Bluebells photographed in the reserve on Monday by Cheryl Cronnie.
Bluebells are western European natives. Britain is their stronghold and it is believed that up to 50% of the world’s bluebells grow here.
They are an indicator of ancient woodland and in the reserve grow best and most thickly in the old copse between Brunts and The Race, up near the heritage orchard. There are veteran oak trees there, several hundred years old, and the bluebells carpet the ground around them.
In the last of Cheryl’s pictures there is a bee feeding in one of the bluebell flowers. While it is hard to be certain, this looks very much like a common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum), a long-tongued species that is able to reach the nectary at the bottom of the flower’s tube of fused petals. Shorter tongued species have been known to bite through the bottom of the tube to reach the nectar.
This early in the year, this bee is probably a queen. Her nest, built out of grass and moss, will be nearby in an old mouse hole or bird nest, possibly chosen because of its proximity to the early source of nectar and pollen provided by the bluebells. In the nest she will have deposited between five and fifteen eggs in a waxen cup-shaped store of pollen. These eggs will develop into the first generation of the nest’s workers.
Our bluebells are buzzing with bees, hoverflies, and butterflies, an essential component of the reserve’s complex biodiversity.