Wildlife Wednesday – Summer Pollinators and others

Its been a while since I was able to take part in Wildlife Wednesday. Our rural internet speed dipped to an all time low and then all but vanished for the Summer. Then at the end of August, BT installed their version of super fast broadband – ‘Infinity’, so far, so good and we are back in the 21st century.

Hoverfly and Bumblee Bee on Lavender

Hoverfly and Bumblee Bee on Munstead Lavender

Meanwhile, my workload increased and life generally got in the way. Weather wise, there has been a roller coaster of temperatures and now as we head into September temperatures have dipped into an Autumnal coolness I am not quite ready for. Spiders are weaving webs laced with rain drops and it feels like it will not be long before we see webs outlined with frosty patterns.

Spider luring prey

Will you walk into my parlour said the Spider to the Fly

At the beginning of July, we took a weeks trip to windswept Lundy, an island off the south-west coast of England and came back to a hot dry garden alive with insects. I had been reading Dave Goulson’s book – A Buzz in the Meadow – whilst we were away and returned with a new appreciation for the value of some of the less attractive pollinators namely flies and wasps. I have tried to photograph both but neither are as easy going as Bumbles, Honey and Solitary bees, except the Hoverfly group. Plus peering at Wasps is Hazardous.

Solitary bee on Perennial Sweat Pea

A Solitary bee on Perennial Sweet Pea

Pollinator Awareness Week during the middle of July had me looking even more closely than usual at our visiting insects. I grow white Perennial Sweet Peas, they have no scent I can detect and scramble about in an unruly manner. For the first time this year I noticed how Solitary bees, flip their bodies and push through to the nectar within. The Bee left a red footprint, I wondered had she visited a plant with red pollen before?

Solitary bee pushing through to the nectar

Solitary bee pushing through to the nectar on perennial Sweet Pea

On this years highly scented annual Sweet Peas (I’ve forgotten the cultivar the packet is in a safe place so safe I now can’t find it!) Hoverflies found it easier to push apart the petals. Some species of Hoverfly produce larvae that feed on Aphids and the adults feed mainly on nectar and pollen.

Hoverflies on Sweet Peas

Marmalade Hoverflies (Episyrphus balteatus) on annual Sweet Peas

The Wildlife Trusts report that in the UK we have at least 1500 species of insects designed to pollinate plants, including Bumbles, Solitary and Honey Bees, Hoverflies, Wasps, Butterflies, Moths, Flies and Beetles. They are mostly pretty tricky to identify correctly, there is so much to learn and some are far easier to identify than others! We see most insect pollinators here in the Summer months where I try to provide as wide a variety of flower types with nectar and pollen.  And places to provide some shelter for them in my exposed garden.

Pollen Beetles on Calendula

Pollen Beetles on Calendula

These Pollen beetles fall into the ‘others’ category for my post, In my veg garden they are most happy on the Calendula and as the name suggests they feed on Pollen. The charity Bug Life reports that in the UK we have 27,000 species of insect of which the Pollen beetles account for 36 species. When I cut any flowers to bring indoors, I have learnt to put them in water in dark place overnight, usually the garage, as a Kitchen full of Pollen beetles is not ideal. The RHS reports Pollen Beetles may assist with pollination. Frankly I would rather have more Bees and Hoverflies of which in Europe 38% are in decline and I know for sure they are pollinators.

Hoverfly on Curry Plant

Hoverfly on Curry Plant Helichrysum italicum

The RHS have just released a report “Plants for Bugs”. They set up trials at RHS Wisley to analyse the native versus non-native debate. Is it only natives that will help our beleaguered Pollinators? Of course on our comparatively small island we have fewer natives than over in the USA. The RHS found that a greater range of flowers from across the Northern Hemisphere will help pollinators far more than if we stick to natives alone. My top plant throughout August for pollinators was Verbena bonarensis, originating from South America, on my dry sandy soil it pops up rather obligingly everywhere. I don’t care if its a non native, I love it, so do my insect visitors.

Bumblebee on Verbena bonarensis

Bumblebee on Verbena bonarensis

Verbena bonarensis and Honey Bee

Verbena bonarensis and Honey Bee

Please visit Tina our marvellous Wildlife Wednesday meme host and her wonderful site “My Gardener Says” for more Wildlife Wednesday Posts.

Happy Wildlife Watching!

GBBD – June Flowers for Bees and other Pollinators

I rarely post photos of my own garden. I work as a gardener, which means our garden at home takes second fiddle and often has the look of cobbler’s shoes but I do try to grow as many plants that have wildlife value as possible. This is my first time of joining in with Carol at May Dreams Gardens for GBBD, I am a little late, apologies!

Phacelia and Bee

Phacelia tanacetifolia enjoyed by lots of Bees

Phacelia tanacetifolia is on the top of my list for Bees and pollinators alongside Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’. We grow Nepeta both as a hedge and dotted through the garden, plants in full sun attract the most Bees.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with stripey bottomed bee and no pollen balls – ident appreciated!

Phacelia was originally grown here as a green manure, it self seeds wonderfully and now we have lots, a large patch in my veg garden and also dotted throughout the borders. Phacelia also makes a great cut flower. Third top plant for Bees and Pollinators in June are the Geraniums and especially the large patches of Geranium x Magnificum

Collecting Pollen on Johnson's Blue

Collecting Pollen on G x Magnificum, similar stripey bottomed Bee with pollen basket

Early Morning when the Opium Poppies, Papaver somniferous are fully open they are the first to attract awakening Bees, by early evening the petals begin to close up and Bees have long switched to the blue brigade.

Papaver somniferum

Papaver somniferum

On the left of our East facing dining room window we have a large climbing Hydrangea petiolaris, in the winter we watch lots of birds flitting around the bare branches, once the flowers are open Bees are attracted too.

Hydrangea petiolaris with

Hydrangea petiolaris with White tailed bumblebee Bombus lucorum and clearly seen pollen balls.

I grow both wild native Foxgloves Digitalis purpurea and I save the seed and re sow any that spring up as white in another area of my garden. I read Foxgloves attract long tongued bumble bees only, I am not yet sure which bees have long tongues, but hopefully my foxgloves are helping. I shall watch out to see if either colour is preferred. Other plants in flower at home attracting Bees and other pollinators this month are Aquilegias, Borage, Chives, Polemonium – Jacobs Ladder, self sown Nigellas, Alliums and the aphids sticky sap on my Apple trees, I wonder why?

Phacelia and Honey Bee

Phacelia and Honey Bee

We have a wonderful organisation over here called Buglife with an excellent website highlighting the desperate flight of Invertebrates, did you know in the UK , half of our 27 bumblebee species are in decline. Three of these bumblebee species have already gone extinct. Seven bumblebee species have declined by more than 50% in the last 25 years. Two-thirds of our moths and 71% of our butterflies are in long term decline. Across Europe 38% of bee and hoverfly species are in decline; only 12% are increasing. It is estimated that 84% of EU crops (valued at £12.6 billion) and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

We shall all go hungry if we do not get on top of this.