Einstein’s bees, sound bites and vitamins

By Athayde Tonhasca

If you have been following the news about bees’ decline in the newspapers and social media, you’ve probably come across variations of this quote, attributed to Albert Einstein: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” This insight from one of the greatest scientist who ever lived seems to corroborate another mantra: “one in every three bites of food we eat depends on bees”. So the message from these sound bites is clear and dire: bees’ extinction would lead to food shortages, widespread famine, and ultimately the extinction of mankind.

Considering the seriousness of the matter, we may feel a bit disappointed by Einstein’s vagueness: did he mean the honey bee alone as humanity’s saviour, or the other 20,000 or so known species as well? But don’t blame Einstein for this taxonomical oversight because the quote is a myth: he never said it. Which is not surprising, really; would it be reasonable to expect the man who revolutionized our understanding of space, time, gravity and the universe, to have the time and knowledge to lecture us about bees as well? Probably not. Could the eminent evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins offer new insights about the Special Theory of Relativity? Probably not. Authority has boundaries, and experts generally know their limitations.

Einstein’s prophecy belongs to the extensive list of fake quotes attributed to him and the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Winston Churchill. But at least we know that one of every three bites of food we eat depends on bees. Or do we?

The 1 to 3 ratio could be read as the amount of food we eat by weight or by volume, or the proportion of food items in our diet. The latter is the usual interpretation of the quote, which originated from a misinterpretation of a 1976 report by the American Department of Agriculture.

But here are the data. Nearly 90% of the world’s caloric intake comes from rice, maize, millet, barley, sweet potatoes, bananas, wheat, sorghum, rye, potatoes, cassava and coconut. Only the last crop may require some insect pollination. About 60% of global food production comes from crops that do not depend on animal pollination: they are wind-pollinated, self-pollinated or propagated asexually. 

But how about the number of food items? Around three-quarters of the world’s main crops benefit from animal pollination (insects, birds, bats, etc.). But ‘benefit from’ is a far cry from ‘depend on’; pollination is not an all-or-nothing scenario. Crops have diverse degrees of reliance on pollination (see figure), which does not necessarily reflect on yield, but sometimes on product quality or shelf life. Only about 12% of the main crops depend entirely on pollinators to produce the food we consume.

Level of dependence on animal pollination of the main crops produced in 200 countries. Data from Klein et al. 2007. Proc. R. Soc. B 274: 303-313

The ‘1 in 3’ formula ignores meat in our diet. It’s difficult to evaluate the contribution of pollination to meat production considering the range of animal species and production systems. But it is safe to say that the bulk of animal protein originates from plants that don’t need animal pollinators such as grass, maize, and soybean. 

The proportion of animal-pollinated food of course depends on cultural backgrounds, dietary preferences and economic status, but it is not likely to be that great. You can check it for yourself: make a list of non-meat items on your dinner plate and look it up as to whether they are pollination-dependent (you may exclude the pizza and fish & chips dinners).

None of the above undermines the importance of pollination. This ecological service is estimated to account for around 10% of the world’s annual agricultural output; we could expect losses of 5 to 8% in total crop production in the absence of animal pollination. In the EU, 15% of crop production involves pollination, which generates around 31% of the income from crops. These figures are far from inconsequential. And the importance of pollination stretches way beyond yields and income: nearly 90% of the world’s flowering plants require animal pollination, so the whole functioning of the planet is linked to pollinators.

Like any good sound bite, “one in three bites” is memorable and catchy; but as it is often the case with sound bites, it is unclear, inaccurate and simplistic. It also distracts us from pollination’s real contribution to food production, which is the quality of our diet.

Most of the vitamins A, C, and E we need come from animal-pollinated plants such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits. The same is true for a large portion of vital minerals such as calcium, fluoride and iron. A decline in pollination services would decrease the supplies of these crops, which inevitably would result in higher incidence of diet-related illnesses such as heart diseases, cancer and diabetes. Fewer animal-pollinated fruits and vegetables in our diet would also contribute to the ‘hidden hunger’, which is a form of malnutrition caused by a lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet. Close to 2 billion people worldwide suffer from ‘hidden hunger’; this figure could be brought down by the addition of minerals and vitamins to staple foods, and by protecting pollinators that provide this public health service for free.

