Bumblebee Conservation Trust AGM 2017

The last time I saw Gill Perkins was in 2012. We were attending the launch of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Bees for Everyone campaign in London. Gill had organised the launch. I had been commissioned to perform at it.

With Gill Perkins, who organised the London launch of Bees for Everyone

With Gill Perkins, who organised the London launch of the BBCT’s Bees for Everyone

Fast forward five years, and Gill is now the Head Honcho of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, which this year held its AGM in my home town of York. Gill was Head Honcho-ing the AGM, and I was performing at it. So our paths crossed again.

With Gil Perkins, BBCT CEO, at the BBCT 2017 AGM in York

With Gill Perkins, BBCT CEO, at the BBCT 2017 AGM in York

What I take from these two encounters (apart from the fact that my hair has grown more than hers in the interim) is that wardrobe-wise, Gill and I seem to have an uncanny knack of choosing similar colours/degrees of stripy-ness for BBCT events.

More importantly, what I take from these two encounters is how wonderful Gill, and all the BBCT staff, are. If you’re not already a member of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, then why not?! Join here and now! They are a fabulous organisation doing vital work – innovatively and with passion. And they are small enough for individuals (both staff and members) to matter and count. Something that was very evident at the AGM.

Now perhaps your heart leaps at the prospect of attending an AGM, but when I think ‘AGM’, the first words that come to my mind are: ‘dull as dishwater’. What I hadn’t realised is that the BBCT AGM is actually more of a Members’ Day, packed with fascinating talks about BBCT research and projects. Oh, and this year, a performance from yours truly too.

On the one hand, the decline in bumblebee numbers – as outlined/alluded to/quantified by speaker after speaker – is deeply depressing and worrying. But on the other hand, the work the BBCT is doing to try to remedy this, with farmers/landowners, school children, members of the public and policymakers, is very inspiring. I was particularly taken with their ‘polli:lab’ project, which will take bumblebee science into secondary schools. I wish a polli:lab had visited my school when I was a lass!

Speakers at the event were: Prof. Pete Hollingsworth, Gill Perkins, Dr Richard Comont, Sally Cuckney (doing fabulous work Pollinating the Peak), Helen Dickinson, Dr Kate Ashbrook, Sinead Lynch, Lucy Witter, Hope Moran, Steven Falk, Judith Conroy (check out their fabulous Blooms for Bees app) and Stuart Roberts. Particularly inspiring were the young student speakers. Hope for the future!

Whether I was inspiring or not is not for me to say. However, I can say that my poetic interlude provided a slight change in tone. Here’s a snippet of what I got up to:

That poem is from my Buzzing! book, that the Bumblebee Conservation Trust wrote the Foreword to. As is this poem, too (though replace the word ‘hive’ with ‘nest’ – a slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment):

Thank you to award-winning BBCT volunteer Dylan for manning my camcorder for these clips. And to Gill for joining in the show.

So, go forth and join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (who, incidentally, wrote the Foreword to my book Buzzing!) They are doing vitally important work – and they want you to join in with it. Your life will be enriched as a result!

Oh, and if you’d like me to come and perform at your AGM (I have form when it comes to AGMs …) or other event, then just get in touch!

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life


Wildlife Wonders of 2014

So, as we head towards the end of January 2015, it’s high time I looked back over the wildlife wonders of 2014 here in my little garden in Heslington, on the outskirts of York. As ever, there were plenty of wildlife surprises over the course of the year. Here, in chronological order, are some of the highlights.

In May, Tree bumblebees took to nesting in our bird nest box, for the first time ever. As if it wasn’t amazing enough to see bumblebees trooping in and out of our bird box, instead of the usual Blue tits, we then witnessed an extraordinary sight: Tree bumblebee airconditioning. Which I wrote about here:

Moving away from the buzzing of bees, do you happen to know what this sound is:

The astute amongst you may have guessed that what you were listening to was courting hedgehogs. On several nights in July we had a pair of hedgehogs wandering – warily – round and round and round each other in circles, making a noise that explains where they get the name ‘hogs’ from! This courting goes on for quite some time.

Courting Hedgehogs, 11 July 2014

Courting hedgehogs, 11 July 2014

We’ve been lucky enough to have hedgehog couples come to our garden for their amorous ‘getting to know you’ routine before, and it was great to see them back here in 2014.

I’m pleased to report that come June, for the ninth year running we had my world-first insect discovery, Berberis sawfly larvae, in our Berberis.

Newly hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, 24 June 2014

Newly hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, 24 June 2014

On the moth front, the highlight was undoubtedly the appearance of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth on our honeysuckle in late September. With the added bonus that I managed to get my camera out and the settings sorted in time to take this photo.

