The Great British Bee Count is underway again between now and the end of June. It is easy to download the free app from Friends of the Earth and you can record as often as you like and from wherever you like- garden, park, walk, work or school grounds etc. Here are a couple of the easier Bumble Bees to identify, but there is a guide to help you on the app: The Red-tailed Bumblebee and the Tree Bumblebee in our garden in Sheffield. I won’t be near wi-
Red Tailed Bumblebee
fi much over the next couple of weeks so there won’t be much blog activity, but then it should resume as usual. Conditions: Continuing the recent days of blue sky. Temperature: Max 18 Min 7 C.
Shield Bugs- one of the easier insects to identify because the name fits their armoured body and shape
. This is a common Shield Bug of woodland edges and hedgerows, and gardens: the Sloe Bug, one of 6,500 Shield Bugs world-wide. The adults hibernate and emerge from undergrowth in spring, grazing on leaves and plant sap, flowers and fruit, not just Sloes. The damage isn’t extensive and I find them easy to tolerate in the garden, and interesting to watch. This is a good time of year to see them, as they are out feeding and at their brightest colouring. Conditions: Another beautiful, blue-skied day. Temperature: Max 21 Min 11 C.
Green-veined White Butterfly: here is the other white butterfly, out and about right now, that is not harmful to your brassicas and, on the contrary, is a helpful pollinator. Try to see this butterfly at rest, or feeding, which is when the ‘green’ veins, actually made up of black and yellow, show most beautifully. They are most marked early in the year, as they tend to fade when the butterfly is older, (much like me really).
Female Green-veined White.
As you can see, it loves feeding on wallflowers, Ladies Smock and other open- headed, spring flowers. Conditions: Cloud with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 16 Min 9C
Not all white butterfly caterpillars eat your brassica’s- there are two beautiful species which don’t, and they are in our garden now. The beautiful Orange Tip lays its eggs on Ladies Smock (Milkmaids) and Jack by the Hedge (Garlic Mustard), one per plant as the caterpillars will eat each other if not! The female adult may look like a ‘cabbage white’ (see photo’s) and both male and female love our Pulmonaria and other spring flowers, rich in nectar. Conditions: More sunny intervals though cooler (more like the average for this time of year). Temperature: Max 15 Min 6C.
Male Orange Tip
Orange Tip- female
Orange Tip Caterpillar on Jack By the Hedge
Orange Tip- male feeding on Jack by the Hedge
Little volcanoes of mud in your grass or soil? Then you have the beautiful, non-stinging Tawny Mining Bee, the easiest mining Bee to identify. The smaller, browner male mates and then dies. The female digs the deep hole, with several branching tunnels. In each separate cell it stores pollen and nectar, laying a single egg on top of each larder. The egg hatches, feeds, pupates, and emerges as an adult next spring. These solitary Bees pollinate fruit trees and farm crops. The ‘volcanoes’ soon
Tawny Mining Bee nest
Female Tawny Mining Bee
Female Tawny Mining Bee
disperse and, like the Bees, do no harm. Conditions: the third sunny, hot day. Temperature: Max 23 Min 8 C.
Coltsfoot: the flowers, shaped like chimney sweep’s brushes, come out from February onwards, often on waste sites, opening in daylight and closing at night. The stems are scaly and the heads droop once fertilised, before fluffy heads of parachuted seeds develop and are wind-distributed. Only then do the large leaves, from whose shape the plant gets its name, appear (see photo’s). Still used in cough medicines, Coltsfoot leaves used to be dried and rolled and smoked to relieve asthma. The down on their undersides was scraped off and used as tinder. Conditions: sunny and blue-skied. Temperature: max18 Min 5c