Red Dead-nettle & early bees

Saturday 14 April.

The first warm(ish) spring day of a slow, dull year. An old pasture on the margins of Monmouth is carpeted with Red Dead-nettles beneath its ancient oaks.



RDN is a fragile annual usually seen on roadside verges or in neglected corners of gardens. It grows easily on thin bare soil, and it is a favourite with the Hairy-footed Flower Bee.



There were several of these, both the brown males and black females, easily detected by their loud hum, their dashing flight and unusual bee-practice of hovering. Below is a female recovering from a brief sleep in the fridge.


P1060098Crawling about on the flowers in more lumbering style were bumblebees in small numbers, mostly big queens including Buff-tailed, White-tailed, Red-tailed both Large and Small. My guess is that under the thick, tall hedge bordering the field are some good nesting places.


P1100387A number of much smaller bees turned out to be Short-fringed Mining Bees (Andrena dorsata), a neat little insect with red furry thorax and black shiny abdomen with thin, buff-white bands, broken in the middle. This is a common bee in Monmouth, and it comes in two generations, spring and summer. Later in the season it is regularly found on bramble flowers. This one has found a globe-thistle in the allotments.


About Roger Ruston

In one of my ealiest memories I am knee-high, collecting bees from lavender in a garden on the South Downs. When I grew up I got a master's in zoology at Bristol and studied insects under Prof. Howard Hinton FRS (for those who know, that gives away my age). After several retirements from several lives I have created a wildlife garden in Monmouth, Wales, giving a space to insects, especially bees. In four years I have found 49 species of bee there and nearly twice that number in the surrounding countryside. I am a member of BWARS (Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society). My ambition is to assist local conservation projects by identifying and mapping the local bees. I think it is best to know what species we share our spaces with before they are threatened by the many human activities that can destroy bees. Ignorance is the greatest enemy.
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