Bees scratching at damp compost

The bees are making their presence known again this year and forcing us to question what they’re doing and to learn from their behaviour. As is so often the case when looking at wildlife, I have a puzzle and a burning question in mind. A few weeks ago I potted up some rooted cuttings and some bulbs that I’d forgotten to plant out last autumn and the pots are standing together in a large tray outside. It has rained and the tray has water in it. There are pots of herbs, irises, Heucheras and ornamental Alliums all coming along nicely. The puzzle is that three of the Allium pots have bees visiting and scratching at the compost.

This has been happening every day for about a month now and none of the other pots appear to attract them, though all have the same compost and they receive the same amount of water. What are they doing?

Having watched the mycologist Paul Stamets talk about bees seeking out fungal mycelium for its sugary secretions, my guess is that these three pots contain mycelium. This probably means the compost is a bit damp for the bulbs but I’m loath to change that because I want to see what the bees do. Stamets says he first noticed bees scratching at compost when he grew Stropharia rugosoannulata and noticed bees coming to sip at the sugary droplets on the mycelium. Well, we can grow mushrooms here, too. They could grow in big tubs in the garden, or even in the bark mulched borders, and we could watch to see what the bees do.

4 thoughts on “Bees scratching at damp compost

  1. Would be interesting to find out which fungus has the sweetest secreting mycelium.

    Loveley article Miranda, always learn something new!

    1. That’s an interesting question, Eva! I’d like to know that myself and will try and find out. If I do, I’ll report back!

  2. I am intrigued as to the reason as well. I do really enjoy the information you share here. I always check back for new posts!

    1. Hi Laura, thank you for the kind words! Paul Stamets is sure they’re after fungal stuff but it would be good to know for certain. I shall keep watching them!

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