Classic view, feeding on hyssopRed-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

This bee has a fair-sized mite on its backRed-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)

A frankly rather indelicate shot – somehow the light produced this extraordinary colouring of the ‘tail’Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius, Dorset (Keith Salvesen)



The sun was out, the bees were out and I was out trying camera settings having failed spectacularly to come to terms with a new(ish) SLR. The problem remains me, not it, but I sense that the hatred is mutual. Anyway, a few bee shots worked well enough to use… This is my favourite bee, tiny and pale, far smaller than the sturdy yellow and black bumbles jostling for the space on the hyssop and lavender. I like the way their packed saddlebags matched their  colouring. There are probably two or even three different species of bee here for all I know, but it’s hot and I can’t be bumbled to look it up…

This is the first year I have taken on board the number of mites the bees carry. #1 has a fine one under the wing; and I saw one bumble with a smart necklace of mites. I realise they are mostly non-parasitic (apparently), and maybe it is even a sign of good bee health…

Bees in August, Dorset Bees in August, DorsetBees in August, DorsetBees in August, Dorset Bees in August, Dorset Bees in August, DorsetBees in August, Dorset Bees in August, Dorset


I was given a bee house in May. Previously I was the proud owner of a bumblebee nest box, which didn’t seem to be a success until, in early Spring 2014, I watched a small, dozy bumblebee crawl out of it, slowly get its act together, and fly off…

I wasn’t certain how a bee house would work, so I put it in a quiet south-facing out-of-the-way corner, later adding a pot of lavender under it.

Bee House, Totnell 1

After a couple of weeks of nada and niente, I decided to move the house to a length of wall that stayed longer in the morning sun, and to dispense with the lavender.



This looked more promising, but I was highly doubtful that such a fine multi-apartment abode would find favour with the bees. The holes looked good – a range of large down to very small – but still, it looked a bit… NEW. I thought it would need to be weathered for 6 months to get rid of the smell of ‘shop’. 

Gratifyingly soon, however, I was proved wrong. One morning we found (a) a bee inspecting one of the penthouse suites and (b) 2 partial wax capsBee House, Totnell 3

Note bees on the roof and on the lower storey; 2 partially capped cells on the upper storeyBee House, Totnell 4

The following morning there was evidence of further activity – one completely capped cell

Bee House, Totnell 5Bee House, Totnell 6

Since then a number of bees have taken overnight accommodation in the bee house. They prefer the holes drilled in wood over bamboo holes for a short stay, and at any given moment there are two or three small faces visible.

So overall we are pleased to report that the experiment can be counted a success. The garden has been revitalised during the last 2 years following 20 years or so of benign neglect, and bee-friendly plants have been a priority. So far, so good.

IMGP3542 IMGP3537


Mapperton House in Dorset  is not hard to find, but it is somewhat off the beaten track near Beaminster. In the recent film Far from the Madding Crowd the fine manor house, which dates from the c16, became the farm inherited by Bathsheba Everdene. We planned to see the film the weekend it came out, and spent the morning at Mapperton to get into a Hardyesque frame of mind. A form of ‘method’ film previewing, I suppose. It was a dull day, but here are some photos from our visit. And yes, we thought the film was wonderful, with ‘Bathsheba’ and ‘Gabriel’ excelling in particular…

Mapperton House, Dorset 1 Mapperton House, Dorset 2 Mapperton House, Dorset - Gatepost The later west front of the houseMapperton House, Dorset - west side

The back of the house, from the gardensMapperton House, Dorset - back view

The sunken gardenMapperton House, Dorset - sunken gardensMapperton House, Dorset 5

The sundial (base and column old, dial and gnomon new)Mapperton House, Dorset - sundial

The orangeryMapperton House, Dorset - Orangery

The stables and yard, as seen from the house in the film; and as they areIMG_1487-1030x773Mapperton House, Dorset - stables A

Note Bathsheba’s modern carriageMapperton House, Dorset - stables B

An unusual double-stepped mounting blockMapperton House, Dorset - Mounting Block

The ChapelMapperton House, Dorset - chapel 1

St Ambrose, with his hive and bees – one of several very good pieces of stained glassSt Ambrose and bees, Mapperton, Dorset

Yah, Troy here, yah, the thing is I’ve sort of fallen for this feisty farmer girl, ok?

Tom Sturridge films a scene for the movie Far from the Madding Crowd in Dorset Featuring: Tom Sturridge Where: Sherbourne, United Kingdom When: 22 Oct 2013 Credit:
Tom Sturridge films a scene for the movie Far from the Madding Crowd in Dorset
Featuring: Tom Sturridge
Where: Sherbourne, United Kingdom
When: 22 Oct 2013

Mapperton Map jpg


This is a small selection of bees visiting a Dorset garden during the last month or so. The favoured flowers have been Hyssop, Lavender, Alium and Cosmos. And if anyone knows the name of the pale bee in photo #4, I’d be pleased to know – it’s a real beauty.

Summer Bees Dorset 1Summer Bees Dorset 2Summer Bees Dorset 3Summer Bees Dorset 4Summer Bees Dorset 5Summer Bees Dorset 6Summer Bees Dorset 8Summer Bees Dorset 9Summer Bees Dorset 10Summer Bees Dorset 11


First of all, what is this insect? (Amelia? Anyone? NOW SEE BELOW FOR ID) I saw a couple in the garden last year but had no camera with me. Today I at least had my phone. I’m sure it’s completely obvious – ‘a sting-snouted lesser hornet’ – but I’d like an authoritative ruling. Additional clue: they can hover.Bee Query Totnell 1 Bee query Totnell 2

Thanks to Jessica of  the excellent blog NATURE IN FOCUS  for ID as a member of the Bombylidae family, with the common name of bee-flies (see comments below). That lead me to the Natural History Museum website, where I found a very similar creature Bombylius major. The wing patterns in particular look much the same.Here’s the NHM image.

Bee Fly Bombylius maj NHM

Secondly, there’s supposed to be a pink moon either tonight at around 3.00 a.m. tomorrow morning; or possibly tomorrow night at 3.00 the next night… It’s caused by a lunar eclipse, expected to last from 2.00 am to 4.30. The pink / red is to do with angle and atmosphere (as with dawn and dusk). Apparently. I tried to photograph the moon last night here in Dorset, where the light pollution is not too bad. It shone with extraordinary brightness and ‘flared’ my attempts. I’ve pinked one up in case I don’t wake up for the real thing…Pink Moon

An opportunity to remember Nick Drake, I think… Here’s the full album for nostalgics – and just the title track to follow.



Following up my last bee post, here are some more amazing macro shots of bees  from Sam Droege and the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab. This time, it’s up close and personal… 

Macro photograph of bee #11 Macro photograph of bee #13 Macro photograph of bee #14 Macro photograph of bee #6 Macro photograph of bee #9

This is in fact a jumping spider, but I just couldn’t leave it out…Macro photograph of spider All photographs: Sam Droege and the USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab