Sunday 24 June 2012

Bees and Bellflowers

The tall and very beautiful bellflowers that we call Canterbury Bells seem to be having a very good year, the excessive rain causing them to grow even taller than usual (and fall over even more often than usual - this is a plant that is only too glad to lie down flat whenever the opportunity arises). Yesterday I was admiring the Canterbury Bells in our garden - more abundant this year than ever before, I think - when I noticed one with a dark spot at the centre of the flower, in the depths of the bell. A nice variant, I thought, and took a closer look - and discovered that the 'dark spot' was a cluster of three very small dark stripey bees, to all appearances dead, but in fact still just capable of stirring, at least to the point of aimlessly waving a leg or two. They were heavily dusted with pollen, and their pollen sacs clearly full to bursting. Another two bees were similarly trapped in another bellflower nearby, so I imagine this might be a fairly common occurrence, though I'd never seen it before.
  What had happened? Well, the larger bellflowers ask rather a lot of the foraging bee, which, to get its fill of pollen, must make its way from top to bottom of the flower's long style. I suspect that these bees, already sluggish from the unseasonal cold and damp, made it to the bottom and found themselves too weary and heavy laden to manage the return journey. There's an explanation of bellflower pollination with this strangely restful video, apparently filmed beside a babbling brook.
  By the way, after much deliberation, I decided to leave the trapped bees in situ. They didn't look in any fit state to survive a rescue. This morning, two of the group of three were still in place, apparently dead, while the other pair had gone - probably just shaken out by the wind.


  1. Writing from New Hampshire. Are Canterbury Bells the same flower that we call Campagnula in my family? Ours are wonderfully increased in this early-blooming season, seem bigger than usual, & look very much like your picture.
    We love them. Susan