Byline: WITH LYNNE ALLBUTT
BEE AWARE I am sure there are less honey bees around this year.
I've seen more bumble bees than usual, but definitely less honey bees, and most of the ones I have seen have been foraging on my brother's flower-laden cotoneaster hedge.
I lost two colonies during the winter but have gained a colony that moved into an empty hive a few weeks ago.
I am no longer a bee keeper, just a bee landlady!
One of the important things for bees - and butterflies - during this hot weather, is to provide water for them.
They can't drink from deep water, as the surface tension won't hold them so unfortunately they'll often drown, and during hot weather the shallow puddles and muddy bogs that they use quickly dry up.
I have always made little "drinking holes" for them out of an upturned dustbin lid sunk in the ground and filled with water, stones, leaves and twigs for them to land on to drink, and you can make smaller versions by using a drip saucer from a flowerpot or even just a saucer from a cup and saucer, as long as you keep topping up the water.
A shallow container of wet compost works well too; they can sink their proboscis into the compost to get their water, whilst having a secure footing, but it obviously has to be very wet to work! Think of it like a Slush Puppy for bees!
More recently I was told about another clever method of providing water for them too.
Fill a dish with glass marbles and then top up with water, and the bees will drink whilst standing on the marbles - it's a little more upmarket than a muddy dish too!
It all makes for brilliant entertainment, if you put the dish in a suitable, safe place you will soon be able to watch the bees and butterflies come to drink - I think it is the insect equivalent of a bird feeder, and with less hassle from squirrels.
FREE SEED I don't think I can recall such a prolific year for blossom - on virtually everything! After a late spring, plants and trees are keen to catch up and be able to go to seed as soon as possible. That means whilst the blossom is bigger and better than ever, I think it is also probably shorter lived. There are a lot of things going to seed in my borders already (and I don't mean me). Don't forget that often, this means free seeds. I have been busy collecting the seeds from aquilegias (Granny Bonnets), Forget Me Nots, Red Valerian and Honesty and scattering them liberally though other borders and in wilder areas, and will continue to do the same as other plants go to seed. It is a great way of bulking out cottage garden style borders or re-wilding areas of your garden. As the saying goes, "Sow with faith and don't dig up in doubt!' Find out more about Lynne at www.lynneallbutt.co.uk