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Evening Observation

Updated on October 13, 2013
Nothing to do with this hub.... just loved the scent.  Can you imagine it?
Nothing to do with this hub.... just loved the scent. Can you imagine it?

Scotch Thistle Cut-back

Late this afternoon, I was cutting back the tall Scotch Thistle plants which have sprung up on recently disturbed ground. I've watched them grow, not in hurry to cut until they have put much of their effort into producing long, tall, healthy stems and leaves.

Then the buds start coming. Just on the crown heads first, then some of the laterals. It's just as the buds open into that beautiful purple floret that I like to cut back, using hand shears. I chop the heads off first, then gradually cut down the stems into small pieces, so that any buds just opening don't have enough nutrients in the cut stems and leaves to produce seeds. They will send up small stems from the roots soon, and in a last-ditch effort to reproduce, will form small flowers towards the end of summer. Hopefully these will not be fertilised and make viable seeds.

Scotch Thistle The flowers were much more pink than the photo conveys.
Scotch Thistle The flowers were much more pink than the photo conveys.

Photo Techique

It was evening and the light level quite low, only just in time to get a reasonable picture.

HTC Wildfire Smart Phone, about 2 years old. Obviously there was a relatively long exposure time which amplified my slight camera-shake. The evening light has little red in it, so the flowers appear much more blue than their natural purple.


During the afternoon, I had cut back most of the thistles. However, there were numerous Bumble Bees flying around and supping nectar from the thistle flower heads.

Bumble Bees are not native to Tasmania. There seem to be few natural predators, and they have proliferated. Thistles are one of their favourites and the thistles obviously appreciate their attention! Even though the Bumble Bees can be seen as something of a pest, I still think they are busy little things, entitled to their short lives and a little enjoyment of their mealtimes. So, I left one plant uncut until evening, thinking that would allow the bees to go off home in due course.

At least 3 of the little critters didn't think so! They were still there on my return.

Bedtime for Bumble Bees
Bedtime for Bumble Bees

What do I do now?

Three Bumble Bees had gone to sleep on the flower heads. The air temperature was decidely getting cold. This is mid-summer here in Tasmania. I am 450 metres (almost 1500ft) elevation, and it can get cold at any time of the year. The latitude here is about 45 degrees south.

I have decided to wait until tomorrow when the warming temperature will wake the bees up and they can go off somewhere else for breakfast. Then I will cut the plant down.

Early Morning Post Script

At about 6.30am I went and had a look - there were still the three original Bumble Bees there, totally dormant. The air temperature was 59F (14C).

One hour later, the temperature had dropped to 50F (10C) and one of the bees was wearily trying to gather just a little nectar from the flower head, damp from the morning dew.

I had to leave then, and presume they took flight when the temperature was somewhere near to 70F (21C). Will check again tonight and tomorrow. Later in the day I counted 8 bees all congregating on those few flowers.


Around 7.00am
Around 7.00am
Bee blurred because of slight movement
Bee blurred because of slight movement

Calling other opinions

Has anyone else seen this behavior of Bumble Bees?


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 22 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      great piece. Well-written and wonderful graphics. Please continue to share hubs of this peaceful-and-needed materials.


    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 3 years ago from Tasmania

      Thanks for dropping by, Askformore lm.

    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 3 years ago

      I love your hub and photos!

      I have thistles in my garden, but no bumblebees, only wasps and bees. I would prefer the more friendly bumblebee.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 5 years ago from Tasmania

      I am touched, moonfroth, thank you so much. Writing this whilst watching a TV program about the huge telescopes looking out into space..... searching for black holes, no less!

      We live in a most wonderous, mysterious, awesome world. If I can point in just a tiny, tiny direction and open someone's eyes, I am humbled.

      Do let me see your poem.

    • profile image

      moonfroth 5 years ago

      I'm proud of you! You've reached a place where permitting bumble bees to sleep undisturbed is important! That strikes me as profound and enlightened-- and a poem is building itself around those lines even as I tap these. You're such a gracious man, Jonny, to write the lovely vignettes you often do about subjects that most of us barely glance at, much less see the value of. Thank you.

    • jonnycomelately profile image

      Alan 5 years ago from Tasmania

      I see where you are coming from.... yes and no.... depending on one's priorities I suppose.

      They only invade disturbed ground mostly, and once the native vegetation has grown back, the thistles don't get a hold.

      However, if I let them seed, they will proliferate my open area and go on for years. They do send down a tap root which helps to bring up nutrients from deeper down. And the thistle can be chopped up and put into compost if cut green and lush. Once the stems have gone woody the compost heap is not the place for them

      I have seen a sheep tackle a scotch thistle. As you probably know, this is a very tough, thorny plant (nothing like the Scots themselves, wink wink), and you might think the sheep could not cope with it.

      I watched the sheep put her tongue down under the lowest leaf close to the ground. She carefully worked the leaf upwards, bit it off close to the main stem, then chewed the entire leaf back into her mouth, with the spikes pointing outwards. Clever and resourceful!

      I don't get paranoid over these thistles. If some get away from me, so be it.

    • RBJ33 profile image

      RBJ33 5 years ago

      Why do you cut them down? Are they harmful?