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NATURE NOTES from near THE REC
Viper’s Bugloss and more Bees
Unfortunately, due to holidays, health issues and the heat, I’ve not been able to get round to the Rec. much this month. So instead, I thought I’d share with you what’s going on just outside our back door......a mere stone’s throw away from the Rec.
Bumblebee on Viper's Bugloss
And it’s bees to the fore once again!! But I make no apologies because they’re amazing creatures on which we all depend for a good proportion of the food we eat. According to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) of the UK’s insect- pollinated crops, 85-95% are down to wild bees, with non-native honey bees accounting for the rest. In fact, such is the contribution of this wonderful insect, the DEFRA have designated the 10th- 16th July as Bees Needs week.
The Government works with a number of interested organisations to raise awareness of bees and other pollinators, and to inform people as to what they can do to help. We were proud recipients of a DEFRA Bees Needs award a couple of years ago for the work we’ve been doing at the Rec......some of you may have noticed the plaque at the Grosvenor Rd entrance. And we will have a display in Portswood Library to coincide with this year’s event
Anyway, to return to our back garden. Step outside the door and to your left is a huge clump of self-seeded Viper’s Bugloss (Echium Vulgare) covered in bees. It’s far and away their favourite plant in the garden and the vibrant blue flowers are stunning. It’s a biennial that grows up to about 1m and it seeds prolifically. It’s also has very bristly stems and leaves, the latter thought to resemble ox-tongues, which gives the name Bugloss (from the Greek word bous meaning ox, and glossa meaning tongue). The plant is also named for its supposed resemblance to a snake (echis in Ancient Greek). The flecked stem is said to resemble snakeskin, the red stamens of the flowers stick out like snake’s tongue and the seed heads could pass for a snake’s head. I personally think it stretches the imagination somewhat, but the bees aren’t bothered either way: They absolutely adore it! We did have some at the Rec but unfortunately, I think it was inadvertently ‘weeded out’. We will scatter seeds and hopefully be able to re-introduce it .......although we may come to regret it in the future as it spreads so readily!!
Either side of the back door, are bee hotels designed to attract solitary bees, and this year they’re proving popular with leaf cutter bees. There are seven species of leaf-cutter bees in the UK and like other solitary bees, they lay eggs in individual chambers within a hollow space.
But whereas other solitary species use mud or plant material such as moss, dried grass etc, to divide the cells, the female leaf cutter uses chewed up leaves. She uses her jaws to cut out sections of leaf (often rose) and carries it back to the nest between her legs. The leaf is chewed and mixed with saliva to create the ‘walls’ within the nest and create a chamber for each egg. Once hatched, the larvae feed on the pollen and nectar which was provided by the female, pupate and later emerge from the nest as adults.
Bee carrying leaf into nesting chamber
The harvesting of a few sections of leaf doesn’t damage the plant itself and a bit of ‘lacework’ is a small price to pay to facilitate the survival of these fascinating, and vital, insects.
Field Maple Leafs used by Leaf Cutter Bees
Hopefully back to the Rec next month!!!!
Words and Photographs by Denise Long