In which I used my spiffing new camera to capture lots of cat tongues,
tested its macro capabilities,
and enjoyed spending time in our garden, which had become ridiculously overgrown from only two weeks of neglect.
This is from the back of the garden, where we have a small shed and a nice little fairy grotto shaded by trees. And one of those trees has a little something extra, which I was thrilled to discover when we moved in:
I wonder how long that’s been there?
The cats seemed to enjoy the long grass, using it as a hunting ground and toilet in equal measure. I actually had to scoop poo before I mowed the lawn. As a dogless person, poop scooping is something I thought I could be free from. Not so. Thanks, boys.
The clematis on the fence is absolutely gorgeous at the minute.
And the rhododendron, in a pot on the patio, is poking out some tentative flowers too:
Cooler than all of this, however, is what we found in the garden a few days ago. Tom’s attention was drawn to it by Hobbes, and mine was drawn by Tom. “Are they fighting? What’s going on?!” said Tom.
“They’re mating!!!” I squealed, unreasonably delighted, and ran to get my camera.
At first there were three – this attached pair with the much larger female at the front, and a third wheel who was buzzing around trying to get in on the action. He was unsuccessful in separating them though, and soon flew off to try his luck elsewhere. We couldn’t really see what was going on in all the grass, so gently teased them out and put them on some paper for the whole world to see.
The queen just sort of sat there, while the male on the back was kind of… quivering? His whole body, I mean. Maybe that aids with the transfer of sperm? According to the internet, bumblebee mating can take anywhere from ten to eighty (!!) minutes. We watched these two for a good ten minutes and they showed no signs of stopping, so we left them in the garden. They were gone maybe twenty minutes later.
I looked up this species, and found that it is Bombus hypnorum, or the tree bumblebee. They’ve actually only been known in the UK since 2001, and have been colonising the south and south-east since.
What I found really fascinating is how in the above pictures you can see her sting! You can see the male’s three left legs, and then just underneath them that spike between the bees is her sting. Obviously she wasn’t using it – apparently she has to extend it so the male can get access to where he needs to – but it looked super dangerous. The tip was resting right against his body. Risky business, bee mating.
This will be a new young queen, raised this year, and leaving her home nest to mate – usually just the one time, although this species may mate more than once – and then found a nest of her own. Maybe she’ll stay in our garden, although after reading on Wikipedia that “the tree bumblebee defends its nest in a very proactive manner”, perhaps it would be best if she didn’t.