I googled ‘What do ladybirds eat?’ today because I was trying to work out why there are so many ladybirds – about a 50 / 50 split between 7-spots and Harlequins – on the Wild parsnip plants at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. It turns out ladybirds are particularly keen on aphids and, as you can see in some of my photos, there are rather a lot of aphids on these plants. Good news for the ladybirds!
I went for a wander along the Ely embankment yesterday and was delighted to discover a family of five Linnets, two adults and three exceedingly cute juveniles, all feeding on Herb Robert seeds. They started off with Mum and Dad feeding the youngsters but the kids soon got impatient and wanted more food more quickly.
Mum or Dad has just plucked one of the Herb Robert seed pods while …
… youngster is watching to see how this food-gathering process works.
“Now if I can just reach …”
“Now I’ve got the idea, I can help myself.”
Youngster looking rather pleased with itself.
The flower of the moment is Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) or, at least it is at Lavernock Nature Reserve.
I’ve read that Fleabane usually grows in ditches and damp meadows so, despite the recent drought conditions, I guess there must be water somewhere below the wildflower meadows at Lavernock, as they are currently awash with these bright golden flowers. And, at a time when most other wildflowers have dried up and died off, the Fleabane is providing a much-needed source of pollen and nectar for butterflies and other assorted mini-beasties.
The Swollen-thighed beetle (Oedemera nobilis) is very easy going when it comes to what nectar or pollen it eats. Judging by the number of different flowers I’ve seen it on, my conclusion is that it will slurp and snack almost anywhere, and this would seem to be a very good tactic for its future survival because the more specific the dietary requirements of an insect, the greater the chance it will suffer from changes to its environment and food plants. Being a generalist makes the Swollen-thighed beetle one smart critter!
It’s Floral Friday so I thought we’d take a look at a few more of the beautiful Crane’s-bill family and one of their cousins, a Stork’s-bill. I think you’ll agree that they’re all rather lovely.
Fasciated: Adjective; (Botany) Showing abnormal fusion of parts or organs, resulting in a flattened ribbon-like structure (Oxford Dictionary).
The thistle in my photo is an example; instead of developing in the circular shape that is usual for this plant, the flower has, for some unknown reason, become distorted into a flattened and elongated, almost oblong shape.
For day 23 of #30DaysWild, as it’s National Insect Week, I went seeking insects along one my local trails, the zigzag path that runs from upper Penarth down to the marina. This was once a heavily wooded hillside but now has a concrete path that gives pedestrians and cyclists easy access up and down the steep hill. Of course, people sometimes want a more direct route and you can see that the frequent stomping of feet has worn alternate paths down the hillside.
Though it looks quite grassy in this photo from a couple of weeks ago, the hillside is now a mass of self-sown native wildflowers and today it was alive with insects, from bees and hoverflies to butterflies, beetles and damselflies. This is a perfect site for wildflowers to grow – it is steep so difficult and presumably expensive to mow, and its steepness means it can’t be safely used by children playing (though, with a covering of snow, it is perfect for sledging!).
Though the local council usually strim this slope to death, utterly destroying the wildflowers and the wildlife, they have recently – and rather ironically – ploughed up a small flat area and dumped upon it soil seeded with wildflowers. That might sound hopeful, a positive action, but the ploughed area has not been maintained and, though I may be wrong, I doubt whether the wildflowers were locally sourced. I wonder too why the council would go to the expense of ploughing up perfectly good local wildflowers to plant others – do they think wildflowers should only be of the type they prescribe and only grow within a prescribed rectangular area? Surely they misunderstand the very essence of WILDflowers.
This blog post, then, is partly a celebration of the amazing variety of insects that enjoy the wildflowers that grow naturally around the zigzag path and partly a plea to the council not to kill those wildflowers and their pollinators but instead to celebrate and foster this wonderfully biodiverse area of Penarth.
Not only is this day 19 of #30DaysWild, but today is also the second day of National Insect Week. To celebrate, here is one of my favourite British insects, the Swollen-thighed Beetle (Oedemera nobilis). I see these little guys on almost every type of flower at this time of year – this one’s on a Common spotted-orchid – and they always make me smile. It’s the male beetles that have those fat thighs – I haven’t been able to find out why, so if you know, please do tell.