Autumn has come to our Wartime Garden, and though we need to take a well earned rest from being time travelling gardeners and cooks, our thoughts are turning back to the summer just gone. On a warm autumn day last week, we watched the last of the butterflies swarm over our garden. Swarm is the right word, and we know from our Facebook Page that we are not alone in this, for we have been awash with butterflies this year. The last of the skeletal kale is a testimony to this, chewed to a nub by hungry cabbage white caterpillars and then the remains attacked by hares. Yet, something has been missing in the garden and this has been born out by vegetables that need such pollinators. Our bean crop hasn't been as high as it should have been, no pun intended, and there was a time during the summer I took to hand pollinating the marrows and courgettes.
We're talking bees. We've spoken about our concerns for bees before, even the wonderful, tireless and energetic Brigit Strawbridge has told about the importance of trees to bees here. Last year we sowed a meadow that anyone could have done, on any soil, and as it was annual it meant that we could look at the impact it had on our bee population. Even last year we noticed a decline in bee numbers, even now we are just starting to see signs of the red tailed bumblebee but isn't a little late in the season? Bumblebees are easy to identify, if you have the patience and a camera, and our garden has been host to around five distinct species. Our concern is in the lateness of many of the bees in our garden this year and a lack in food. Though we have adopted bee friendly planting in most of the garden, including leaving the orchard grass to grow long in the height of summer, there has been a distinct lack of bees around the place. We cannot extend the season. Autumn for us comes as early as the 31st August, and whilst many of you are still picking your crops now, ours are effectively over. The question is, has the lack of bees been the same for you, wherever you are? We'd be interested in hearing from you. We know that as individuals and groups we have to change our planting ways, tear down our fences, plant more trees, leave more areas of our garden to find a natural wild balance. This has certainly brought in the butterflies for us but now we need to bring in the bees.
All photos taken on this post are by Mike Mee, copyright 2013. We'd like to thank Mike for his permission in using these.