June 21st was the longest day, so now the British can officially say every evening, “The nights are drawing in.” The third week of June was rather chilly and overcast most of the time, although we were treated to some fluffy cumulus clouds one morning.The foxgloves are fully flowering now.They are enticing bees with their hairy, spotty landing strips.I tried in vain to get a decent photo of the swifts as they circled and screamed above my head. This was the only shot I got out of many many photos of empty skies.The young magpie was more accommodating, still begging food from the same sized parent.Feathers were ruffled and there was embarrassment all round as the magpie interrupted the wood pigeon’s bath.We also have a dishful of juvenile starlings.Our regular hedgehog visitor is still regularly visiting, but there is no sign of any hoglets sadly. A few years ago the lawn was full of little hedgehogs running around my feet. The garden is very hedgehog friendly so their decline is clearly down to other environmental factors. There has been a new housing estate built nearby and climate change is affecting their hibernation habits meaning they wake when there is not sufficient natural food to support them.
The second week of June saw much of the UK basking in glorious sunshine. Flowers seem to be bursting into bloom and attracting a variety of insect life. The garden path is lined with frothy cow parsley (or a close relative).This seems to be popular with the ashy mining bees, perhaps because the white pollen sacs match their outfits.
The clematis flowered.Competing with the clematis in the crinkly petal stakes is the poppy.
Beating the poppy for big and blousey is the pink peony, defiant after a rainy downpour.
With classic good looks we have white roses.
More white roses.
The delphiniums are attracting the bees …
… and the froghoppers in the “cuckoo spit”.
The little alpine rock rose flowers are serving the little solitary bees.
The white clover has come through on the lawn, which also pleases the bees.
The pyracantha, or aptly named firethorn, was providing for this hoverfly, or is it some sort of bee, or maybe even a type of wasp?
There was a very handsome thick legged flower beetle on the daisies.
While a bush cricket nymph settled for a buttercup.
After a chilly damp May, June is starting out warm and sunny. The bees are enjoying the last of the Ceanothus.
The cotoneaster flowers are still attracting bees also.
The dandelion like hawkweed flowers have suddenly appeared everywhere. They are also popular with bees.
The first of the wild strawberries are flowering, and attracting bees.
The bladder campion is also popular with our pollinators, but none posed for a photograph this time.
The broom flowers add a splash of yellow. I have never noticed any bees on these.
Like this blog author the dandelions have gone to seed. Blow and make a wish.
After a frosty but dry April, it was May that brought us sunshine and showers. I think it rained pretty much every day during the first half of May.
The rain was good for the garden though. The Ceanothus flowered and attracted some bees.The apple blossom fully blossomed.The wet weather didn’t dampen the ardour of these courting hedgehogs.The laburnum tree flowered spectacularly.Sticking with the yellow theme, the greater celandine sprang up.The geraniums are still enticing the bees.The cotoneaster flowers seem to be a bigger draw for a variety of bees … … and bumblebees, mainly tree bumblebees.Once again I took part in #NoMowMay to allow wildflowers, often derided as “lawn weeds” to grow providing an all you can eat buffet for bees and other pollinators. Who used to make daisy chains?Who used to see if their friend liked butter by reflecting a butter cup under their chin to see if it glowed yellow?Not sure what you do with germander speedwell other than sit back and enjoy the carpet of blue they create.The plantain is growing well unhindered by the mower’s blades. The leaves make a soothing balm, there is a recipe here if you want to try it. They were also used in a childrens’ game called “Soldiers” either as a form of conkers or by winding the stem around under the head and pulling it tightly to form a catapult.
After the mini heatwave at the end of March, April begain with an arctic blast. We even had a light dusting of snow as well as some frosty mornings.However, although chilly, the days have mostly been sunny which has brought the insects out. Such as this bumblebee on the quince.And this one on the forget-me-nots.A favourite of pollinators, albeit unoccupied when I took the photo, dandelions are popping up everywhere. In this case it is growing among the aubretia.The lilac flowers are shaping up nicely.And the trees are sprouting green leaves.The dwarf tulip dared to open out. We’ll see if another week of frosts slows the pace any.
