While Rosebud Preserves are supporting the bumblebees through donations from their Blackberry & Sloe Gin Jam, Midsummer Jam and Tomato & Chilli Jam, the bumblebees are supporting them right back!
Anyone who has taken a stroll along a hedgerow during the spring and summer months will have heard the buzz of bumblebees moving from flower to flower collecting nectar and pollen, and performing a service essential for so many of our fruits and vegetables – pollination.
Starting in spring, one of the first UK trees to blossom is hawthorn. These flowers are a brilliant source of energy for queen bumblebees emerging from their winter hibernation, and go on to produce a fruit that has become a gin staple, the sloe.
Close on the heels of the hawthorn, Rosemary bushes start to flower and along with many of our culinary garden herbs will always receive plenty of attention from bumblebees! The Red-tailed bumblebee, one of the ‘Big 7’ widespread and abundant species, can be seen topping up her energy on Rosemary bushes. A full ‘tank’ of nectar will only keep a bumblebee flying for up to 45 minutes.
Moving into early summer bumblebee workers visit the white blooms of tangled bramble bushes, paving the way for an abundant crop of blackberries in late summer and autumn. These hedgerow fruits are not only tasty kitchen ingredients, but also provide sustenance for birds and small mammals.
Strawberries, raspberries and other soft fruits have long been a symbol of summer (think Wimbledon!) An increasing number of studies show that strawberry, currant and raspberry flowers pollinated by the humble bumblebee produce better quality fruit, and boosts the abundance and yield because their furry bodies transfer more pollen between the plants than other pollinators.
Those with greenhouses will have almost certainly tried their hand at growing tomatoes and chilli plants. Did you know that in the UK, bumblebees are the only insect capable of pollinating tomato and chilli plants? Using ‘buzz pollination’ a bumblebee will curl its body around the flower and vibrate its flight muscles at precisely the right frequency the flower needs to give up its pollen and which is then transferred to neighbouring plants on the bumblebee’s bodies. And you can’t fail to hear the distinctive, high-pitched buzz of a bumblebee doing buzz pollination!