The proportion of food production that is dependent on pollination for vitamin A (a) and iron (b) © Chaplin-Kramer et al. 2014. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20141799

Pollinators do not contribute significantly to our caloric necessities; the number of bites of food that depend on bees is relatively small. But these few bites are essential for our nutrition and consequently to our health. In a country where 1 in every 4 adults and 1 in every 5 children are estimated to be obese mostly because of poor diet and lack of exercise, reducing the number of bites we eat should be a national priority. But improving the quality of those bites is equally important, with more fruit, vegetables and nuts on our plates: here’s where pollinators make their greatest contribution to our wellbeing.

Sunshine on leaf

Living walls, or if you prefer green walls, are a great urban solution when horizontal space is tight.  By using the vertical options a great deal of space can be used to maximum effect.  And green walls deliver many benefits – they can insulate buildings, they can cool buildings down, they can remove polluting particles from the air, they are a boost for biodiversity, and being good to look at they improve our health and wellbeing whilst making areas more attractive.

However, they aren’t a plant and walk away solution, there is a maintenance commitment

We’ve certainly found that out at Battleby, where you might at first glance reckon we don’t need a living wall.  But hold fire.  What we have just outside Perth is a great demonstration site, and as we seek to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss the Battleby example gives a fascinating insight into one booming urban solution.

Now there have been a few challenges with our living wall. It hasn’t been all sweetness and light, there have been moments of anxiety and moments of bewilderment. So in the interest of helping others contemplating this journey here are a few of the challenges we have faced.

Water.  Now you wouldn’t think this would be a great problem in Scotland. But small pockets of plants need to be watered regularly. Our wall’s planted side faces roughly south, and it gets a lot of sunshine. And being a wall it isn’t always catching the prevailing drift of any rain. A drought is amplified by the small amount of soil involved, so care needs to be taken to avoid things drying out.  We thought we had this cracked with our water pipes running from the Battleby mains to the wall, controlled by a timer device dictating when watering began and stopped several times a day. “Simples”, I hear you say.

But there was a catch, this was all battery controlled. One hot Friday evening the batteries gave up, by the time we spotted this it was a few days later and the plants were stressed.  

On another occasion too much water was an issue. Our controller device sat beneath a manhole adjacent to the underground water pipes. Housed behind the Living Wall this all seemed very convenient and sensible. All went well for a couple of years and then we had a storm of near biblical proportions and the recess under the manhole was completely flooded – cue another timer issue, this time a fatal issue as the electronics, as well as the batteries, succumbed.

The solution was to relocate the timing device three or four feet off the ground in a metal, water-tight box. This meant getting the plumber in to reconfigure the piping.  The solution has worked well to date; we no longer have to peer down a hold to adjust the timer settings. And as Jim and I advance in years the delights of hanging upside down in a manhole recess won’t be missed!

Plants. We planted with the best intentions and good advice. However, nature is fickle. Some plants did well, some struggled, and some gave up the ghost after a year or so.  Almost three years in we elected to restock, basing our new selection on the proven experience of what had thrived and what had rather inconveniently failed.  Here’s what we added to our wall – geraniums, chives, water avens, yarrow, marjoram, lamium, tellima, orange hawkweed and red campion. Seeds of hardy annuals such as pot marigold & love-in-a-mist were added in May. Some of the great survivors have had the equivalent of a horticultural haircut, some have been moved lower down or higher up the wall.

The learning curve probably isn’t over, but with power, watering, and plants on a new course we should enjoy a few years without any headaches.  Now, how’s that for tempting fate?

Wave upon wave of colour

By Therese Alampo with images from Pauline Smith

The conditions at St Cyrus NNR make it an absolute haven for a diverse range of pollinators, and spring, summer and autumn are a fascinating time for anyone who wants to delve into the buzz and hum of this world.

The climate at St Cyrus NNR, low rainfall, the shelter from the cliffs and dunes create a unique microclimate which supports a breath-taking variety of flowering plants some found at their Northernmost limit or very uncharacteristic of the area.  These plants do a season round Mexican wave of colour and scent offering up a veritable smorgasbord of pollen and nectar to the invertebrates on the reserve.

Early in the season the pussy willow offer pollen for the big fat queen bumblebees to delve into, turning them into buzzing yellow powder puffs!  They have been in torpor all winter and emerge hungry and needing to find food and a nest site for their developing eggs and brood.

Then the hoverflies start arriving, across the sea from Continental Europe to join in the buzz, the mining, mason and leafcutter bees join in the party soon after.  