The final week of March saw a mini heatwave, with the hottest March day for 53 years. This warm sunny weather brought lots of insects to the garden, such as this bee tucking into a primrose.There was also some sort of solitary bee covered in pollen on the white flowering shrubs.
A male hairy footed flower bee on the flowering currant.
The bee-flies have made a welcome return.
A beautiful peacock butterfly also appeared.
The lesser celandine are blooming on the lawn like a carpet of stars.
This will be the last of the cherry plum blossom now that the copper coloured leaves are appearing.
Green leaves are also bringing the trees back to life.
And who doesn’t love a cheerful daisy?
The grape hyacinths are a firm favourite with the bee-flies.
The first week of March has seen some mixed weather; icy nights, biting winds, rain and glorious sunshine. The Mahonia continues to attract pollinators, including this hyperactive hairy footed flower bee. Sadly this bleached out affair was the best photo I got of him.
A late riser was this buff tailed bumblebee queen, she was bumbling around after all the other bees had left.
The warm sunshine and clear blue sky brought the buzzards soaring high above.
The first cherry plum blossom blossomed.
The lilac bud gave a hint of colour to come. The flower is coiled up inside waiting for spring to spring.
The birds are busy attracting mates and gathering nest building material. This little sparrow was chirruping away in the cherry tree.
The first grape hyacinth has flowered, soon they’ll be attracting the bee flies.
The wet and windy weather of the previous week gave way to some clear chilly nights and a few gloriously sunny days. This brought the bees back to the mahonia flowers.
The snowdrops finally got around to opening up.
More crocuses sprang up over the lawn, in the cracks of the paths and some are even growing on the garden. Although these crocuses of hope are now looking a little battered.
A few more primroses appeared.
This hoverfly poked its tongue out at me.
Queen bumblebees are starting to wake up, I think this is a tree bumblebee. She has a white bottom but no yellow stripes.
The daffodils are flowering just in time for St David’s Day on 1st March.
As the UK ends the second week of lockdown in an attempt to limit the spread of the coranavirus, Covid-19, I count myself fortunate to have a garden. Spring has sprung and the increased warmth from the sun has induced flowers to open and insects to wake. Beautiful butterflies such as this peacock can be found sunning themselves.
Fluffy bee-flies with their improbably long proboscises are buzzing around.
The fabulously named hairy footed flower bees are flower bothering.
Bees are getting busy.
The birds too are busy building their nests, take care when trimming hedges. This pair of jackdaws have no need to keep to the 2m social distancing rules.
The blackbirds are stocking up on supplemental food such as the cat biscuits left over from the hedgehogs’ supper.
Fresh water is important for all of our garden wildlife such as birds and squirrels. A shallow dish on the ground for hedgehogs.
For the night owls there are owls.
Also hedgehogs. Why not make a hedgehog feeder, create a gap in your fence and hope for some prickly visitors.
Maybe even a bat or two.
Try to look out for flowers and wildlife in your garden or on your daily walk. Use the lockdown as an opportunity to learn new skills, stay in touch with loved ones, reconnect with old friends.
For more information on Covid-19 visit the NHS website. Stay home, keep 2m apart when out, wash your hands; these measures will hopefully protect the NHS from being overwhelmed, and protect vulnerable people from a killer disease. If you are one of those strange people who doesn’t care about the old and the sick dying don’t forget this kills young healthy people too, including valuable NHS workers. Let’s hope our new found admiration for “low skilled” low paid workers such as carers, shop workers and delivery drivers lasts. Take care of yourselves and others. With kindness and cooperation we will get through this.
The ashy mining bee, Andrena cineraria, is described as being one of the easiest of the solitary bee species to identify. This is how I know one when I see one.
They are black with two ashy grey bands, the males and females are similarly marked, but the females are larger and the males have tufty grey hairs around their face. You can submit a sighting here.
They fly between early April and June. They nest in the ground, sometimes in groups, in lawns and flower beds. They prefer sandy soil and a sunny position.
They feed on a wide variety of blossoms and flowers. In this instance there were four of them feeding on cow parsley. There were also many other bees and hoverflies at the same time, but cow parsley is also a useful food source for butterflies and moths.
Cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris, is often found in woodland and verges. It is a member of the carrot family with distinctive white umbels. It has the fancier name of Queen Anne’s Lace, the common name suggest that it is an inferior parsley. The leaves can indeed be used in salads. However, cow parsley is easily confused with hemlock which is deadly. It is also known as Mother-Die as superstition had it that if it was brought into the house it would kill your mother. The hollow stems can be used as pea shooters.
Yet another name used is kecks, and it is using this term that Shakespeare mentions them in “Henry V”. The Duke of Burgundy refers to them in rather disparaging terms:
Wanting the scythe, all uncorrected, rank,
Conceives by idleness and nothing teems
But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burs,
Losing both beauty and utility.
Being idle myself I have failed to scythe these kecksies, but the various bees and hoverflies have benefited and personally I find this inferior parsley to be a very attractive plant; a froth of white dancing among the greenery.
It was astronomical spring, the vernal equinox, on 20th March 2018. For a brief period it did start to seem spring-like once the Beast from the East had left us, although being the UK obviously it rained.
The cherry plum buds blossomed.
One of the local crows decided they were a tasty snack.
The daffodils bounced back.
The primroses have mostly been eaten, I think by slugs, but I managed to snap one.
The sunshine and the mahonia blossoms brought out the bees. There was a large buff-tailed queen bumblebee but she was too busy to pose for photos. The male hairy footed flower bee was more accommodating. Check out those hairy feet!
I was very happy to see that he was joined by a female. She has black hairs and doesn’t have the fancy moustache. She also moves too fast for my camera!
There was also a honey bee.
And then with two days of winter left to go, the Mini Beast from the East arrived. Can you spot the two robins? One is sitting in the apple tree, the other is on the ground.
Extra sultana rations were provided for the blackbirds. The snow didn’t last long enough to bring the fieldfares back.
The poor hedgehog was too hungry to hibernate again and left some interesting tracks in the snow between the hoghouse and the feeding station. They walk low to the ground so their skirt of prickles ploughs the snow up either side of their footprints.
The ivy is starting to flower and combined with some sunshine it lures in the pollinators. This pristine red admiral butterfly (Vanessa Atalanta) sunned itself on the nearby laurel leaves.
It tried a variety of poses so that I could get its best side.Most of these butterflies migrate to the UK from central Europe in May and June. As the climate has become generally milder some hibernate in the south of England.
The butterflies that are emerging now are the brood that have hatched here.
The adults feed from a variety of nectar sources, they are also partial to rotting fruit.They lay their eggs on the larval food plant, nettles.Having posed sufficiently, the butterfly then had a tasty snack of ivy nectar.The ivy also attracted a rather tatty comma butterfly, along with some bees and hoverflies.
August was a bit of wash out, but we did have a couple of sunny days which brought out the insects. This golden shimmering hoverfly, Xylota segnis for one.
The yellow rose was the sun lounger of choice for this hoverfly, one of the Eristalis family I believe.
The goldenrod is a regular favourite for the honeybees.
This bumblebee was having to get at the cyclamen upside down.
The bees decided to freshen up on the mint flowers.
The mint moths were inevitably to be found there too.
Also lurking in the mint was this green shield bug nymph.
The speckled wood butterfly decided the ivy was the best place to catch some much needed rays.
In keeping with our tradition of having more plants blooming on the paths than in the borders, the paving cracks are bursting forth with these cheery yellow hawkweed flowers.
Hawkweeds are related to dandelions and are members of the Asteraceae family, genus hierakion. The name is derived from the Greek word for hawk, hierax, folklore has it that hawks drank the juice of this plant to sharpen their eyesight. There are many different species of hawkweed and a great deal of variation within them. The only one that I can confidently identify is the orange hawkweed, Pilosella aurantiaca, commonly known as “fox and cubs”. It is a beautiful wildflower that is in the RHS top 400 perfect plants for pollinators.
The delightfully named mouse ear hawkweed was a folk medicine for coughs. The apothecary to James I, John Parkinson, also suggested it as a sedative for horses, ‘Mouseare’ be given to any horse it ‘will cause that he shall not be hurt by the smith that shooeth him.’
On one of the few sunny days that we had this summer I found that the hawkweed was being enjoyed by this little solitary bee. A kind person suggested that it was likely to be of the genus Lasioglossum.
