The Common Carder Bee and honeyed Melittis melissophyllum

The pretty and bee-friendly Melittis melissophyllum rejoices in the robust and no nonsense common name of Bastard Balm.
I can only assume it is called this because it is “similar”to the other balms… but not quite the ticket. It shares its Latin “bee” root with another balm, Melissa officinalis the lovely lemon balm which I have grown from seed and  planted in the Empty Garden. They are both part of the huge Lamiaceae mint family, much loved of bees.

I am going to try to grow Bastard balm and have some seed for next year but have also ordered some plants from the excellent Bee Happy Plants. Their seeds have been very slow to germinate this year but I am still hopeful. Not sure it will like my heavy clay soil but it’s worth a go.
The arrival of any flowers here in the Empty Garden has been agonisingly slow, this miserable weather has not helped at all and time to plant and sow has been very limited, but it has been fascinating to observe which bees have used which flowers.. more on that and garden progress soon.

But meanwhile here is the second bee commission for Liz, the gorgeous Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascuorum about to take a sip of nectar from the honey leaved honey flower.. First thumbnail rough..

pasc and melittis melissophylum sm

I love to watch how bees reach out with their font legs for landing. It’s an unexpectedly human characteristic.
These past windy days have made landing a very hit and miss affair, and they really need those little hooked feet for hanging on.

pasc 1bg

Common Carder Bee, Bombus pascuorum and Bastard Balm
Watercolour and pencil on Arches HP 12” x12”

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  1. I just love your drawings and blog posts, they inspire me and brighten my day!

  2. Do you work from photographs you have taken?

  3. Thanks very much both of you. I am late getting back to you as I am just getting to the end of lots of work.. after which I am going to take a break to go sketching..hopefuly.
    Maria that is so very kind of you. The bees brighten my day..despite the if can pass a bit of that on to you I am delighted!

    Hi Sue
    I did try to reply on the Art plantae site but have had problems posting a comment there. What I did first was to learn my bee anatomy.. so I can draw a standard bee shape in any position I need. then I have some deceased bees!! ( not that I can kill them, but I do pick them up if I find them) …then I refer to the books and descriptions and then will check with photos..but photos can be so misleading so its really a last stage. Maybe for a foot detail or eye detail. I now have a huge numer of photos I have taken. Most of them dreadful but good enough for the odd detail.. and perhaps for early colour. Bees do fade as they get older and sun bleached!! A bit like us!..and they are watercolours.

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