Then to the lepidoptera. We have over 500 species, many of which are important pollinators, the moths are my favourite and with names like Merville de jour, gold spangle and Hebrew character who could resist the intrigue.

These species are key to our survival on this planet, how lucky are we to see a slice of the planet so rich in pickings and them enjoying every bit of it.

When you step foot on the main path into the reserve you are confronted with a scruffy haven, just stopping and looking at the umbel (flower head) of cow parsley or sweet scicily on the way past offers up a comedic clutter of hover flies, soldier beetles, bumblebees and others all head down and bottoms up.

Even offering a little information about a few key pollinator species in the form of a simple pollinator trail helps to connect people to the importance of pollinators, and can spark so much interest!  Everyday we see people stopping to read the information on the short trail, capturing an audience that may just be on the way to the beach.  I love people’s reactions to the trail and the fascination, particularly to the wasp panel, “really, wasps are useful I never knew that”!

It’s complicated

By Athayde Tonhasca

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) was brought to the British Isles in 1839 as an addition to Kew Gardens’ collection of ornamental plants. As usually happens with introduced species, Himalayan balsam escaped into the wild, causing consternation ever since. It has spread throughout damp woodlands and along rivers, flourishing in thick stands up to 2 metres high that overshadow the local vegetation. This plant does well in a variety of climatic conditions and soil types, and has a tremendous capacity to spread.

So nobody likes Himalayan balsam. Nobody but pollinators.

Himalayan balsam © MurielBendel, Wikipedia Creative Commons
Himalayan balsam © MurielBendel, Wikipedia Creative Commons

This invasive is a nectar factory. Each flower produces about 0.5 mg of sugar per hour, a rate far higher than any European plant; flowers of most species yield less than 0.1 mg/h. And because the plant flowers late in the season, nectar it available at a time when other sources start to become scarce. So naturally, bumble bees, honey bees and wasps go for it with gusto. And there is something in store for hoverflies as well; they feed on the copious amounts of pollen produced by these flowers. Predictably, the number of bumble bees and other insects increase in areas invaded by Himalayan balsam. 

This abundance of food could have undesirable side effects. Many bees get the proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and amino acids they need from a variety of pollen sources. But thanks to the plentiful and readily available pollen from Himalayan balsam, bees stick to this easy option: in some situations, up to 90% of the pollen collected by honey bees comes from this plant, with unknown consequences to bees’ development and health. The profusion of pollen and nectar could also indirectly harm other plants: if native species receive fewer visitors, their pollination could be compromised. But the evidence for such outcomes is contradictory. Some studies suggest that Himalayan balsam reduces flower visitation and seed production of native plants; others have demonstrated no differences, or a ‘magnet effect’: Himalayan balsam attracted pollinators to itself and to plants nearby. 

A marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) and a common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), two Himalayan balsam beneficiaries © Charles James Sharp (L) and André Karwath, Wikipedia Creative Commons
A marmalade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) and a common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), two Himalayan balsam beneficiaries © Charles James Sharp (L) and André Karwath, Wikipedia Creative Commons

Alien species are a hot and controversial topic among conservationists. Some highlight the damage caused by introduced species to the native fauna and flora, habitats, the economy and even human health. But other conservationists point out that alien species may have neutral or positive impacts: that is, they are alien but not necessarily invasive. The invasiveness of Himalayan balsam has been well documented, but there are mitigating factors in its favour: in some situations, this plant had no effect on local species composition, or at worst it only replaced a few ruderal species (plants that colonise areas that have been disturbed). And its presence may check the spread of harmful alternatives such as the giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum).

Assessing the impact of alien species is important because a great deal of money and resources have been spent on controlling or eradicating them, quite often unsuccessfully. It is usually assumed that invasive plants are bad for pollinators, but there isn’t much evidence to support this assumption. Like many aspects of species’ ecology, data are scarce, results are often contradictory, and generalisations are risky. In summary: it’s complicated.

The drinks are on me

By Athayde Tonhasca

The broad-leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) is found throughout UK and much of Europe and Asia in all sorts of habitats, including urban and disturbed areas. This orchid was introduced to America, where it is viewed as an invasive species in some places. Despite its common occurrence and being the source of a reasonable supply of nectar, the broad-leaved helleborine is often ignored by insects, a fact noted by Charles Darwin.

