It looks a bit like a wasp but this black-and-yellow-striped minibeastie is a hoverfly with the rather tongue-twisting name Sericomyia silentis. Perhaps Bog hoverfly would be easier but, in my opinion, its common name doesn’t do this little beauty justice.
I spent a couple of hours today at Lavernock Nature Reserve, where the Devil’s-bit scabious is looking simply stunning and is attracting myriads of insects. I took lots of butterfly photos but thought to post one of the other little critters today. The Devil’s-bit is usually a lilac colour but some at Lavernock are this subtle shade of pink instead. Its nectar obviously tastes just as good!
At this time of year, the delicate lilac tinge of Devil’s-bit scabious casts its imperial purple shadow across the meadows at Cosmeston and at Lavernock. I love it, and I’m not the only one.
It’s proving extremely popular as a late-summer early-autumn source of nectar for all manner of bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Here are a few I’ve seen in recent days …
I am sometimes guilty of overlooking the ordinary but this photo, which I am very pleased with and now have as the desktop image on my laptop, reminds me of how truly lovely is the ‘ordinary’ Meadow brown butterfly. I tend to overlook it in favour of more colourful or unusual species, yet it is a butterfly that continues to grace the local meadows even now, when many of the other butterflies have gone for the year. I am rebuked by its beauty!
Devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) has a beautiful flower that paints the wildflower meadows at Lavernock Nature Reserve in shades of purple lusciousness and provides some very welcome late summer nectar and pollen to a host of insects, particularly bees, flies and butterflies.
And that name? Well, the story goes that the devil was not pleased that the plant’s medicinal properties were healing the skin conditions of people suffering from bubonic plague and scabies so, in a fit of rage, he tried to kill off the plant by biting off the ends of the plant’s roots. Ever the party pooper!
Perhaps it would be easier to ask ‘What’s not on the scabious?’ because it seems that almost every type of fly, bee, butterfly and beetle loves this plant, though that may also be because the Devil’s-bit scabious flowers in late summer – early autumn, when most wildflowers have finished flowering, and so it provides a last delicious taste of summer’s sweetness.
There are several species of scabious – and I love them all – but the scabious I’m seeing most in my local nature reserves is the Devil’s-bit (Succisa pratensis).
Apparently, the scabious name is due to the rough stalks of these plants and dates to times past when scabious was used to treat scabies because people believed in the ‘signature of all things’ – not Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book but that of Jakob Böhme, who presented the idea, in 1622, that God had imprinted prescriptions for human ailments in the shapes and forms of medicinal plants – thus, rough stalk = rough skin. The ‘Devil’s-bit’ comes from the fact that this plant’s roots have a short, bitten off look.
Massed displays of Devil’s-bit scabious lend a purplish tinge to the landscape but it’s the flowers I love best. They begin as fairies’ pincushions and bloom into luscious globular gloriousness.
It’s Friday! It’s Floral Friday! It must be time for more wildflowers. Here’s the latest selection from my wanderings around parks, meadows and reserves:
Creeping jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), Dock (Rumex sp), Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), Narrow-leaved everlasting pea (Lathyrus sylvestris), Ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium), Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) and Tall Melilot (Melilotus altissimus).