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Eden buzzing with bees, plant-friendly flies and freaky flowerings as second spring lingers in the great outdoors

Very mild weather as autumn turns to winter is seeing an unseasonal abundance of flowers and the buzz of pollinators in the outdoor gardens at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Second Spring

Second spring Eden Project

Second Spring

Bumble bees, honey bees and hover flies – which mimic bees and wasps – are among the friendly insects hard at work hunting nectar and pollen in flowers that are lingering longer due to the higher-than-average temperatures.

Florence Mansbridge, living landscape educator, whose area at Eden includes the stunning South Africa Veld and Mediterranean Outdoors exhibits on the slopes of the former china clay pit, said that she and her fellow horticulturists are closely observing what has been labelled a remarkable “second spring” due to the warm weather.

Florence said: “There is much more insect activity than you’d expect at this time of year. There are more bumble bees and our own black honey bees, which live in hives around the garden, are also hard at work taking nectar from late-flowering South African heathers. 

“We are seeing several different species of hover flies which you can easily mistake for a wasp or bee.  They are helpful insects, being important pollinators, and their larvae chomp up aphids which would otherwise damage the plants.”

Among the spectacular flowerings are swathes of Euryops, bright yellow blooms which are members of the sunflower family, as well as a delicately-flowered golden butterfly bush Buddleja auriculata, which also originates in the veld.

Buds are forming on a spectacular range of Proteas – signature plants from South Africa, a country now turning from spring to summer.  Cornwall’s generally mild climate and rarer frosts enable gardeners to grow Proteas and other South African staples in the outdoors.

Yellow-flowered fennel, a member of the carrot family, is adding extra colour to what would otherwise be a more sombre pre-Christmas scene.  In the orchard nearby, apple trees are producing blossoms again.

Florence said: “It has been a freaky autumn, with November temperatures around two degrees warmer than usual and buckets of rain.   Nectar on late flowering plants invites insects to fly around and builds them up before winter hibernation, giving them a better chance of surviving the cold months.”

Florence said that the unpredictable flowering patterns and pollinator activity underlined the importance of growing a wide range of flowers in the garden if possible: “Whilst it is enjoyable seeing plants bloom this time of year, it is worthwhile noting that for those flowering out of season, this could be using up their vital resources which could affect them in the long run.”

Pollinating insects are essential for healthy ecosystems but have been in dramatic decline over the last 40 years.

Create a Buzz, a pollinator project based at Eden and funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation, raises awareness of the plight of pollinators and helps pollinating insects and their habitats to thrive.