In Trelissick Garden near Truro, I came across a patch of these flowers Giant scabious (Cephalaria gigantea) which can grow to a whopping 2.5m so if you buy this plant then make sure it is at the back of the border.


What drew my attention to them wasn’t the actual flower, pretty as it is, with the pale yellow-green scabious-type flowers floating on top of the willowy stems, blowing in the wind. Apologies for the poor quality of the flowers, I was focusing on the bees and the sunlight was extremely bright in this area.


But the sheer number of bees swarming all over them. Nudging one another off in some places in their haste to drink the nectar.  Even standing on each other in their scrambling. As you can see they sink their proboscis deep into the flower. And plenty of bees knees and claws to be seen.

Many flowers are attractive to bees, with different types of bee varying in their particular preferences. In particular, long-tongued bumblebees such as Bombus hortorum tend to favour deep flowers, and of course short-tongued bumblebees such as Bombus terrestris/lucorum  prefer shallow flowers. The more you study bees, the more fascinating they are.

I am no bee expert, but these bees all had two-yellow bands and white tails so at first look I thought they could be white-tailed bumblebees (Bombus lucorum) or buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), but on a closer examination I realised they do not have pollen baskets so they are not collecting pollen and therefore must be all Male bees or perhaps some kind of Cuckoo bee. Hopefully a bee expert will come along and enlighten me!

the bees knees

25 thoughts on “the bees knees

    • I have never bothered about bees and wasps, and when you are busy trying to photograph them it is surprising how close you find yourself to them.

  1. I love that their Latin name is Bombus. Beautiful photos as ever. I tried to grow this plant from seed this year and failed miserably. I had one seed germinate!

  2. I am no bee expert but with that faint yellow stripe on the abdomen they may will be Gypsy Cuckoo Bumblebees (Bombus bohemicus). Very challenging to photo with the changing light and their movement, so lovely photos!

  3. What incredible shots, definitely the bees knees. Isn’t that a great saying, apparently arose as the same time as the cat’s pyjamas in the 1920s. A nonsensical saying which took off!

    • Bees knees are also near where they have the pollen baskets so may have arisen from that. Clever little bees as they sweep the pollen into their pockets 😊

      • I’ve just read that apparently it is a theory that came about after the phrase was created rather than the other way round . . . I like to think though it was behind its creation. Bees deserve recognition for their amazingness

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