Bees in autumn

Last winter was so mild that the sight of bees and other insects was not unusual, though more typically these are rarely seen from late October until mid March except for occasional extended periods of warmth in the winter months. Early autumn has been quite warm, so on a sunny October afternoon a variety of beasts can be seen on flowers in the garden. 

Several toad lilies (Tricyrtis, above) continue to flower into late October, which is not particularly unusual since hard frost often does not arrive in northwestern Virginia until November. Most frequent visitors to toad lilies to gather nectar are bumblebees that are too large to fit beneath the upturned petals, so they “steal” nectar by biting through the underside of the flowers.

October weather has been ideal for flowering of camellias. With mild temperatures, and flowers several weeks earlier than usual, more bees and wasps are seen (above and below), though camellias are clearly not a favored flower.

The seedling purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a favorite of bees and the few Monarch butterflies (below, and the moth, or whatever above) that pass through the garden. Interestingly, the purple flowered coneflower grows through a dense clump of white coneflowers, which are largely ignored. Seedheads will not be removed until the time for spring cleaning in late winter, so there will be some food for birds, and certainly some seed will fall to germinate so that more purple coneflowers grow up through the ‘Powwow White’. I will transplant the two seedlings that are now growing so that they do not eventually crowd the white flowered parent plant, and as more grow next spring these will be moved until there’s no space for more. 

In spring or autumn, azaleas are not favorites of pollinators, but with fewer blooms in late October bees have little choice. Here (below), a bumblebee visits ‘Autumn Amethyst’ azalea, one of several reblooming azaleas still flowering despite several frosts.

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