Red Legs, Yellow legs, White legs and Blue: and Empty Garden status.

Bees, bees, very busy bees. All over the phacelia, the borage, the poppies, the bird’s foot trefoil and the catmint. The bumblebee workers are collecting pollen of many different colours. Back in 2010 I did a short blog post about pollen its wonderful shapes and colours see

Pollen : Beautiful Colours Fascinating Form


Hodges pollen loads_thumb[2]

Here are a few bees carrying different coloured pollens

yellow legs_resize       pas 1_resize      orange legs_resize

hortorum pl_resize      blue legs_resize      black legs_resize

The phacelia pollen is blue, and poppy pollen is black.

I took the poppy photo early this morning. Each day as the new poppies unfold there is an unseemly scrum amongst the bees to be the first to get to the pollen. It is very amusing to watch. They scrabble about, running round and round the stamens to transfer the pollen onto their hairy bodies. Then they may pause to brush the pollen into the pollen baskets on their hind legs.

Equally fascinating is watching the efforts that small bees make, to get in… and out of ..snapdragons. The flowers have a very firm snap. Sometimes they are almost entirely engulfed.

snap dragon_resize

And my much loved woolcarder bees (anthidium manicatum) have returned exactly on cue when their favourite Stachys plant is ready for them


Here is Handsome on his favourite plant.

So where is all this excitement happening?

This was the garden at 7.00 am this morning.

garden 7.00 am

We have been here 18 months and with a bit of hard work have turned something barren into something bee and wildlife friendly. It’s very easy if you just plant some bee friendly flowers, which are not expensive, and you don’t mind a bit of a muddle!


It looked like this when we moved here. A few more before and afters.

Front: Before and after

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Back: Before and After

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Back: Before and After:  The window behind the tree is where I work

a5      garden 10 am

Shed: which is hard to see, before and after

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and the bit in the middle…..

I have put these together to encourage myself on those days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, to encourage others with a small garden ( the camera makes this look much bigger than it is!) to plant a few wildlife friendly things.

It’s cheap easy and endlessly rewarding.
Once done, sit back and enjoy the delights that wild things bring to our lives.

Pollen:Beautiful colours, fascinating form.

The honeybee I am about to paint is carrying pollen and is foraging on lavender, so it’s important  that I make sure the pollen colour is correct. Lavender pollen is a rich yellow colour, which you can see if you look closely at the flowers.

From the wonderful UK microscopy site, PS Micrographs, here is a thumbnail of a coloured electron micrograph of a lavender pollen grain Lavendula dentata.


Lavender Pollen Grain © by Cheryl Power  

When I first started my work on bees, I had a vague idea that pollen came in different shapes and colours but in fact the variety of colour and shape is really quite stunning, beautiful, both in colour and form.


Mixed Pollen: Image :

You can find pollen colour guides on the internet. There is an excellent interactive chart on the Bristol Beekeepers site,   Go  there, and click on the colours to see which pollen belongs to which plant.


pollen chart

Don’t you just love colour charts!
You can buy printed guides such as this one, by William Kirk from IBRA.


And if you are rich you can acquire one of the very desirable “The Pollen Loads of the Honey Bees” published in 1952 by beekeeper and artist Mrs Dorothy Hodges.


I have, sadly, not seen an original copy but I do know it has wonderful tipped in colour samples.

She not only painted pollen colours but described the process of pollen gathering. I quote from a thesis on “Willow” written by Syliva Briercliffe and published on Dave Cushman’s Bee site here

“She (Dorothy Hodges) describes in her book the pollen packing process, of bees on poppies (papaver) – these flowers yield only pollen. The bee scrambling among the anthers gets dusted all over with pollen grains. She leaves the flower and hovers, stroking her tongue over her forelegs and moistening the pollen with regurgitated honey. Using brushes on her legs and the antennae on her head… she moulds the pollen pack around a single hair on her corbicula (pollen basket). “

Here is a reproduction of the (printed) Summer Pollen chart from a later edition of the book.

Hodges pollen loads

Thanks to Denver Botanic Gardens’ Botanical Art blog for reproducing this.

The blue and purple pollens are astonishing, aren’t? I knew about the wonderful dark pollen of poppies, but here again from the PS Micrographs site are some thumbnails of extraordinary pollen grains. Do go and have a look at their wonderful work. Some of the bits and pieces of bugs are really amazing.

hyssop-pollen-grains--hyssopus-officinalis--80200693-t    ivy-pollen--hedera-helix--sem-80016111-t

Hyssop Pollen and a very timely image of the super important Ivy Pollen.

leucospermum-pollen-grain--leucospermum-sp---80200528-t    marrow-pollen-80200001a-t

Leucospermum pollen and  Marrow pollen, all images from PS Micrographs.

I am back up in chilly Lincolnshire for a while and although we have ivy here I have not seen much life on it, mostly just hoverflies.. but then it has been very very cold. But I am going out to have a look at the pollen!