The orchid’s small, inconspicuous, greenish/purplish flowers are not exactly good marketing for attracting bees and other pollinators. But one group of insects are keen visitors: wasps, in particular the European (Vespula germanica) and the common wasp (V. vulgaris). 

A broad-leaved helleborine flower © Björn S., Wikipedia Creative Commons
A broad-leaved helleborine flower © Björn S., Wikipedia Creative Commons

Adult wasps feed mostly on carbohydrates, which they get from nectar – or from your sugary drink, if you give them a chance. But the nectar of broad-leaved helleborines is special: it’s laced with chemical compounds, some of them with narcotic properties. It also contains ethanol and other alcohols, possibly as the result of fermentation by yeasts and bacteria. This chemical cocktail is toxic or repellent to many visitors, but not to wasps: they lap it up. Unavoidably, a concoction of opioid and morphine derivatives plus alcohol, even in minute amounts, has consequences for its consumers. Wasps become intoxicated and sluggish after a few sips, which suits the orchid very well. They spend more time on the flower, staggering about and thus increasing their chances of ending up with a pollinium (a sticky mass of pollen grains) glued to their heads. Watch it. Nobody knows if wasps are hungover afterwards.

A wasp with pollinia attached to its face © Saarland, Wikipedia Creative Commons
A wasp with pollinia attached to its face © Saarland, Wikipedia Creative Commons

This orchid has another trick up its sleeve besides inebriating nectar; it also lures wasps with false promises of prey for their larvae. It turns out that these flowers release chemicals that mimic green-leaf volatiles, which are produced by plant tissues when they are damaged by herbivores. Wasps are attracted to green-leaf volatiles in the hope of finding some juicy caterpillars chomping on the host plant. When a wasp gets to the flower, its attention is diverted to the sugary nectar, so the scent scam is forgotten.

Orchids are highly diverse: with approximately 25,000 described species, they make up about 10% of all flowering plants. About one third of orchids do not offer food rewards – nectar or pollen – to visiting pollinators. Instead, they have evolved all sorts of tricks to attract insects. Some flowers have the shape, colours or scents of food-rewarding plants; they may bait male insects by resembling female counterparts, or by releasing pheromone mimics; sometimes they charm visitors that are seeking a place to lay their eggs. Or by using a combination of artifices, as it is the case of the broad-leaved helleborine.

These deceiving orchids attract only a handful of insects that respond to specific chemical or visual cues, so many potential pollinators are excluded. But the strategy pays. Pollen is transported more efficiently for deceptive species than for those with multiple pollinators. This means that more pollen is taken to another flower of the same species, and less is dropped or deposited on the wrong flower.

Deception works for orchids, but how about their cheated visitors? Sometimes they are rewarded, but often they get nothing. We don’t have much information about the insects’ side of this relationship. They must benefit somehow, or at the very least they are not significantly harmed. This matters to wasps, as they pollinate around 5 % of all known orchid species.

Orchids provoke much fascination for their biology, diversity and exoticism. This level of attention has helped us appreciate better the role of wasps. Most of them don’t collect pollen, and their lack of body hairs – compared to bees – does not allow for many pollen grains to attach to their bodies. But if we go by their contribution to orchids’ reproduction, these important but often maligned insects have much to reveal about their part in pollination services.

An European wasp, a frequently cheated pollinator © User:Fir0002, Wikipedia Creative Commons
An European wasp, a frequently cheated pollinator © User:Fir0002, Wikipedia Creative Commons

Growing gains

Grow 73, a charity based in Rutherglen, works to encourage local growing, increase biodiversity, and improve the local environment. The hub of their efforts is the impressive community garden at Overtoun Park, but an ambitious project to create a green pollinator pathway from Rutherglen train station through to Cathkin Braes shows they have bigger plans yet. 

The group, who featured recently on BBC’s Countryfile programme,  are named after their G73 postcode in Rutherglen, which lies just a few miles south-east of Glasgow’s busy city centre. Established in 2015 by Eugine Aroutcheff, who came to Scotland from France around 28 years ago, and Lynn Semple the group started with the modest aim of looking for a place to grow fruit and vegetables.

They picked a good time to pursue that goal. In 2015 the Scottish Parliament had passed a Community Empowerment Act enabling communities to take over plots of dis-used land. Grow 73 used the Act to get a 15-year lease for three dis-used bowling greens in the park in addition to five areas they were already working on.

