“All my articles and videos, available free, are funded by my teaching and sales of award winning bumblebee nest boxes, solitary bee boxes, and wormeries. Please help by spreading the word and forwarding this link to your friends and colleagues. http://nurturing-nature.co.uk Thank you” George Pilkington
Birds and berries need bees
The British Trust for Ornithology, (BTO) as part of their Garden Birdwatch scheme, are undertaking a new observational study called “Bird and Garden Berries Study”. They wish to increase their knowledge and understanding of how birds use garden berries and answer key questions to deliver better advice for people to plant the most fruitful berry producing plants for our garden bird visitors. My rowan tree had already been stripped bare by blackbirds by late August. I would like to take this study back a stage, to the pre berry stage, i.e. the flower!
Bumblebee pollinating a blackberry flower
Management or in this case, mismanagement has a huge effect on food availability for birds. These hedgerow plants may well have been pollinated by bees, but what good are they now?
Our native wild bees are quietly and efficiently pollinating garden and wild flowers, fruit, vegetables, as well as the wild fruits and berries in our hedgerows and trees, providing vital food resources for birds and other wildlife, work undertaken in the main unnoticed. For example, blackthorn sloes, are fed upon by robins, blackbirds, redwings, song thrushes, fieldfares, mistle thrushes, starlings, magpies and crows. They are pollinated by bumblebees, solitary bees and honey bees. It is known that bumblebees can forage early in the morning and at cooler temperatures than honey bees. Blackthorns tend to flower early in the year. I have seen them flower in February where I live and have seen bumblebee queens forage on them. This may be too early for many honeybees, finding it too cold to forage, staying in their hives to keep warm and feed on their honey store. Whereas bumblebees will forage as they have no stores of honey and need to replenish their fat reserves after hibernation. It is likely that bumblebees may well pollinate more blackthorn flowers than honey or solitary bees.
Berries eaten by birds
|Plant||Pollinated by||Berries eaten by|
|Blackthorn||Bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees, flies, butterflies, beetles||Robins, blackbirds, fieldfares, redwings, mistle and song thrushes, starlings, magpies, crows and sloe gin!!|
|Bramble||Bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees, flies, butterflies, beetles||Robins, blackbirds, song thrushes, garden warblers, blackcaps, lesser and common whitethroats, blue tits, greenfinches, bullfinches, moorhens, starlings, and us!|
|Dog Rose||Bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees, flies, beetles||Robins, blackbirds, song and mistle thrushes, fieldfares, redwings, blackcaps, blue tits, greenfinches, woodpigeons|
|Hawthorn||Bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees, flies, beetles||Robins, blackbirds, song and mistle thrushes, fieldfares, redwings, blackcaps, blue tits, starlings, woodpigeons, magpies, crows|
|Honeysucklespp.||Bumblebees, solitary bees, honey bees, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles, wasps||Robin, blackbird, song thrush, starling, blackcap, lesser whitethroat, bullfinch, blue tit, marsh tit|
|Ivy||Bumblebees, honey bees, wasps*and flies||Robins, blackbirds, song and mistle thrushes, fieldfares, redwings, blackcaps, greenfinches, starlings, woodpigeons|
Without bees, very few berries would be produced for birds and mammals.
Although some of the above species are true berry eaters, such as blackbirds, which digest the fruit pulp and disperse the seeds, others such as greenfinches are ‘seed predators’. I have seen them rip open dog rose hips, discarding the pulp to purely get at and eat the numerous seeds inside, thereby not distributing the seeds.
*Wasps, in terms of what use are they, (a question I am forever asked!), besides being efficient predators of many garden pests, recent research has found that wasps are extremely beneficial as pollinators of ivy, the berries of which provide food for birds, e.g. blackcaps, which use ivy berries as an important food resource.
You highly likely will have different species of wild bees already visiting your garden, busy pollinating your fruit, flowers, vegetables and yes wild flowers that help to make our gardens and countryside a beautiful place. If you feel that honey bee keeping is simply not for you, then consider looking after the wild bees and other pollinators that, themselves are also declining, by planting appropriate flowers and offering bumblebees and solitary bees a home, allowing you to observe the hidden world of wild bees.
Gardens as safe refuges could well help our wild bees, as they have done with many species of birds, particularly if we provide forage plants and do not use pesticides. So birdwatchers, as you avidly watch the influx of migrant birds, such as the beautiful wax wings, through your binoculars, just remember the work done by the bees earlier in the year!They have helped to provide berries for such birds as blackcaps, fieldfares,redwings and song thrushes!
The fruits,berries and seeds that have been pollinated by wild bees are then consumed by birds that then facilitate the dispersal of seeds away from the parent plants with the potential to germinate and create a new population of those plants to be pollinated by the bees for the birds!
For more information and to help save bumblebees join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust at Stirling University.