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

Advertisements

AGM – with attitude!

Let’s face it, an AGM can be a little … lacking in pizzazz. However worthy the organisation. And Edible York, the organisation holding its AGM last night, is a *very* worthy organisation. It’s a ‘lively local charity that aims to support people to become closer to the food they eat’. Take a look at what they get up to here.

To counter the ‘lack-of-pizzazz’-ness of the evening, Edible York invited me to come and perform for them, after the formalities of the agenda were over. So I did just that. A set of poems all about what they get up to, which is growing fruit and veg.

Entertaining at the Edible York AGM

Entertaining at the Edible York AGM

How did it go down? Here’s what one  attendee tweeted afterwards:

‘Spectacular performance poetry this eve from the ever effervescent Anneliese’

Edu-taining at the Edible York AGM

Where would we be without bumblebees? Edu-taining at the Edible York AGM

And another comment:

‘I loved the way you tied everything together with merry words and buzzing characterisations. It made our AGM such a happy, memorable event!!’

Adding to the festive atmosphere was Tim Pheby playing and singing some beautiful songs (and updating us on the England v Slovakia game).

An excellent way to spend a June evening.

If you dig digging, then Edible York are always looking for new volunteers! They’ve recently produced an excellent ‘Guide to Community Growing‘ which you might find inspires you further. You can download a copy here.

And finally … if you’d me to come and pep up your AGM, then get in touch!

Anneliese Emmans DeanBringing poetry to life – theBigBuzz.biz

 

Buzzing! goes paperback

In the beginning there was the hardback version of my book Buzzing! It was nominated for the Carnegie Medalshortlisted for the Royal Society Young People’s book prize and selected as a National Insect Week recommended children’s book and teachers’ resource.

That edition sold out.

Then came the hardback reprint. Just in time for the Hay Festival.

And now, just in time for World Book Day, comes the paperback edition of Buzzing!

Cover of my book Buzzing!

Cover of my paperback book Buzzing!

Just as colourful. Just as funny. Just as educational. But lighter – in your hand, and on your wallet. (Just £9.99 instead of the hardback £14.99.)

To celebrate the paperback launch, for the next two weeks (till 15 March 2015) I’m donating 50p for each book ordered on my website to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (registered charity 1115634 & SCO42830), who wrote the Foreword to the book. (And who do sterling work for bumblebees and, therefore, for us all!)

Order your signed paperback copy of Buzzing! – with free UK p&p – here!

And if you’d like me to dedicate your copy to someone, just let me know their name when you place your order.

Anneliese Emmans Deanwww.theBigBuzz.biz – 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

 

Feed them bees!

Although it’s now the beginning of November, on sunny days you may well still see some Queen bumblebees out in your garden, feeding away. They are certainly out and about here in York:

Queen Buff-tailed bumblebee feeding on Mahonia here in York, 29 October 2013

Queen Buff-tailed bumblebee feeding on Mahonia here in York, 29 October 2013. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean

These Queen bumblebees need to build up energy stores to see them through their upcoming hibernation. And in many areas it’s up to us to provide them with flowers to do this! In fact, it’s up to us all to provide as many bumblebee-friendly flowers in our gardens as we can all year round. Why? Well, check out this video:

So, have you got flowers blooming in your garden now? Have you got bumblebee-friendly flowers in bloom right through the bumblebee year? How bee-friendly is your garden? To find out, try out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s simple online Bee Kind tool.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust's Bee Kind toolIt will help you create a fabulous bee-friendly garden all year round.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust's online Bee Kind tool

What do we want?
Lots more flowers!
When do we want them?
Now!

Anneliese Emmans Deanwww.theBigBuzz.biz – Bringing poetry to life