The Black Queen, The Beautiful Bombus ruderatus from Lincs

Sometimes the coincidences that life throws up are both spooky and delightful, rather as if some good fairy has taken charge of things for a change.
A while ago now I was reading the Bwars forum messages which come regularly into my inbox and noticed a message from Leslie in South Lincs. I don’t often see questions from my part of the Uk so I was interested in her report of her B ruderatus sightings.

That afternoon, I went out into the garden with my camera and there drifting slowly from one clump of Yellow Archangel  (Lamium galeobdolon) to another was a large velvet black bee.
Very big and very black.  My bee knowledge is still slight but I knew it was a Bombus and not an Anthophora.
When I looked again at the books it could only really be Bombus ruderatus. A very odd occurrence as only that morning I had been reading about them.

blackb2   black b4   black b3

This is the dark form of the lovely ruderatus (var. harrissellus) which has, it seems, quite a few colour variations. She is carrying some yellow pollen  and had a dusting of pollen on her head from the flowers but apart from that I could not see any other coloured hairs.

They don’t seem to be very common, but apparently have a bit of a liking for Lincolnshire. This is from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan site.

“Although this bumblebee was considered to be very common in southern England at the beginning of the 20th century, by the 1970s it was already considered a scarce but widespread species. The decline has continued since, with fewer than 10 confirmed post-1980 sites for this bee, mostly in East Anglia. There are no confirmed post-1960 records for Wales and no records for Scotland or Northern Ireland. This bee is widespread but declining in Europe.
In Great Britain this species is classified as Nationally Scarce.”

Buglife have a good “species management” sheet for more information here. and Bwars records have a distribution map here. If any other Lincolnshire readers see this bee, Alan Phillips ( norwegica blog) would like to know!

Being a long tongued bee it likes red clover which you really don’t see so much of these days. Another coincidence is that this beautiful long faced and long tongued bee was one of the hopefuls sent to New Zealand to pollinate the red clover crops in the 1960’s. Studies were made of their nesting habits in Lincoln .. but Lincoln, New Zealand not Lincs UK.

I have subsequently called in to see Leslie and to talk to her about her bees.
Her lovely garden was just full of them with bee houses/ nesting sites and bee flowers everywhere. She has been recording bees for many years and her records are fascinating.
Identifying this particular species is tricky because of the many different colour variations and its similarity to B hortorum to which it is related.  I think I am going to try to make a chart.
I saw the black queen just once more before we moved and  I think this is another bee I will have to add to the British bee set.


A Bee for Buglife.. go to their show in April!

I promised Buglife something for their annual raffle, so today I have sent them a print of a little watercolour which I painted yesterday. This time I was quite happy with the quality and colour (yes I am very fussy) so I will also be having some for sale at “BUZZ”. I do like people to have a quality product so I now have some good quality watercolour paper and also some professional  finishing spray which protects the print.

single bee sm

This was my first sketch which I am rather fond of and then the watercolour with the cornflower added.

bee2 sm

I have been reading more and more about the plight of bees, the awful effects of pesticides and the loss of habitats, so I really want to do a bit more to help. I am not sure if the originals will sell at the exhibition, whose point is really just to spread the word about the “other” bees”, but I think prints might.

So I will be reviving my dormant Etsy account soon, and if I sell anything I will be able make a donation or two to bee/insect/wildlife charities. Thinking about what Buglife are doing I may well raffle these two original paintings at my exhibition.
The lucky winner of my signed print at the Buglife open day will also get a card of  Bombus pascuorum and an extra gift of a bookmarky thing which will encourage them not only to come to the exhibition but to support bees as well.

print and bkmk
Bookmarks, badges, cards, prints .. well why not !

BUGLIFE. org If you don’t know about Buglife they really are a great organisation, dedicated to

“Conserving the small things that run the world” Buglife is the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, and we are passionately committed to saving Britain’s rarest little animals, everything from bees to beetles, and spiders to snails.”

I wrote about them a couple of days ago when I heard their wonderful proposal for “rivers of flowers” across the UK, to provide wildlife corridors for bugs. Amongst bee related things on their site you can find:

They are involved in many many projects and they have an open day in April which non members can attend for just £5 for adults and £2.50 for children which includes a light buffet lunch.

Buglife Members Day and Open Day 2010

Saturday 17 April, from 10:45am to 3pm at The Engine Group, 60 Great Portland Street, London, W1W 7RT. There will be talks and workshops, including these,  all of which I would like to hear.

  • Life without chocolate, strawberries and coffee – a world without bugs’
  • ‘Little nippers – Meet the freshwater crabs of Sri Lanka’
  • ‘Dead wood is good wood for the Golden hoverfly’
  • ‘Up on the Downs – chalk grassland butterflies and their conservation’

We will have live bugs, interesting displays, and activities for children. The Buglife team will be there to talk to you about our conservation work, wildlife gardening and how you can get involved.”

It sounds like a fascinating day, I am sorry I can’t be there and of course, if you enter the raffle you might win my little print… but, a life without chocolate?  Unthinkable!

