An Unusual Visitor at Heligan, Leptura aurulenta

We had many visitors to the Buzz Tent. My paintings returned with a few, now displaced, earwigs who had made a temporary home at the back of the pictures.

Bees came and went, a black cat poked its head in one day and then there was this; walking up the rope which was protecting new turf nearby was a handsome beetle. I know nothing about beetles but did know there had been a sighting of a small colony of unusual ones at Heligan.

John Walters naturalist and wonderful natural history artist had called in a few days before. He is surveying the insects at Heligan and had told me about them.

It’s Leptura aurulenta, also poetically known as the Golden Haired Long Horned beetle. This, plus 2 very good photos, is from the Watford Coleopterists Group website:

“Adults emerge during June and July and may be found until August or September, they fly readily and frequent flowers; Uhthoff-Kaufmann (loc cit) records them by sweeping angelica, bramble, broom, pyrus, scabious and various conifers. Larvae develop in dead or decaying stumps (etc) of various broadleaved trees, more especially oak but also associated with alder, ash, aspen, beech, birch, horsechestnut, cherry, spanish chestnut, walnut and willow (Duffy, 1953)”

Read more about it here. Walking the rope…

Sitting on my thumb quite happily and ….

on Chris’ black t-shirt, showing off its lovely colouring.


t flew away after a few minutes  … Lovely thing…a bit bee-like I thought.. 🙂

You can see another photo on the Heligan Wild Website photos for June.

A quick look at the biodiversity map locates them in Cornwall and a few other southern sites.. and then, curiously, one in Sheffield!( I’m not sure how up to date it is).

I am wondering if a little Golden Haired beetle hitched a ride with me to Grafham?

Bees Deliver the Buzz at Heligan!

The bees and I are back home now after a brilliant two weeks at the beautiful Lost Gardens of Heligan.
There are so many people to say “thank you” to, the staff, the visitors and of course the Gardens’ bees who performed beautifully, and unfailingly, every day for the 2.00 pm Bee Walk.

We would start the walk staring optimistically at a small hole in the ground in a nearby flowerbed.


The tension was palpable.. would there be any bees today???

But the wonderful little Red Tailed Bumble Bee workers never failed me and flew in and out of their underground nest on cue. The tiny mining bees endearingly popped in and out of their holes in the Melon Yard and sometimes rested obligingly on the nearby stones.

bee head

mining bees sunning

Garden Bumble Bees, Common Carder Bees, Buff Tailed Bumble Bees and White Tailed Bumble Bees were all over the foxgloves, woundwort, poppies, brambles and odd things like dianthus and geums.

Bumble bees were climbing into the huge snapdragons, the big flowers swallowing up the bees almost entirely. They were all engaging and delightful…

carder bee on motherwort

Common Carder Bees seemed to particularly like Motherwort Leonurus cardiaca.


I watched fascinated as a big bumblebee gathered together groups of poppy stamens and “buzzed” them to release the pollen.

tiny bee on poppy

Whereas this little bee could only jump on one stamen and sway up and down. Very comical


Early one morning I found a little Bombus worker nectar robbing the pineapple sage flower.

I was able to show the holes at the base of the flowers to, sometimes, disbelieving visitors. Amongst the star performers were the very beautiful Anthidium manicatum bees, the Wool Carder Bee.  Males were patrolling a patch of woundwort and fighting in a quite spectacular way while the females just got on with their lives.

anthid male 3

This male at last took a break, the spikes on the end of his abdomen are quite awesome. He has cream hairs on his legs and the hairs on his  body give him a halo  of creamy white. A closer look shows the yellow spots and markings on the abdomen which vary from species to species and between male and female.

The smaller female with her head in a flower. I was wondering where the females were getting the fibers for their nests but the Latin name for woundwort is Stachys sylvatica (Hedge Woundwort) which must be a relative of their favourite plant which we commonly know as Lambs Ears Stachys byzantina The woundwort leaves have more bristly hairs but are certainly hairy enough I guess.


I said, saw, did and learnt so much in my two weeks there. My bee tent was never empty, even on bad days.

Hundreds of people passed through. We had garden experts, bee keepers, entomologists and general bee, insect and wildlife enthusiasts. There were novice gardeners, old hands, people who wanted just to share bee stories, bee sightings, nest discoveries and  flower or habitat suggestions.
I know I have convinced quite a few bee anxious people that our wild bees are harmless and charming. Stroking a ( I hasten to add, deceased) bee as usual proved popular.
We rescued grounded cold wet bees from the paths, which would sit happily on my warm hand to be admired by visitors.  We kept running out of bee and flower leaflets and again I sold out of books and the postcards.
My benign directive from Lorna the marketing manager was to inspire and inform and I know the show and the accommodating bees did just that.
The many comments in the visitors book said it all. It’s not really in my nature to post these sort of comments but maybe it’s time I did! Here are just a few.
From Cath and Maureen :

“Feel v lucky to be @Heligan at the same time as this exhibition, both educational and lovely to look at. Bought the book!

And from Monique:

“Exquisite and useful Bonne continue!”

And from Lisa:

“Fabulous, so good to have a knowledgeable and passionate person here. I  will be more attentive now. We must look after our bees! Thankyou!”

Vana and Peter came on the bee walk :“Really interesting show and walk , very helpful” they said, and later in the day rushed back with concern about the fate of some little ground nesting bees…
Be assured, the stones which will cover them will allow for gaps!!
Most overheard comment… “Oh I didnt know there were so many bees”

But…the biggest bee of the trip has to be at Eden… I took a morning off to go and see this inspiring place!

eden bee

“Buzz” at Heligan

16th to 30th June The Lost Gardens of Heligan
United Kingdom,
PL26 6EN Tel : 0044(0)1726 845100

That’s where the bees and I will be until the end of the month.
In the beautiful Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.

It will be my first time not only at the Gardens but in Cornwall, so it will all be new…new is good!

I will be there, for sure at 2.00 each day from 16th to the 22nd. If the weather is fine we will go and look for bees if not I will be there to talk about the bees and thing I am very good at.

On other days and times I probably won’t be too far away but you will be able to see the bees during regular opening times. I may be blogging, I may not. All will depend on the, no doubt elusive, internet connections.


Come and say Hi if you can.. If not I will be Artist in Residence at the lovely Wallworth Hall in Twigworth which is home to the “Nature in Art” gallery, just 2 miles north of Gloucester. August 2nd to 7th.