It is fair to say that Grow 73 have seized the opportunities that expansion has offered with some style.  Their plans now include a pond, more raised beds, community hub, poly tunnels and converting a small woodland into a natural play area. One of the greens will be kept as a wildlife area.

If their initial focus was a desire to grow food, it is fair to say that they are now making great strides in providing for biodiversity and in particular pollinators. Helped by the enthusiastic Rutherglen residents (who shifted 9 tonnes of compost when the project got underway) they are moving on from conventional growing plots, to providing a series of planters as ‘stepping stones’ for pollinators linking Rutherglen to Cathkin.

This will be achieved through their Rutherglen Network, which joins an array of containers and gardens into a ‘super highway’ for bees, or if you prefer a Bee-Line. Given that habitat loss and fragmentation are key challenges which our pollinators face this is a welcome approach. 

Each container has a selection of nectar-rich plants that are potentially a wonderful boost for pollinators. The group have deliberately left empty spaces in between the plants, so that the community can add their own plants to the planters. And there was help on hand to ensure that local planting was possible.

Eugenie, and her army of volunteers, put together kits of compost, potato seeds, flower seeds and reused coffee sacks during the pandemic, then delivered them to local homes in a stunning display of determination. The aim was to involve the people of Rutherglen in making these containers great for pollinators and a source of local pride. Wherever possible Grow 73 have worked with local groups and nurseries to ensure local buy-in to all that they do. Working in partnership has been a key principle for the charity.

And how they succeeded. By the time lockdown ended they could reflect on having delivered a staggering 10 tonnes of 650 individual growing kits to eager residents.   Now take a walk through Rutherglen and Burnside and you will see a range of pollinator friendly flowers popping up domestic gardens, containers, and even creatively planted old whisky barrels.  

Creating a green oasis required a strong belief and clear vision. The burgh of Rutherglen is steeped in political and industrial history, but since the final demise of industries as diverse as textiles, coalmining and chemical production the burgh has endured a legacy of post-industrial decline. Overtoun Park is in fact named after industrialist Lord Overtoun, who gifted the land on which the park was laid out in 1907. Although Lord Overtoun’s reputation was tainted by the discovery over the past 30 years of extensive local chromium dumping.

During the coronavirus crises, which forced people to stay local, there was a surge in interest in neighbourhood greenspaces. The charity in helping people of all ages and abilities to grow their own produce has fostered an appreciation of enjoying the outdoors, promoted leading more sustainable lives, and supported local biodiversity. What’s more, through these shared gardening activities and environmental improvements Grow 73 contributed significantly to improving the health and well-being of the local community whilst making Rutherglen a greener place. So much so that the aim is to improve biological recording by logging the insects (especially pollinators) and wildflower in the area.

Grow 73 have achieved a huge amount in a short space of time, but they won’t rest on their laurels. You get the sense that their ambitious plans are just the beginning of a story that could run for some time, and that’s great news for our vital pollinating insects and local residents.

Find out more:

Grow 73 Website 

Facebook =  www.facebook.com/Grow73/ 

Twitter =   //twitter.com/grow73 

On the Keep Scotland Beautiful website  

A plastic new world

By Athayde Tonhasca

Mr McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr McGuire: Plastics.

Film buffs will recognise one the most quoted dialogues in motion picture history, where Mr McGuire advises young Benjamin Braddock on his career options in the 1967 classic ‘The Graduate’.

Mr McGuire was prescient: the plastics industry has expanded to levels unimaginable in 1967. Cheap, versatile, resistant and durable, plastic products are essential in today’s society. They are everywhere. So, unsurprisingly, they are an ever growing environmental problem: land, waterways and the oceans are stuffed with discarded plastic. 

Plastic rubbish is a blight on the landscape, but some birds and mammals have taken advantage of this abundance of material. Squirrels and opossums have learned to use straws, string and plastic bags for nest building; plastic fragments were present in about 14% of surveyed nests of the brown booby (Sula leucogaster), a seabird found around the world. So, diligent nest builders such as leaf-cutter bees were bound to join this team of opportunists.

Most leaf-cutter bees (genus Megachile) cut pieces of leaves or petals to build their nests; some use mud, pebbles or resin as construction materials. These bees usually nest in sheltered natural cavities such as burrows, crevices and hollow twigs. They are important pollinators, and a few species have been reared commercially for crop production, such as the alfalfa leaf-cutter bee (Megachile rotundata).

