Spring and summer are a great time of year to get outside looking for bumblebees.
Queen bumblebees spend the winter asleep in little burrows. In the spring, she emerges and starts to look for food to build up her reserves from a winter of not eating! Once she is ready she starts looking for a nesting site. This could be in some long grass, a hedgerow bank or even an old mouse hole. Once she is happy with her chosen site she starts to collect pollen which she makes into a “Bee Bread” by mixing it with nectar. She lays some eggs in her nest and once the little grubs hatch they feed on the bee bread.
Once the grubs are big enough they will pupate (just like a caterpillar) and soon new worker bees will emerge. The queen now stays in nest laying eggs, while the workers do all the work of collecting the pollen and looking after the young.
In early summer, it is often the workers you see feeding on flowers. Sometimes you will see a queen. These tend to be much bigger.
Look out for the full pollen baskets on the back legs of the bees. The one below is very full!
Later in the summer new males and queens will emerge from the nests. They will mate. The new queens will feed and build up their reserves before they hibernate and start the whole cycle all over again.
Bumblebeekids by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has some great activity sheets for a range of age groups.
Bee Scene – a great activity for older children developed by Wildaboutplants.org
What are Lichens? Lichens are made up of two things. Firstly a fungus and secondly an algae or cyanobacteria. The relationship the organisms have is called symbiosis. In other words, they help each other, a type of partnership. Fungi can’t photosynthesize, that is, make their own food from sunlight but the algae or cyanobacteria can. The fungus is the dominant partner in the relationship and gives the lichens it’s form and structure. And collects water. Lichens can be found growing in all kinds of harsh climates where other organism would not survive (e.g. desserts and the Arctic).
On the photo above see if you can spot three different lichens?
Lichens come in all shapes and sizes and can be found growing on rocks, trees, deadwood, and on the ground.
For more information
Kids Britannia here.
Mosses, ferns and Lichens (Wildlife Trust UK)
Did you know –
A bumblebee can travel up to 6km daily to visit flowers – this is the equivalent of a person walking around the globe 10 times to get to the shops!
So why not consider growing some bee friendly flowers in your garden this year, to help these exquisite bees find enough energy to complete these amazing journeys!
Bumblebee on dandelion
For more information on bumblebees and some great activities check out the following link:
It’s the time of year we often think of reindeer, but how much do we really know about these animals?
Reindeer (their Latin name is Rangifer tarandus) live in areas far north. In North America they are called caribou. They are well adapted to living in cold, harsh climates having a thick coat which is woolly and warm underneath and with hairs above that trap a layer of insulating air. They have large flat hooves which are good for walking on snow, but equally good at walking on soft ground.
Reindeer have big antlers which grow new each year. The males have the biggest antlers while the females have smaller simpler ones.
Reindeer like to stick together and so live in herds. They often migrate over large distances, moving south as areas get colder during the winter; and North again when spring arrives.
For more information about reindeer check out:
National Geographic Kids
For crafts and pictures:
Here are some reindeer crafts
Reindeer colouring sheet or click here for a realistic picture to colour
Cool reindeer paper-chain
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and fun filled festive season
The success of the school garden is something I feel proud off. The garden is not big and our achievements are as yet small, but I feel the value the children get from learning how to grow food, or just learning that from a small seed a pumpkin grows, is huge.
Last week we harvested some of our crop and I made a big saucepan of soup, which some (though admittedly not all) the children enjoyed!
In total, we have seven pumpkins; some lovely fresh kale (though the caterpillars from the adjoining broccoli plant are just moving across), leeks, onions, beans, carrots, parsnip (they never got thinned so many are very thin!) and parsley.
For me the greatest value is seeing how much the children enjoy being in the garden; whether it is just the small ones relishing in digging holes, or some of the older ones remembering that “I planted those pumpkins and those beans” and now they are harvesting the rewards.
We had a wonderful day of learning at our local nature school today. Woods are wonderful places to visit with children. This wood is a native woodland, being managed by traditional means such as coppicing. Bernard and Zane run many courses here including forest schools, wild foraging, school visits and woodland management courses. Today’s “Wonder of the Woods” day was a family day.
Coppiced hazel rods
We were there to help talk about the wonderful diverse wildlife from birds, insects to woodland flora.
Lords and Ladies
Devils’ coach horse beetle
The kids enjoyed running about, climbing, building shelters, making charcoal pencils, and leaf rubbings.
Afterwards we enjoyed sausages cooked on an open fire, and for dessert toasted marshmallows! A perfect end to a great day. And a big thank you to Bernard and Zane and all their family.
Do you like colouring?
Here are some wonderful bee pictures from a very talent blogger at standingoutinmyfield you can colour in.
For more lovey drawings check out the standingoutinmyfield website
Going to the beach in the summer is one of our favourite family activities. This year we have really got into our sandcastle building. It’s a great way to get creative! Use whatever is lying around – sand, stones, feathers, seashells, even seaweed.
Think of the sand as a giant canvas ready for drawing pictures and making patterns. If there is no sand use rocks, shells and stones.
There is lots to see. Rock pools can be great places to explore. Look out for little fish, shellfish, hermit crabs and anemones. If you find a crab look out for those sharp pincers because even though they are small they are not afraid to use them. Jellyfish sometimes get washed up, but be careful some can sting.
Crab in water
anenomes and periwinkles
Periwinkles in rockpool
Jellyfish – caution some can sting
Now that the school holidays are here we are having a break from the School Garden Club but I just wanted to update you on our progress. Before we finished we harvested our first crops of lettuce, radish and mange tout peas.
The children also made some insect boxes to compliment the bird boxes that had already been made and put up. The fruit trees that had been planted were flowering and had also some developing fruit.
The children planted out runner beans and pumpkin plants and also some more seeds. The flower garden is beginning to look more colourful, but everything is still a “work in progress”.