Hummingbird hawkmoth on our honeysuckle, 24 September 2014

Hummingbird Hawkmoth on our honeysuckle, 24 September 2014

It’s not brilliant, but it’s my best Hummingbird Hawkmoth  photo yet – and a distinct improvement on the ‘blur at a fleur’ pix of said moth that I’ve managed on the two previous occasions I’ve seen this beauty in our garden. (Yes, a grand total of 3 sightings in 18 years!)

You can find out more about the Hummingbird Hawkmoth in my Buzzing! book.

Our Memorable Amphibian Incident of 2014 happened late in the year when I found a frog in the dining room. (Tricky things to catch, leaping frogs. But I did eventually manage to escort it off the premises.)

And finally … staying indoors, I noticed a speck of dirt on our living room carpet in early November. I was making a mental note to sweep it up at some point, when it jumped. Now, I’m no physicist, but I’m pretty certain specks of dirt don’t jump.

So, out came the camera, and when I zoomed in on the photo, I saw that far from being a speck of dirt, it was in fact an insect. The same insect I had mistaken for a speck of soil outside on our patio the week before.

Yorkshire Orthoptera Recorder Dr Dave Chesmore confirmed it as a Slender groundhopper (Tetrix subulata):

“It is a species that has been really under recorded,” he said.

I’m not surprised – it’s tiny!

Slender groundhopper - just 1cm long.

Slender groundhopper – just 1cm long.

This is the first indoor record Dave has of a Slender groundhopper. Moral of the tale: don’t be too assiduous in your hoovering. It may be you are in the presence of an important biological specimen that needs recording! (And then releasing into the outdoors before you continue with your housework.)

So, that’s a brief rundown of the best of 2014. What wildlife wonders will 2015 bring to Heslington? Who knows. However, the year has started well, with a visit from a Lesser Redpoll – a bird I’ve only ever seen once or twice here before. An excellent start to my BTO Garden Birdwatch year.

Lesser Redpoll on our sunflower seeds, 16 January 2015

Lesser Redpoll on our sunflower seeds, 16 January 2015

I wish you a 2015 filled with wildlife wonders, wherever you may be. And don’t forget to let the relevant recording organisations know what you’ve seen. There’s a list of  who to tell about what at my website.

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life





Sisters are doing it for themselves

You may recall we have Tree bumblebees nesting in the birdbox in our garden. A couple of weeks ago I noticed something strange going on there. My husband thought he might know what it was. I ran his idea past the ever wonderful Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and they confirmed he was correct. (Of course!)

What was going on? All is revealed in this video.

Be warned: Maria Callas I am not! Oh, and I’m no Steven Spielberg either! But enjoy, nevertheless …

If you want to know more about Tree bumblebees, you can listen to me perform a poem about one particular such bee (on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour) here.

And you can see me perform a couple more of my bumblebee poems here.

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing Poetry to Life


Nesting 2014-style

Like many people, we have a nest box in our garden. (Thank you, Kevin!) Usually at this time of year, this is what we see there:

Blue tit in our nest box

Yes, every year a pair of blue tits nest in the box, and we take great pleasure watching them zoom in and out, in and out, in and out …

Blue tit in our nest box, 2010

Blue tit nesting in our nest box

However, this year we have something a little different zooming in and out, in and out, in and out. Can you spot what it is?

15-05-tree-bee-cr-5184-wHere’s a close-up to help:

14-05-tree-bee-cr-2-5184-wCan you see? It’s a bumblebee. A Tree bumblebee! And we currently have Tree bumblebees zooming in and out, in and out of our nest box, laden with pollen:

A Tree bumblebee laden with pollen going into our nestbox - now her nest!

A Tree bumblebee laden with pollen going into our nestbox – now her nest!

How exciting! Tree bumblebees only arrived in Britain in 2001 and were first recorded in my home town of York in 2009. (A Tree bumblebee by the name of ‘Madame Honfleur’ features in my Buzzing! book. You can hear me performing ‘Madame Honfleur’ on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour here.)

The very wonderful Bumblebee Conservation Trust says that Tree bumblebees sometimes nest in birds’ nest boxes, but I’d never seen this for myself. And now I have!

Here’s what they look like in action. Tip: Blink and you’ll miss them! (Other tip: don’t get your hopes up for great works of art when it comes to my wildlife videos!)

As I was watching the Tree bumblebees go in and out of the nest box the other day, I noticed that there were some other bees buzzing around nearby. I took a closer look and saw that there was a small circular hole in the mortar to the right of the nest box. Can you see it?

