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Yesterday evening it stopped raining, the sky cleared, and the night was misty and bitterly cold. Today was still cold, and mainly cloudy, but occasionally the sun did emerge, and at lunch time I thought it might be worth taking a bug walk. Checking the thermometer before risking opening the door, I realised that jeans and boots with a flannel shirt and a fleece were not going to cut it, so I added a huge furry jumper, and sallied forth looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

There were no bugs. At all. I searched the garden, and couldn’t find so much as a honey bee. I was obviously going to have to venture further.

I did what we call the short half of the village, which is a walk of no more than about 1/3 of a mile, and by the end of it my teeth were hurting and I couldn’t feel the ends of my fingers. I found some flies, and some blossom, and at one point something large enough to be a bee flew straight at me and bounced off my head, but I wasn’t getting any decent photos and was becoming frustrated as well as cold. I was walking fast and grumpily down the home straight towards a cup of tea when I heard faint buzzing, and saw that in the couple of days since I last checked, the nettles on the verge opposite the house have come into flower, and were hosting all the bees I’d just spent an hour looking for:

2 Bombus pratorum (Early Bumblebees)
6 Anthophora plumipes (Hairy-footed Flower Bees)
1 Bombus pascuorum – my first Common Carder of the year, and therefore very exciting. (I know – it really is sad. And yes, I did do a little dance.)

Having finally scored some records I felt that I could quit while I was ahead and get back into the warm; but then, while I was waiting for the kettle to boil, I decided to nip out again to take a dead plant to the compost heap, and walked into the secret garden to find several Tree Bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) attacking the blossom (if you can call it that) on the gooseberry bush. Which is what you have here – not perfectly focused, but my favourite shot of the day. There’s something cartoonish about this species – they look sort of round-shouldered, and a bit moody, and the queens are really quite big to be doing this flying malarkey on such small wings; overall the picture just seems a bit improbable, and I think that’s why I like it.