Welcome to Lesley Upton’s allotment blog, where she looks at life on her allotment. Here she looks at bees visiting the flowers on her Berkshire plot.

As soon as the lavender came into flower in our back garden, the bees, well, they made a beeline for it! And since then, I’ve become a little obsessed by these hard-working insects.

I’ve taken lots of photographs of bees in the garden, and now I’ve enlisted the help of my friend Wayne to take even more pictures – at the allotment. He takes far better photos than I do, as you can see below. All the pictures are, I think, of white-tailed bumblebees.


Bee on echinacea

Bee on echinacea. Credit: Wayne McCullough

This bee is covered in pollen from, I think, the hollyhocks nearby. I only have a few Echinacea plants on the allotment, but the bees have managed to find them. I love this shot because it shows the bee’s translucent wings – so fine and yet so powerful.

Globe artichoke

Globe artichoke flowerhead, bee and beetles

Globe artichoke flowerhead, bee and beetles.

I couldn’t help noticing this bee, as it was upside down for most of the time that I watched it. I then decided to get my phone, to take a picture, and of course it wouldn’t do the handstands any more! Still, it shows it delving deep into the globe artichoke flower head – and you can also see lots of beetles, 2-3mm long. I presume they’re flea beetles, but they don’t seem to be doing much harm to the artichokes.


Bee on buddleja

Bee on buddleja. Credit: Wayne McCullough

Another bee covered in pollen, this time on a buddleja flower. The buddleja is also close to the hollyhocks on the allotment, so I presume the pollen is from there. I haven’t seen many butterflies on the buddleja this year, but I’m hoping this is because they’ve found more nutritious flowers somewhere else rather than a fall in butterfly numbers.


The first sunflower of the year being visited by a bee

The first sunflower of the year being visited by a bee. Credit: Wayne McCullough

I love sunflowers, and this was the first one to bloom at the allotment. It’s not a perfect plant, or a perfect picture, but that’s why I like it. I’ve planted quite a few sunflowers around the plot, so I hope to see a lot more bees. I will leave the heads once they’ve seeded so the birds can feast on them.


Benefits of bees

  • Pollination: It’s not just flowers that bees pollinate, as bees are responsible for pollinated nearly 85% of all food crops for humans and various crops feed to cattle. And without bees many plants would become extinct as they would have no way to reproduce. Many economies also rely on bees, with around 80% of the US blueberry and almond crop, for example, dependent on honeybees.
  • Honey: The honeybee is the only insect that produces a food consumed by humans in the form of honey. Products that include honey are also available that are believed to have healing properties.
  • Wax: Beeswax is used in candle making and wax products are used as a natural preservative in some products.
  • Anti-bacterial uses: Honey and beeswax contain a substance that is an anti-bacterial agent that can help fight bacteria and infection. It is also claimed to ease sort throats associated with the common cold.

For more about bees, visit the British Beekeepers Association (bbka.org.uk), the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (bumblebeeconservation.org) and the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (bwars.com).