Top: A Megachile centuncularis at work. This is one of seven megachilid bees in Britain. Bottom: A leaf-cutter bee nest © Line Sabroe (top) and Subbu Subramanya, Wikipedia Creative Commons

In Ontario, Canada, alfalfa leaf-cutter bees have been creative and resourceful by using pieces of polyethylene-based shopping bags as a building material. Another local species, the bellflower resin bee (Megachile campanulae), constructs nests with plant resins instead of pieces of plants. It has no use for plastic bags, but polyurethane-based sealants, which are applied to the exteriors of buildings, offer a handy and abundant alternative. Some bellflower resin bees mixed this plastic product with natural resins to build their nests.

Brood cells partially constructed with polyethylene plastic bag fragments (L,) and polyethylene resin © MacIvor & Moore 2013, Ecosphere 4(12) art155

Rural areas are not exempt from the plastic deluge. In the Argentinian countryside, bits of greenhouse covers, agrochemical containers, fertilizer bags and irrigation hoses combine with ubiquitous shopping bags to deface the landscape. One bee, possibly an alfalfa leaf-cutter bee, took advantage of this clutter to do away with leaves or petals completely: she built an entire nest with pieces of two types of plastic.

Plastic brood cells (L) and pieces of plastic used in the construction of a leaf-cutter nest © Allasino et al. 2019, Apidologie 50: 230-233

We don’t know whether plastics have any effect on leaf-cutter bees. They may be neutral, or even beneficial; plastics may act as a barrier against fungi and parasites, which are important mortality factors for solitary bees. On the other hand, these impermeable materials may trap water and thus increase the brood’s susceptibility to diseases. 

By using plastics, bees have demonstrated their ability to identify alternative and convenient resources, and to adjust to changes in their environment. All the same, plastic nests are another troubling sign of a world living in the Anthropocene. From the Greek anthropos (man) and cene (new or recent), this unofficially labelled geological epoch applies to Earth’s history since humans started to have a significant impact on climate and ecosystems. It’s a new world of mass extinctions, deforestation, pollution, fossil fuels, and climate change. Perhaps leaf-cutter bees can adapt and even flourish in this world. We may do the same. Or not. 

Taynish: gold dust!

By Caroline Anderson

This blog covers two visits to Taynish over the course of a week.  The first visit was filled with delight as there was a nice selection of damselflies out, and one or two four-spotted chasers.  I was thrilled, as it had been SO cold this May!

Only a handful of butterflies around but managed to capture this Speckled Wood.   After a holiday weekend of hot weather there should be more butterflies for you to spot – lots of Orange Tips and Small Heaths – these are indeed very small but what they lack in stature they make up for in beauty.  You can get an idea of scale from this dandelion clock. 

One interesting discovery I made as I was rummaging about in the bog at the boardwalk, was this Longhorn Moth – I’ve only ever seen one before and it was during the previous week.   It’s a beautiful gold colour with the most extraordinary antennae.

The bluebells are stunning at the moment, and the air is heavy with their scent.  They are also a great attraction for the pollinator insects – though sometimes you just have to look quite hard for them. This is a scorpion fly making the most of the bluebell cover.

Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of bees during both visits, I think everything is just a bit later in getting going this year because of the recent low temperatures.   But finally on the pink next to the shore there were one or two getting covered in the gold stuff.  

There was also this wee guy making the most of the pollen – absolutely lathered in it! 

Talking of the gold stuff – check this out!  There’s lots of this type of grass in flower just now – and if you give it a shake you can see the pollen flying out – no wonder my nose is running! 

However, despite the lack of bees during my visits, there is hope, thanks to Heather and Gordon!  

Heather and Gordon, who keep Taynish so special for us all, made some bee houses for our Taynish Trail, and these are now being occupied. If you are considering a bee house, please follow this guidance to assure bees’ health.

The red mason solitary bees pictured below were busily going in and out of the hotel and were an absolute joy to watch.  The holes the bees have been using have been marked to make observation less tricky (that’s what the black dots are next to some of the holes) this also makes photographing them much easier too! 

It’s Garden for Wildlife Week so why not give our pollinators a wee helping hand. Good luck and tag @scotpollinators know how you get on by posting pictures on twitter.