These wild Honeysuckles, as well as those you grow in the garden, are brilliant for wild-life, including ten species of insects which feed exclusively on them. The wonderful scent, strongest in the evening for attracting their pollinator Moths, can be detected a quarter of a mile away by the Hummingbird Hawkmoth. The caterpillar of the increasingly rare White Admiral depends on the leaves. Dormice use the bark for nest material for their young, and get nutrients from eating the nectar rich flowers. Thrushes nest in them, and eat their bright red autumn berries, as do Warblers and Bullfinches. Clearly, if you haven’t already got some in your garden, it is worth considering. Conditions: Cloudy and humid. Temperature: Max 23 Min 13 C.
Large White Butterfly– one of the two Whites whose caterpillars do decimate the cabbage family- the Latin name is a giveaway (Pieris Brassica). There have been a few females were flying round the nasturtiums today, spotting places to lay their bright yellow batches of eggs (see photo)- females have two black spots on their forewings and a lovely creamy underside. Their numbers have been in decline for five years in a row, and fell 19% last year, probably due to a cold spring and cloudier, wetter summer than average, which badly affected many butterfly species. Conditions: A continuation of this very hot, dry spell. Temperature: Max 27 Min 12 C.
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-
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.
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).
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.
The Dunnock: Previously the Hedge Sparrow, it is an Accentor, not a Sparrow. The Dunnock is often inconspicuous, feeding on insects, worms etc on the ground and
flying low, so now is a good time to get to know it, as it sings it’s attractive song from posts or shrubs. Whilst some male Dunnocks are monogamous, others behave unusually in their bid to fertilise as many females in their territory as possible and can even be seen pecking the sperm of other males from the cloaca of a female. Young in the same nest have been found to have been fertilised by different males. Conditions: Cool, sunshine and showers. Temperature: Max 10 Min 3c.
A male Wren has been singing its heart out from dawn till dusk, in the garden, and as the most common UK breeding bird, chances are there is one near you, too, so, if you don’t know it, it is a great time to learn its powerful, long song (RSPB website to hear it). Unlike most birds, they make several nests. They sing to hold a territory and to attract a female, which the male will then show round its nests. With luck, she will choose one and they will breed. Sometimes the male will also attract another female to one of its other nests, when it will be even busier tending to both. Conditions: Showers and sunny spells. Temperature: Max 12 Min 5 C.