Tag Archives: Bees

Confusing bees

Added a third bee to my list on Bumble Bee Watch. This one is Bombus perplexus, the confusing bumble bee. She is a queen, as are most, if not all, the first bumble bees you find in the spring.

The Bumble Bee Watch platform prompts you to identify what kind of bee you are submitting, and I guessed it was one I had seen last summer, Bombus vagans, but the verifier changed it to the confusing bumble bee. Well, that’s some expert, I thought. She’s not sure what kind of bee I’ve found? Nope, it’s me that’s confused – again!

Bombus perplexus.

Returning Friends

It is a happy coincidence that the return of seasonal garden and forest friends this year began at about the same time as spending time with human friends became more difficult. First to arrive just as “lock down” started were the grackles and red-winged blackbirds, loud and chatty as they announced their return and snacked at the feeder. Robins then started hopping across the few bare parts of our yard, and mallards, great blue herons, seagulls and now mergansers are all back on the river.

A pair of crows are building a nest across the creek, first plucking white pine branches off the lawn, and now gathering beakfuls of dead grass and moss for lining. They will be noisy neighbours as their fledglings are loud and constantly hungry, complaining that they are starving from dawn until dusk! I expect to find broken mussel shells on the lawn all summer as the parents sit in the trees, break the shells, extract the meat, give it to the young ones, and drop the shells. Crows and chicken keepers are good allies, though, as we are both afraid of the bald eagles and hawks that circle, and the crows will helpfully harass and chase them away.

Yesterday’s warm temperatures brought out the first bees of the year. Here’s a tricoloured bumblebee in a crocus, busy as a you-know-what.

Bombus ternarius

Citizen Science Notes

Hummingbird season here was May 12 to September 19. I still think of them making their way south after their first big task of crossing the Northumberland Strait in one go. I’ve read they end up in Mexico or Costa Rica for the winter, then make their way back here, year after year.

We used small feeders that stuck to our windows with suction cups for a few years, but switched to larger ones as the little ones needed daily refilling. The year after we switched, a couple of hummingbirds flew to each of the three locations where the smaller feeders had been the previous year, clearly showing that they were returning friends.

I joined Bumble Bee Watch in August after hearing Victoria MacPhail on CBC PEI encouraging Islanders to submit sightings. My guesses as to which bees I was seeing were way off, so I loved having my sightings confirmed by an expert (Victoria herself!). So far, I’ve recorded these two lovelies:

Bombus vagans – Half-black bumble bee (worker)
Bombus ternarius – Tri-colored bumble bee (worker)

I bought swamp milkweed seeds from Hope Seeds in 2016 and planted them in a few spots on our property. Last year they finally flowered, and this year we had our first monarch butterfly caterpillars!

I found one chrysalis, and it was fine for a few days, but I think a chicken also discovered it and gave it a peck, so that was that. Our milkweed patches are not large enough and that meant some caterpillars could’t get enough to eat, so I’ll plant more next year. Happily, I did see two monarchs, a male and a female, which is two more than I remember seeing in many years. I hope to register with Monarch Watch in the future.

Male monarch butterfly

In August, as I puttered in the garden, I heard what I thought was a hummingbird, and then this bizarre beast buzzed by. It’s a hummingbird moth, and it was hard to figure out at first if I was looking at an insect or a bird, which made it a bit creepy in a fascinating way! I’ve never seen one before, so perhaps my semi-wilding experiment is working…maybe too well!

Hummingbird moth briefly on some phlox, and forever in my nightmares!

Behold, the hummingbird moth in action!

Hummingbird moth, with the drone of crickets drowning out the moth wings.