Another hawkweed hoverer was this drone hoverfly, a bee mimic.
As you can see it is doing a fantastic job of collecting and redistributing pollen.
I am not clever enough to tell whether it is Eristalis pertinax or Eristalis tenax.
Tenax has black ankles and pertinax has yellow ankles, so it is all down to the hoverfly’s ankles rather than the bee’s knees.The goldenrod was another bright yellow flower attracting pollinating insects.
As the name suggests the evening primrose, family Onagraceae, flowers during the evening and throughout the night. The flowers are supposed to last until noon. These particular flowers in my garden look just like evening primrose, but they flower all day and all night. Unless someone can tell me otherwise I shall assume that they are indeed evening primrose, but perhaps a variety that flowers all blooming day!
They are American natives that were introduced to the UK in the 1600s. They are also known as “Sundrop” or “Evening Star”. I believe that all of the plant is edible, but the roots were particularly favoured as a meal. Native Americans also used the leaves to make tea. The seeds are a source of Gamma-Linolenic Acid and the oil from the seeds is used in many herbal preparations.
They are an important food source for moths which feed on the nectar, pollinating the plant in return. During the day the same relationship is courted with bumblebees and other bees.
The pollen is large and connected by stringy viscin threads, made from sap. These web-like pollen clumps can be seen hanging off the legs of bees as they fly off from the flower. You can see what the pollen looks like under an electron microscope here.
Not only is this big blousy plant attractive to look at, beautifully scented and good for attracting pollinators such as bees and moths, but you can also eat it. There are a couple of recipe ideas here.
So, spring seemed to burst into life before being hit by an icy blast again. Here are some of the things that came out in the sunshine. I will start with the dark purple tulips that I planted.
The comma butterfly posed nicely for me, while an orange tip butterfly thwarted my every effort.
The holly blue came out rather overexposed, but I was just grateful that I got a shot of it.
There were hoverflies, I think this is a Marmalade Hoverfly.
I thought that this was a sort of hoverfly, but it seems it is a sawfly.
I think this is a type of solitary bee.
Pretty sure this is an Ashy Mining Bee.Bee enjoying the last of the flowering currant.
I was rather pleased with this shot of a buff tailed bumblebee in flight. Sometimes I get lucky.Some ladybirds were getting friendly with each other. Unfortunately, as they are non-native harlequins, they aren’t friendly to anything else.
Weeds? I don’t seen any weeds, just pretty flowers that feed our pollinators.
And finally, here is the lilac bush taken by flash at night. It gives off the most lovely scent day and night.
“Champagne Ivy is my name …” sang Miriam Hopkins, arousing the base passions of Fredric Marsh in his definitive portrayal of Mr Hyde (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde 1931). Ivy seems to have the same effect on bees.
Ivy only flowers if it is allowed to grow upwards, on a wall or tree for example. By flowering in autumn it provides a vital source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects as they prepare for winter.
The ivy flowers were buzzing with honey bees, hoverflies, wasps, flies and butterflies in an insect feeding frenzy.
Lying in wait for any hapless flying insects, this spider knew a good place to set up her web.
Also prowling the ivy were these two harlequin ladybirds.
The ivy was definitely the bees knees and the tipple of choice.
If you have nothing to do for just over a minute you might like to watch my video here.
This bright and cheery yellow flower is solidago, commonly known as goldenrod, from the family Asteraceae.
The state flower of Kentucky, it is a native of North America, but became a popular garden flower in Europe. It was used in herbal remedies for kidney problems. Thomas Edison managed to produce rubber from the plants. Henry Ford gave him a Model T with tyres made from goldenrod rubber. However, the yield and quality were not good enough for commercial use.
Although the flowers sway wildly on a windy day (hence the blurry photos) they are insect pollinated not wind pollinated. As well as attracting a wide variety of bees they are also a food source for lepidoptera larvae.
During the calm sunny bits so far this July, yes there have been a couple, the buzzing things have been busy. I don’t know what this purple flower is, but it seems to have proved useful.
The bramble flowers are just coming out, they are always a big hit.
Flavour of the month so far though is this privet shrub. It was vibrating with the busy buzz of bees and hoverflies. There was also a tortoiseshell butterfly flitting around, but it seemed to be camera shy.