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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

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Bee post, bustin' June, poppies and toxic edibles!

Date posted: Tuesday 20th June 2017

Bee post, bustin' June, poppies and toxic edibles!

The bee post’s now a much visited feature of our pollinator friendly front bed – after only a few days the first solitary bees were investigating the larger holes, and smaller bees are now going in and out – very pleasing to observe the proliferation of insect life since we first planted up the flowers..! The name ‘bee hotel’ popularly used is a bit of a misnomer, apparently, as bees tend to use a site on a permanent basis, not the Travelodge style of temporary accomodation!

The scabious, ‘Blue Butterfly’, as the name implies, brings in the butterflies, this skipper and the meadow browns coming over from the park to check out our flowers. I got very excited a couple of days ago to see what I thought was a Painted Lady on my plot, also enjoying the scabious, so rushed up early in the morning, before it got too hot, to snap it, but turns out it’s only a common old tortoiseshell – but it can be tricky to spot the difference (in my defence and, of course, it’s not!)

I’ve taken to late evening watering, in common with other plotholders and coming past Flora’s holly was almost dive bombed by May bugs, flying erratically and loudly around the bush…‘the Common cockchafer, also referred to as the May bug, the Spang beetle or the Billy witch. These beetles usually appear around late April – early May and can frequently be seen and heard flying into lit windows and even lamps indoors!’ (Buglife). A small bird dived among them to catch what must be a huge mouthful, landing briefly on the ground near me… not able eto identify it but possibly a flycatcher variety. It was too quick for me to grab the camera! The cockchafers also moved too fast to get more than a blur around the holly!

The bumbles were all over Flora’s poppies yesterday morning when I was watering her squash, Spanish peasant style at 7.15am to escape the incredibly high temperatures we’ve been enduring for the past week..and much easier to focus on than the fast and high flying May bugs:

An interesting article by James Wong on the Instagram foodie trend for using ‘edible’ flowers to embellish the endless parade of gorgeous looking food: ‘A five-minute search of the words “edible flowers” drew up..a cake strewn with pretty narcissi – whose toxic crystals can cause incredibly painful swelling and sores..This was quickly beaten by a smoothie topped with catharanthus, containing acutely toxic alkaloids used in chemotherapy… But these were all outshone by chocolate pudding laced with lantana flowers, a frequent cause of death from liver failure in grazing livestock in warmer climes.’ (Observer Magazine 18.06.17).. James recommends checking the ID and avoiding using gardening chemicals not intended for edible plants. These flowers can be safely strewn over your next Instagram creations: ‘amaranth; borage; calendula; daisies (bellis); elderflower (sambucus); fuchsias, gardenia; hemerocallis; lavender; mint; nasturtium; primulas; roses; sweet William (dianthus); tagetes and violets (viola).’ But best clean off the blackfly first!