Northern Shade Gardening

Bees Love the Early Crocus

Thursday, May 23, 2013 Category: Bulbs

There were lots of visitors to the crocus in May. We had an extra long winter in Edmonton, so the bees seemed to be enticed to the first crocus. Just as the bright petals caught my eye and invited me out to view the crocus, they seem to have caught the bee’s attention, too. I’m better at flower identification than classifying bees, so I’m not sure of the insect ID, but you can see there is quite a variety. The photos are from earlier in May.

bee on Crocus vernus 'Vanguard'

bee on Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’

Here is a bumblebee visiting Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’. It seems to have visited a few flowers already, and has accumulated a good dusting of pollen.

bee on Crocus vernus 'Pickwick'

bee on Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’

Here is a back end shot of of a bee deep in a Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ purple striped flower. You can see the pollen scattered around the petals and hind quarters. In their usual position, with their head down and only the rear end and a few fuzzy legs visible clinging to the style, it is hard to tell exactly who is who.

bee in Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus'

bee in Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’

This  visitor is going for the nectar at the base of a Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ and distributing the pollen around the flower as well as its body. There’s gold dust everywhere.

bee on Crocus 'Yellow Mammoth'

bee on Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’

Another fuzzy bee. This time on the bright Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’. It seems to be getting a good source of pollen and nectar.

fuzzy bee on Crocus 'Yellow Mammoth' flower

fuzzy bee on Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ flower

A bumble bee at another golden coloured Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’. Just as I was thinking that I need to order a bee identification book, Dave of The Home Bug Garden mentions a new bumblebee identification book coming out soon which I will have to get.

The pollinators seem to appreciate the early crocus as much as I do. These were the first flowers that I saw around, so those searching for nectar were congregating on the many crocus around the yard. Now there are  plenty of flowers in bloom around the city, but when blossoms were more scarce, the crocus flowers were a welcome source of nectar for them.

10 Responses to “Bees Love the Early Crocus” »

  1. VW :
    May 23, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Yes, they do love the crocus! It’t funny to see those giant flying teddy bears working their way around the little flowers. I was surprised to see butterflies visiting mine this year as well.

  2. Marit :
    May 23, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Yes, bumblebees love crocus. The winter has been very long here too, so everything is late in blooming. I have seen so few bumblebees this year, and I think it is because it is so few flowers in bloom. With all your crocus they have enough in your garden.

  3. Northern Shade :
    May 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    VW, this year I had some butterflies visiting the crocus in the lawn fairly early, less than a week after the snow melted, which surprised me.

    Marit, at one point there were many of them visiting from crocus flower to flower.

  4. Laila :
    May 23, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Like your photos of the fuzzy bumblebees! Lovely crocuses as well. I just found your blog thanks to your visiting mine:) Now I am going to surf around a little here in order to find out what kind of garden you have.

  5. Ms S :
    May 23, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    I don’t know a lot about bees either, but they are certainly a welcome sight. It must be the addition of more early blooming trees and plants in our garden, but we are seeing more bumblebees this year than usual.

  6. Northern Shade :
    May 23, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Laila, hi, it’s a mostly shady garden,so there are lots of posts about shade plants, but the early spring bulbs get to soak up some sun before the tree leaves open fully.

    Ms S, I plan on ordering the bumblebee identification book that Dave wrote about. I looked at some guides online and made tentative identifications, but I’d like to be more sure.

  7. Derek Yarnell :
    May 25, 2013 at 12:38 am

    Some great shots; it is nice to stop and take notice of the little things.

  8. Northern Shade :
    May 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Derek, they are fun to observe, as they buzz between the flowers.

  9. Dave :
    May 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

    Hi Northern Shade,

    Beautiful display of crocus this year and the newly emerged queen bumble bees are clearly enjoying them even more than we are. All of your bumble bees are newly emerged females (queens) that mated last fall and have been patiently waiting for spring. They are now in the midst of starting their colonies and in another week or so we should start seeing much smaller workers showing up.

    Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ – Bombus (Bombus) probably moderatus (also called cryptarum – there is some argument about species limits in this group) the bee that newly colonized Edmonton last year from the West. I call it the White-tailed Bumble Bee (BugGuide calls it the Cryptic Bumble Bee) from its distinctive white band of hairs near the tail end. No other bee in the Edmonton region has a white bum.

    The only other Bombus (Bombus) in the area, B. terricola, aka Black-banded Bumble Bee is in decline and appears to be vanishingly rare, although it was common when the Home Bug Garden started a decade ago.

    Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ – hard to tell from the view, but probably one of the Half-black Bumble Bees in Bombus (Pyrobombus). Bombus perplexus appears to be most common in Edmonton this year (the very similar looking Bombus vagans seems very rare this year).

    Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ – solitary bee and probably a species of Digger Bee in the genus Andrena. Could be either a male or female – the males emerge first and wait for the females to show up.

    Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ – another Half-black Bumble Bee and probably Bombus perplexus.

    Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ – this is a Tricoloured Bumble Bee Bombus (Pyrobombus) ternarius. The black band between the wings with the posterior-V and the yellow-orange-orange-yellow banding on the abdomen is distinctive.

    Bumble Bees tend to mimic each other’s colour patterns – theoretically this makes the signal they are sending (‘don’t bug me’) stronger – but makes their identification more difficult. So, take all these suggested identifications (except the last) with a grain of salt – as you should all pronouncements by scientists.

    Cheers,

    Dave

  10. Northern Shade :
    May 25, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Dave, thanks for the help with the identification of the bee and bumble bees, and the tips for distinguishing between the bumble bees. If only they could all be distinguished by their rear ends, it would make it easier, as that is the most common view I get as they bury into the flowers.

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