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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

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Stag beetles! Painted ladies! Flowers! Bee bums!

Date posted: Monday 11th June 2018

Stag beetles!  Painted ladies!  Flowers!  Bee bums!

My nearby plot neighbour emailed – ‘When sorting out netting for my red currants, I found this stag beetle. I took a photo and only then realised that the creature was trapped in the netting. Fortunately I had scissors in my pocket and so could free the beetle. At first it did not move and I wondered whether it had been trapped for too long and would not survive. However I put a leave down and poured some water nearby and then all of a sudden it scuttled away. I feel very fortunate that I was able to help’. We wondered if this was a juvenile, recently emerged from under the wooden block on a neighbour’s plot, where we’d discovered several stag beetle larvae in late stages last year!

Very excited to see this Painted Lady flashing around the nasturtiums and valerian at the weekend – haven’t seen one for a couple of years at least, since the ‘invasion’ of thousands that arrived from Europe a few years ago. A keen fellow plotholder butterfly enthusiast said he’d try to incubate caterpillars but with no success. Latin name is lovely: “Vanessa cardui ..The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, which causes the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland. Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonising mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer. Caterpillar Foodplants.. A wide range of foodplants may be used with thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.) being preferred in Britain and Ireland. Mallows (Malva spp.), Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Viper’s-bugloss (Echium vulgare), and various cultivated plants also have been recorded as larval foodplants here.” (Butterfly Conservation https://butterfly-conservation.org/679-849/painted-lady.html)

The flowers on my plot are prolific this year, as is the fruit – the Victoria plum tree branches are sagging with clusters of small plums and will need reducing to avoid branches breaking under the weight. The self seeded limnanthes (poached egg plant) patches have been buzzing with bees and hoverflies – spot them in this ‘Where’s Wally?’ spread:

Allotment regulations state that 3/4 of the plot must be given over to vegetable, fruit and cut flower cultivation. Plot inspections have just finished so I hope the rows of carrot, leek, radish and parsnip seedlings, Brussels sprouts, French and broad beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, courgettes, squash and sweetcorn plants will convince our inspector that the flowers don’t dominate too much – they are, of course, for cutting and also for attracting beneficial insects to pollinate my bean plant and other veg flowers! And they do look gorgeous at this peak time of year for early summer flowers…!

The bees land in the peonies and rummage, quiver and shake among the pollen, and although it’s not a brilliant photo, I did manage to catch this bee bum up a foxglove flower!