Red tailed bumblebee
White tailed bumblebee
This is this years red mason bees coming back into the solitary bee box to lay their eggs, complete with pollen and then sealed in with mud, incredible eh?!
Here are the leaf cutter cocoons (that laid in our solitary bee box here at the IWA in 2020!) put into the bottom of the solitary bee box, and one of them having hatched out of its cocoon, and feasting on some dandelion I put in for it, before releasing it! These ladies are really successful pollinators, kind of because they are really inefficient at gathering pollen from flowers, they pick it up on their tummies, and loads of it drops off, hence them being very good pollinators!!!
How incredible are their cocoons…
The garden is really starting to take off this year, it has been a slow, cold spring, but finally there is some heat and some growth! Here are some images of how the garden is currently looking…
Up at the pond I discovered this….dragonfly casings! I thought they were living dragonflies for a minute, but then it turned out they were the perfectly preserved hulls/casings left behind after metamorphosis had completed…what a transformation! Also delighted that the dragonflies are obviously hatching and staying in the pond, we had discovered dragonfly larvae before, so they are obviously completing their full life cycle here at the pond now! Pretty amazing for an 8ft x 4 ft body of water!
After a giant break in the middle of the current horticulture module, the class started this module in October 2020, and we only got back into the garden in April 2021!! we have now completed the module and the class has concluded for now. We achieved two really solid projects as part of the module, we put in an edible wildlife hedge in the biodiversity garden and a pollinator friendly herbaceous border in the butterfly garden. The wildlife fruiting hedge is at the bottom boundary of the biodiversity garden, boundarying onto the soft fruit area. We planted a range of plants from cobnut to blackthorn, to crab apple, bird cherry, Juneberry, autumn olive and black chokecherry, a mixture of native and non-native but all goof for wildlife and pollinators! In the original butterfly garden which was one of the first areas to be developed in the IWA Clane garden, we did a revamp on the beds that has gotten a bit overgrown, again we planted with a variety of plants that favour our native pollinators, the bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators!
The Wildlife Fruiting Hedge
The Pollinator friendly herbaceous border with centre bed
This spring 2021, through my own organisation Growing Wild, I ran a TY Programme through Kildare Leader Partnership, when the schools restarted after lockdown #3. The main programme was being run out of the Zero Waste Community Garden, Rathcoffey, but for a few weeks we were based out of the Biodiversity Garden in the IWA Clane. They also planted a small woodland in Scoil Bhride, the local primary school, while we were here! While we were based in the IWA Biodiversity Garden, we carried out a variety of activities such as: bug & pond dips, recording species to the NBDC, harvesting & cooking from the garden – we made nettle & wild garlic pesto, we harvested rhubarb form the site and made rhubarb crumble and custard on one of the days, and we made homemade pizzas over the fire on another day! We did the Ogham alphabet and the students learned basic knife and knife carving skills and made their own Ogham pendants. All in all, we had a wonderful few weeks at the IWA, and the diversity of wildlife was a superb setting for the spring-summer weather we had while there! We are aiming to run a summer TY programme out of the garden at the IWA, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
So, the red mason bee cocoons that I got from Rory Finnegan, head gardener at Castletown House have started to hatch and are already showing their presence in the solitary bee box in the IWA. I got the call from Rory to say his were starting to hatch so it was time to put the cocoons out (I had been minding them in my fridge at home!) and let them do their thing! Here’s hoping the weather doesn’t turn cold on them! I put the cocoons in with the TY group we had here at the centre!
In March 2021, I got a chance to take part in a session with Rory Finnegan, head gardener at Castletown House, we are linking in with him and his solitary bee conservation programme at Castletown House. We put up a solitary bee box in the IWA Biodiversity Garden in 2021, and we got some leaf cutter bee cocoons, but we had no idea how to look after them or how to extract them, so thankfully we got a lesson from the best! Rory was extremely generous with his time and spent time showing us how to extract, clean and store the solitary bee cocoons. The ones he was showing us are Red Mason Bees who are resident in the stone walls at Castletown House and in the solitary bee box Rory erected.
This is the solitary bee box with the rows of red mason bee cocoons, and Rory extracting them out, so we can store them and mind them, ie. protect them from predation before they hatch out in spring, Mason bees should start to hatch soon, whereas leaf cutters won’t hatch until June! The final image below is the cleaned red mason bee cocoons, with fully formed bees inside them!
Woohoo!! We got our first proper arrival of frog spawn this year. I put in some tadpoles to the pond in a bucket of bits from my dad’s pond around 2017-2018, and it has taken until this year (2021) for us to get a frog coming back to lay its spawn, I am assuming that it might take them this long to mature and come back to their home pond to spawn, but that is just my own supposition on this!!!
We had been planning on getting some living willow sculptures into the garden for a while now, and so last winter we got 2 giant living willow archway sin, and this spring they have started to bud and show life, and most especially, they were home to many honeybees flying around their early catkins, providing them with important early food, in early springtime! Happy days!!!