Late Flowers and pollinators
There are few flowers remaining from the splendid show we had over the summer and competition for the flowers can be fierce as shown by the two Common Carder bumblebees and single Honeybee mimicking Hoverfly on one Welted Thistle flower. There may be few flowers now to give colour to a walk, but that doesn’t mean they are not important. At present, if you go down to the Heritage Viewpoint and look at both the path-side flowers and the mass of Welted Thistle at the edge of the bank in front of the seat, you will, especially on a sunny day, see bumblebees and hoverflies making the most of the available flowers that remain.
But it is not just the thistles that are being used, there are White-tailed Bumblebees on Cornflowers and hoverflies of several different species on the flowers of Cornfield Annuals like Corn Marigold and Cornflower, but also on perennials and biennials like Yarrow and Wild Carrot. These are just the daytime pollinators, there will be moths visiting some of the flowers on warm still nights, and they too make an important contribution to the insect diversity (and food for many birds) that our wildflower planting has managed to achieve.
A selection of some of the hoverflies you can see is shown in the gallery below
Butterflie too can refuel on the nectar from Welted Thiste flowers and caterpillars of this Small White make a tasty snack for several of our birds, if they can find the grass green caterpillars hiding among the vegetation.
Other visitors to the flowers go unnoticed because of their small size, like the tiny wasp and even smaller flower beetles
So, while the overall view of our wildflower areas might look messy at this time of year, spend a bit of time and look more closely at the flowers that remain and you will be able to see some of the early autumn activity of our daytime pollinating insects.
You don't need to worry about being stung by the striped insects in the photos. The yellowish Common Carder bumblebee will sting if you grab hold of it, but left alone they are much too busy getting nectar from the flowers to bother anyone. The black and yellow stripes of the hoverflies are there to deceive you into thinking they can sting. They cannot, but this is very effective defence against some of the birds that would otherwise make a meal of them. There are however also some real wasps around at present, so take care to leave those well alone.