Bee on aster

Absent Friends

A look through my photo files shows me that I have taken very few images of bees this year and none at all of butterflies. That may be partly due to me being busy finishing off the pond, rather than paying so much attention to the flower borders. But the relative absence of these garden friends has been very noticeable over the last few months.

Spring wasn’t so bad. There were Buff-tailed bumblebees and Common carder bees keeping busy in the spring flowers as usual. A little later, lots of honeybees made the most of the flowers of the Ceanothus bush. It fairly buzzed at times! But when the temperatures began to climb, there certainly appeared to be less activity in the garden.

Red Admiral, Peacock and Comma butterflies
Butterflies clockwise from top left: Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma

Keeping myself out of the heat probably means that I was less aware of any bees that were around. Normally, though, I would see quite a lot of them – hoverflies too. I’m more sure about the drop in butterfly numbers here. There are warm, sheltered spots in the garden that frequently attract butterflies but this year there were rarely any there.

I’ve read that this year’s ‘Big Butterfly Count’ had lower numbers recorded, despite an expected increase because of the warm weather. It is feared that environmental changes and habitat loss account for the drop. For many bees, though, the heat of this summer is suggested to have been a disadvantage. A study by US scientists has found that the larger, heavier bodied bees (including bumblebees) declined as temperatures increased, while smaller bees increased in numbers.

Does this explain why I’ve seen fewer bumblebees this year? I don’t know. All I can really do is to try to provide as much as I can in the way of useful plants and habitats in the hope that it will help both bees and butterflies.

Common Carder Bee on Sedum
Common Carder Bee on Sedum

18 thoughts on “Absent Friends

  1. Unfortunately I’ve witnessed quite a few bumblebee fatalities this year in the garden to what I’ve not seen before, at least five, too which I put down to the excessive heat we’ve had here in mid Lincolnshire. Sadly any revival method came to no avail.
    Butterfly wise, there was definitely an abundance of Small Whites this year and I caught sight of my first Copper. New addition to the garden this year is a Butterfly House.
    Regards Mik

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  2. I suspect the heat was indirectly responsible, too. Fewer human counters means fewer insects counted, and there was a dearth of people willing to be out and about around here from June-early September. When I was out this weekend, I saw more caterpillars than ever before, and plenty of bumblebees and butterflies of all sorts. One of our local naturalists said that butterflies don’t like heat any more than we do, and often will shelter in foliage, where they’re even harder to see. Hard to say, but the number and variety of butterflies around just now is cheering.

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  3. Butterflies in our garden seem to have been on a level with last year, including all three of the species you feature. But compared with a couple of decades ago, the numbers are tiny. Back in the day our buddleia positively groaned under the weight of butterflies, but in recent years most of its nectar has seemingly gone to waste. So sad.

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  4. Not many butterflies spotted here either except for an abundance of Whites. A few tattered Red Admirals early in the summer and a Comma or two, but no Painted Ladies and no Peacocks. My nectar bar is going to waste!

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    1. Yes, we had the whites too – they must be more resilient or just more numerous in the first place. There were one or two red admirals too, but not much else. (We usually get quite a few Peacocks basking on our brick path.) I wonder if flowers produced less nectar where there was drought? If that happens, it might be part of the reason why we saw less bees and butterflies here.

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    1. Thank you! πŸ™‚ The habitat AKA garden is a happy place for me too! (Seriously though, we need all the insects, not just the bees, so it’s the least I can do when I have this small patch of garden,)

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  5. I suppose bees and butterflies might suffer from extreme heat as well. I haven’t seen as many butterflies mid summer as usual but a fee more when it was a bit cooler. I hope their habitats don’t change with global warming.

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    1. I’d been wondering about the effect of the high temperatures on bees and butterflies (all insects really). Like you, I saw a few butterflies when it was cooler, and more bees in the spring. I guess that global warming may push some species further north.

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  6. “All I can really do is to try to provide as much as I can in the way of useful plants and habitats in the hope that it will help both bees and butterflies.”

    That’s true for all of us, Ann. Let’s hope it makes a difference.

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