Monday, June 1, 2009

In Clover









It’s a shame that computers can’t convey smells digitally, because when I stood in the middle of this large patch of white clover in the mid-day heat the smell was simply wonderful. Just like the aroma of a newly-opened jar of warm honey. The whole area – a large patch of waste ground that was reseeded with a clover/rye grass mix last spring – hummed with honeybees and bumblebees, moving from flower to flower. Surely one of the best ways to support our ailing bee population would be to sow clover wherever land of any kind is lying fallow? White clover Trifolium repens has a neat way to ensure it gets the maximum labour out of its bee workforce. As soon as the flowers have been pollinated they begin to flush pink, and then the bees ignore then, concentrating instead on newly-open, nectar-laden flowers. Meanwhile, after half a day the flower stalks of pollinated flowers bend downwards, out of the way of the visiting bees. You can see the difference between a newly-open flower head (left) and one that’s been open for about a day (right) in the top photograph.

10 comments:

  1. I never knew that, about the 'bending' clover Phil. Always so much to learn.
    The bees certainly have a liking for it, can always find them where there's clover.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful photos, Phil. These common plants are easily overlooked, but not by you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Seeing this entry Phil made me think how little clover I see these days where it used to be such a common flower in the countryside.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I din't know that either. What an interesting post. Great photos too.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Keith, when our kids were little we used to have a lot of white clover in our lawn and had to warn them to watch their step when they were running around in bare feet because it attracted so many bees.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks Dean,One the the interesting aspects of this clover patch is how quickly it has established itself and produced this wonderful food resource for bees - less than two years. I shows what a bit of bee-friendly seeding can do..........

    ReplyDelete
  7. Planting clover seems to have gone out of fashion, doesn't it John? Organic growers recognise its worth, for its ability to add nitrogen to the soil and boost yields of following crops, but it seems there's not much call for it in modern intensive agriculture.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks Toffeeapple, flowers are amazingly good at manipulating pollinators to their best advantage.........but I guess with 130 million years of practice it's inevitable!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Phil
    An interesting continuation of the theme (in your earlier post on horse chestnut and our exchange on my blog about gorse) of visual clues that bees can pick up to avoid wasting effort going to flowers that have already been visited. Is this the flower manipulating the pollinator or the pollinator being smart enough to read the flower? Both flower and pollinator benefit so maybe its a bit of both.

    There's another angle on this in an article in the June BBC Wildlife magazine which says that bumblebees also increase their foraging efficiency by using scent clues left on the petals by the smelly feet of the bee that got there first!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Nyctalus, I must check that out...haven't read it yet. I do recall reading a few years ago that bumblebees and honeybees scent mark flowers that they've visited so that other bees in the colony/hive don't bother to visit their 'empties' - by the time the scent wears off the flowers have secreted a fresh supply of nectar.

    ReplyDelete