Sexton or burying beetles: There are at least 3 million beetle species in the world. One in four of every creature on the earth is a beetle and most do good, not harm. Their success is thought to be due to the fact that beetle species virtually never become extinct! Their hardened fore-wings acting like body armour, red beetles warn predators they are toxic whether they are or not! The Sexton Beetle or burying beetle actually buries corpses of small birds and rodents, joining with others to dig out the earth around and under the corpses, before laying their eggs. The bodies become food for their larvae! Conditions: Mercifully, cooler weather after a dry, hot week, including the highest June temperature for decades. Temperature: Max 23- Min 12 c.
The diminutive and scarce Bee Orchid was present in one of the Quarries in Miller’s Dale, Derbyshire this week. Evolved not only to look like the bee which pollinates it, but to be fluffy and to give off the scent (allemones) of the female bee, the pollinating bee doesn’t live in the Uk so our Bee Orchids are self-pollinating. The Latin name, Ophrys, means Eyebrow in Greek and references what Pliny the Elder describes- women using the Bee Orchid to paint their eyebrows. Conditions: Cloudy and dry. Temperature: Max 19- Min 11 c.
Field Rose- another of theoccasional wild flower identification blogs, though this lovely, white wild rose of field edges and hedgerows can also be bought for the garden- the flowers attract insects and the bright red hips in autumn are popular with birds, and were what country folk were paid to gather for Rose-hip syrup, a vital vitamin C supplement for children in World War Two. As kids, We also used the hairy seeds in these hips as very effective itching powder. Field Rose is easy to distinguish from the wild, pink Dog Rose. Conditions: Drizzle and heavy rain. Temperature: Max 18- Min 14.
Green Alkanet: Looking like a larger than life Forget-me-not, we have to take care with this plant, which we inherited in the garden. The gorgeous blue flower is nectar-rich for Bees and Hoverflies. Preferring alkaline soils and damp, shady areas but capable of growing in most places, it has a very deep tap-root which is hard to dig out, and it spreads easily by seed, so can be invasive. The leaves can be composted but remove the seed-heads or it will turn up all over the place. Conditions: Sun and strong winds Temperature: Max 16- Min 12C.
Fox Cubs- these are probably about 3 months old now, as they are beginning to accompany adults on hunting trips, and one caught a small rabbit and was chased round and round a pond by another, giving up and slightly lame from the experience. Born dark gray or black, their heads gradually lengthen and fur becomes more sleek and red. These still need to grow into the size of their ears! Conditions: Very wet and very windy. Temperature: Max 16- Min 10 c..
Foxes- Down in Sussex, I’ve been lucky enough to watch a family of Foxes with six cubs (more on those tomorrow)- panting with the heat. With such a big family, they have really needed more than just the parents out catching food, which is predominantly the plentiful Rabbits. As here, Fox parents are often helped to provide food by other family members, including last years’ cubs, not yet mature enough to breed. Conditions: Sunny periods with heavy rain and strong winds due this evening. Temperature: Max 17- Min 11 c.
Bee Count time: Lupins, where I am staying, are proving a great source of pollen for Buff-tailed Bumblebees- just look at the colour and size of those pollen-baskets. An average pollen basket can contain around a million grains of pollen! Throughout June, Friends of the Earth want people to record Bees in their garden. There is an easy app for a smart-phone, with identification guide -a good way to really look at the variety of bees visiting your garden. Conditions: Sun and cloud with a
breeze. Temperature: Max 20- Min 10 C.