Buzz.. The Bee Exhibition is all set for June, Lumen Centre, London

An Little Oasis of Bee Tranquility.. right in the middle of London!

There are lots of wonderful “Bee” events going on in London this year and of course mine will be one of them ( shameless trumpet blowing and self promotion!)
I am proud to announce “BUZZ …. a Celebration of British Bees and their Flowers” will be held in June from the 1st to the 26th at LUMEN.

bee banner 3

And the venue is just BEAUTIFUL! .. I really couldn’t be more delighted. It‘s the about-to-be-opened gallery of LUMEN the newly opened multi-faith centre in Bloomsbury.

It’s a tucked away, very beautiful space, in my very favourite part of London not far from the British Museum. Leafy squares, book shops, hospitals, Universities, the British Library. Home once to Dickens, Darwin, Vanessa Bell, Virginia Wolfe, and Yeats.  Memories of the old publishing houses, Faber and Faber, and of course Beatrix Potter’s publisher,  Frederick Warne.
I remember seeing their office by chance, years ago. Bloomsbury is wonderful, such history, such learning, such literature. LUMEN CENTRE from an article in e.architect:

..An exquisitely designed new multi-faith centre for worship and contemplation by Theis and Khan Architects
Lumen Centre Lumen Centre London Lumen Centre multi-faith centre
Lumen URC and Community Centre Photos : Nick Kane

Created within the shell of an existing 1960s United Reformed church, lumen will be used regularly for Christian services as well as offering an open invitation to people of all faiths to use the spaces. The site has a rich history. The 1960s church replaced an older church, which was bombed during the Second World War, and backs on to an ancient burial ground for the people of Bloomsbury, now called St. George’s Gardens.
The new sacred space, known as the Shaft of Light is central to the design. A large-scale intervention, rendered in white, is a spectacular conical, shell-like space, which reaches through the full 11-metre height of the building to a single roof-light. The Shaft of Light offers people from any faith or belief a secluded area for worship or for private gatherings. The quality of the light inside the space subtly changes, depending on the weather and time of year, adding to the sense of peace and separation from the bustle of the outside world.
In addition, a tranquil garden at the rear of the building  offers a contemporary interpretation of a cloister, with slender brushed stainless steel columns supporting an arcade around a central courtyard planted with herbs and silver birch trees. The cloister will be open for people to enjoy a quiet moment of reflection or simply stop for a lunchtime sandwich.

Commissioned by the United Reformed Church, lumen has continued the ancient tradition of commissioning artists and craftspeople. Working with Modus Operandi art consultants, the church has commissioned two artists to create new three dimensional art works, which are carefully integrated within the building.
Internationally acclaimed artist Alison Wilding has created a trio of artworks: a new font, a drinking fountain and a garden fountain,a shallow bronze dish with the inscription “A spring of water, welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The strong architectural form of the Shaft of Light, designed by Theis and Khan Architects is the key point of reference for both the drinking fountain and font.
Lumen Centre London multi-faith centre London multi-faith centre Lumen Centre interior
Lumen URC and Community Centre Photos : Nick Kane

The north window on the street front, features a spiralling, geometric sculptural screen, entitled North Elevation, by rising artist Rona Smith. Made of bronze, the sculpture is suspended within the alcove of the window, and arcs gently
into the main space. The design evokes the traditional imagery of many religions, including Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist. The artwork explores how geometry unites diverse systems of symbolism and representation and reflects lumen’s ethos of inclusive worship for people of all faiths.
The art works which have been commissioned aim to signify universal values, yet each are open to the interpretation of the individual viewer. We hope that they will encourage a sense of contemplation, and a further means of engagement with the centre, bringing together people of diverse beliefs and backgrounds.
Maggie Hindley, (former) minister Minister, lumen comments: “What impressed me about our architects and artists was that they listened, and asked questions, and brainstormed with us and really got to understand our vision before coming up with any proposals; and then they listened some more as the plans evolved. So we got a physical expression of our own goals, but more beautifully and imaginatively than we could have dreamed of.”

Read the whole article here.. although I have not left much out! Also read all about LUMEN, their history and wonderful facilities on their website here. I will be telling you more as the weeks go by.

Browse, Read and Relax The gallery will be sharing a space in part with the newly opened cafe, which we are hoping will be serving honey cake to have with a cup of tea… and maybe other honey themed foods! ..more on that to come…


part of lumen cafe and gallery. And while you are having a refreshing snack you can do some reading as well!

I am delighted to say we are getting support so far from: “the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates,  …passionately committed to saving Britain’s rarest little animals”.  

The Herb Society who are having a “BEE AWARE” year and whose conference this year is all about bees.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust two of whose bees, the Shrill Carder and the Great Yellow I will be painting  for the exhibition.
They will all  be providing  literature on bees, herbs, flowers and gardening  for bees….

And  Brigit from the wonderful “The Big Green Idea” the charity dedicated to showing people how sustainable living can be easy, healthy, inexpensive and fun, will hopefully be having an input too. ….all this and I have only just started asking, so lots more info to come and it will be on the blog and even, maybe, on Twitter..