We’re into August and the crazy hot spell has passed. And Mr B’s lyrical song has been replaced with worn out feathers.
I’ve sat in the garden on many days reaping the results of the #NoMowMay campaign – oxeye daisies and a lawn full of clover. Grasshoppers stridulated like tiny percussionists and together with bees they played the rhythm of summer. And I was happy to listen.
The Common Carder bee Bombus pascuorum is one of the UK’s most commonest bumblebees, but they can vary in colouration. I’ve seen some that are creamy and others a deep chestnut. And this time of year, they, like Mr B can get a little worn and bald.
Teasels are a great food source for the bees and once summer is over we’ll leave them to go to seed for the goldfinches to enjoy.
Amongst the low drone of bumblebees I had the joyous summer sight of Leafcutter bees.
These solitary bees that fly on their ‘magic carpets’ (cut leaves) seem to love bee nesters and we’ve thankfully had them most years.
Leafcutters are one of the largest bee groups with nearly 1,500 species. And the world’s largest bee belongs to this group – Wallace’s Giant bee Megachile pluto from Indonesia. But here in the UK there are currently just seven species. I find identification between the different types difficult but the visitors to our garden this summer are likely to be the Patchwork Leafcutter bee Megachile centuncularis, due to them favouring bee hotels and also the rich orange pollen brush underneath the female’s abdomen.
Nesting alongside the Mason bees, this Leafcutter bee has started constructing its leafy cells, ready for its egg to pupate over autumn, hibernate during winter, to then hopefully emerge next spring.
Mud and Pesto…
The bee nester shows evidence of two types of Mason bees: The Red Mason bee Osmia bicornis – a spring and early summer flying bee that builds its nest cells from wet mud. Below these muddy entrance caps the photo shows a different kind of substance – a sign of what is likely to be the Blue Mason bee Osmia caerulescens. They fly into late July and can visit urban gardens. Their nest cells are made from chewed up leaves or petals. The leafy entrance when fresh reminded me of pesto!
This summer’s extreme temperatures appeared to be too much for Hebe bush. It’s usually still in full bloom this time of year and has often had flowers going into October, even November. The street Buddleia however, is faring better than our Hebe.
Known as the ‘Butterfly Bush’, the Buddleia has had very few butterflies on. I was quite concerned as butterfly numbers in the garden have been so low this year. And Butterfly Conservation stated last year’s Big Butterfly Count revealed the lowest number of butterflies ever recorded since the count started twelve years ago.
Butterflies are sensitive to climatic changes and together with habitat destruction and pesticides have resulted in a huge decline. In fact, Butterfly Conservation states 76% of butterflies have declined since 1976. But they have a vision – ‘A world where butterflies and moths thrive and can be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.’ But of course our help is needed and they can’t do it alone. Even if we only have a small area or window box, to plant nectar rich flowers in a sunny area such as; marjoram, wallflower and lavender, will help adult butterflies greatly. We also need to refrain from using pesticides and insecticides and if space allows, leave a ‘wild area’ such as nettles and grasses so caterpillars can feed. Even if space is limited, do check out Butterfly Conservation’s tips on gardening for butterflies.
A Large White basking in the sun and nectaring on wallflower.
A Small Tortoiseshell looking leaf-like on the Hebe…
A Gatekeeper feeding on Echinops…
And the similar looking Meadow Brown refuelling on Buddleia. Notice the white eyespot in the centre of the larger blackspot – the Meadow Brown has one, whereas the Gatekeeper has two. The Meadow Brown is also slightly larger and its orange colouring isn’t as bright.
One of my favourite butterflies (if it’s possible to choose) is the Ringlet. They feed from different flowers and are one of the few butterflies that fly in overcast or dull weather. I find their wings are like velvet and together with the striking eyespots identify this glade and hedgerow loving butterfly.
There is still time to join in with The Big Butterfly Count if you’re in the UK as it ends 7th August. It’s a great citizen science project where you watch butterflies for fifteen minutes and record any sightings.
Whilst some butterflies were easy to see, feeding upon nectar and fluttering in the air, others could be mistaken for a fallen leaf…
Can you see it? It’s the darker looking ‘leaf’ in the centre of the picture.
And other wildlife was easily camouflaged too…
A sparrow in the Cherry tree.
At first I wondered what was making this rustling sound amongst the leaf litter, then noticed the baby blackbird. Was it one of ‘our’ Mr B’s?
And lastly, (a dull photo as it was at night) I sat outside one evening watching the bats aerial display, I heard a rustling sound coming from the shrubbery and was delighted to see this prickly visitor…
As summer flutters by, enjoy the wildlife, day or night.
Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk, illustrated by Richard Lewington
Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland by Richard Lewington