Wild flowers and Pollinating Predators
As the season progresses more wildflowers are coming into bloom on our wild flower area. Yarrow has a platform of small white flowers with orange anthers, much favoured by hoverflies and other insects, though not usually visited by bumblebees.
Wild Carrot too are beginning to spread their heads of tiny flowers after emerging from the protection of the spiny bracts that surround the developing flower head.
There are now a very few Field Scabious near the footpath but rain at the right time this summer has enabled the blue/purple flowers of Tufted Vetch to form a distinct coloured patch among the surrounding Oxeye Daisies. For the last two years the tall Leylandii in the middle of the wild flower area has dried out the soil too much to allow flowering of this species denying, us the pleasure of the Vetch flowers.
Scattered through the area are the flowers of Red Clover, another member of the useful and attractive Pea Family.
As our wild flowers come into bloom they are providing a valuable food source for pollinators, and not just the bumblebees like the Common Carder that are making the most of the Tufted Vetch.
We also have the diminutive solitary bees that mostly just collect pollen to produce the food for their larvae and do a valuable job of pollinating flowers that are less used by Bumblebees. This one, very probably the sandstone burrowing Davies’ Colletes, has her legs coated in Oxeye Daisy pollen.
Hover flies are also important pollinators and are now starting to become more abundant. They use pollen as their food source, but always transfer some as they move from flower to flower. Don’t be fooled by their yellow and black stripes, they are mimicking wasps to protect themselves from birds, but do not possess a sting. Like the Ladybirds featured a few weeks ago, their larvae are voracious predators of aphids.
Another predatory species is the Soldier Beetle. They will catch other small insects visiting the flowers, but, as seen by the pollen coated heads of these individuals, also eat pollen. Their larvae live underground where they catch a range of soil dwelling insects.
It is worth remembering that if we had not sowed all the wildflower seed in this grassland, none of these species would have had such a ready and abundant source of food.