitable habitat for them. Bumble bees are vital to the pollination of so many crops in the UK such as tomatoes which are entirely pollinated by bees. Organics farms do make a real difference to bumble bee numbers and the Soil Association has recently released statistics that prove that Organic Farms have nearly 50% more wildlife that conventional Farms. If you'd like to join the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust, donate or take part in Bee Walks then all the information is here. The organisation is only 10 years old and formed to meet the urgent crisis facing British Bumble Bees. Anything you can do to help would be much appreciated by them. We are just delighted that our not-for-profit day raised more than £350 towards their work. If you'd like to join us next year then tickets are on sale here. Again. ALL proceeds are donated to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. Maddocks Farm Organics hosts this day for free and provides all refreshment and lunch. It is a great fun day. Thank you Richard for your time, genius and patience. More information about the Soil Association is here. Additional photos by Charlie Fawell Photography who came on the course. Thank you.
I've clearly no idea what I'm doing but I love it. Join us next year!