14-3.5.14--nest-box-and-hole-cr_Here’s what it looks like close up:

14-3.5.14-Mason-bee-hole-5202-wAnd here’s what was going in and out of that hole:

I think these are Red Mason Bees (Osmia rufa). The Red Mason Bee is so-called because, as my Collins Complete British Insects reliably informs me, ‘of its liking for the mortar of old walls. It rakes out the mortar and constructs its nest cells in the cavity before rendering it over again.’

And talking of rendering … when I went to look at the hole four days later, it had disappeared:

Red Mason Bee nest hole rendered over, 6 May 2014

Red Mason Bee nest hole rendered over, 6 May 2014

You would barely have known it was there!

Spot the Mason bee nest hole ...

Spot the Mason Bee nest hole …

Apparently Red Mason Bees are very common in gardens, so look out where you are and see if you have any nest holes. Tree bumblebees nesting in bird boxes are probably a little less common – but keep an eye out for them nevertheless. They are a beautiful sight!

If you want to know more about bumblebee nests (from how to attract bumblebees to nest, to what to do if you find a bumblebee nest) the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is the place to go!

Tree Bumblebee in our garden, May 2014

Tree bumblebee in our garden, May 2014

STOP PRESS: Find out what the Tree bumblebees did next here. (It’s amazing!)

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life


Bee happy!

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust‘s Buzzword newsletter arrived today, and I was delighted to read the first article, all about the Bees for Everyone launches I took part in in May. Turns out they thought the poem I wrote for them, and performed with local schoolchildren, ‘stole the show’ in London and was ‘show stopping’ in Edinburgh too!  Take a read below (or as a pdf):

Bumblebee Conservation Trust's Summer 2012 Newsletter

Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s Summer 2012 Newsletter

Well, that’s very good to hear! Especially on the day I saw a huge (and gorgeous) Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) queen on the lavender in my garden. At least I think it’s a queen . I’ll upload it to the BBCT’s BeeWatch scheme and double check! (Meanwhile, you can find out more about Tree bumblebees  here.)

Tree bumblebee queen in my garden in York, 27 July 2012. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean, www.theBigBuzz.biz

Tree bumblebee queen in my garden in York, 27 July 2012. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean, http://www.theBigBuzz.biz

Check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s website for how you can Bee Kind in your garden, and for how to submit photos of the bumblebees you see to their BeeWatch survey.

Oh, and if you’d like a poem writing and performing for your event, get in touch!

P.S. I’ve just heard back from the BeeWatch people, who tell me: ‘it is difficult to separate queens from large workers as there is an overlap. All I can say is that it is possible to be a queen because of the time of year. It is the end of their season.’

Anneliese Emmans Deanwww.theBigBuzz.biz

Brand New Bumblebee!

“Ooo,” emailed Professor Dave Goulson of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, when I sent him a photo of the unusual bee that had just landed on our patio on Friday (26 March).

”Exciting. This is Bombus hypnorum (invaded UK from France in 2001).”

Exciting indeed! And this is what Bombus hypnorum (the Tree Bee) looks like:

Bombus hypnorum (Tree bumblebee), York, March 2010, by Anneliese Emmans Dean

Bombus hypnorum Queen (Tree Bumblebee), York, March 2010, by Anneliese Emmans Dean

Isn’t she gorgeous?

The Tree Bumblebee was first spotted here in York last year – but I didn’t see it then. However, my sighting is the first one recorded in York in 2010! You can see a full distribution map for the UK at the BWARS website (i.e. the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society).

Needless to say, I have written a poem about this Tree Bumblebee, so she will soon be appearing in a Buzzing! show near you! Perhaps we’ll include it in our Edinburgh Fringe Buzzing! shows at the Royal Botanic Garden in August …

[STOP PRESS: Since originally writing this post, I have performed ‘Madame Honfleur’, my poem about the Tree Bumblebee, on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. Listen to the poem]

Do you have Tree Bumblebees where you are? Look out for a ginger thorax and a white tail. There are more ID tips here.

According to Stuart Roberts of BWARS, you are most likely to see the Tree Bumblebee  ‘from mid-May to late June when the colonies are reaching maturity’. A top tip is to keep an eye on your bird boxes, as it seems that Tree Bees like to nest in them!

If you think you see a Tree bumblebee, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust wants to know! Email news of your sightings, and your photos, to them at: treebee@bumblebeeconservation.org

Happy Bumblebee Hunting!

Meanwhile, my thanks to Prof. Dave Goulson of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and to Stuart Roberts of BWARS for their assistance.

STOP PRESS: Tree bumblebees went on to nest in my garden. Find out more about that here.

Anneliese Emmans Deaninfo@theBigBuzz.bizwww.theBigBuzz.biz