Taking advantage of a pause in the rain I headed up to Bryn Euryn for some fresh air. Planning to stick to the woodland areas in case it began raining again, the track passed by a cleared grassy area that was bright with purple knapweed flowers and noticing insects flying, despite the coolness and dampness of the afternoon, I got waylaid for a while. Looking more closely I realised there were large numbers of bumblebees and hoverflies of several different species flying around the flowers busily taking nectar or collecting pollen, all doubtless also taking advantage of the dry interlude. The opportunity to get a good look at the insects as they were slowed down a little by the coolness of the air kept me there, stooped over with the camera, for a good half and hour or so and also got me some funny looks from passing dog-walkers.
Centaurea nigra is a species of flowering plant in the daisy family known by the common names Lesser Knapweed, Common Knapweed and Black Knapweed. A local vernacular name is Hardheads. The plant flowers from July until September and is important for a large number of insects including Gatekeeper, Large skipper, Lime-speck pug moth, Meadow Brown, Painted lady, Peacock, Red admiral, Small copper, Small Skipper, Honeybee and Bumblebees and Hoverflies. Goldfinches later feed on the seeds.
The plant is native to Europe but it is known on other continents as an introduced species where it is often treated as a noxious weed.
The common carder bee, Bombus pascuorum, has shaggy hair and can be seen at flowers late in the year, often into November in southern Britain. It is one of our most common bumblebee species, found even in the centres of large cities.
Also attracting the attentions of a few insects were the flowers of Hemp Agrimony – (Eupatorium cannabinum)
A large plant (1-2m) often found in clumps with big, fluffy heads of tiny pink flowers. Its leaves grow up to 10cm long and are arranged in pairs on a reddish stem.
Can be found throughout the UK growing in open or shady, damp or dry areas; waste ground and near water.
The ‘hemp’ part of the plant’s common name comes from the similarity between its leaves and that of the cannabis plant. The two species are entirely unrelated, however, and do not share any other properties!
A plant I’m not sure about the identity of has similar flowerheads to the wild carrot/parsley but all parts are smaller and more delicate. This particular one was supporting a mating pair of Red Soldier beetles as well attracting a variety of small flies.
A 6-spot Burnet Moth was sheltering from the showers, clinging to a grass stem.
A wildflower I do recognise and can name is Agrimony, also familiar to me as one of the 38 Bach flower remedies. The plant is quite delicate-looking and may be easily overlooked, but it has a long history of use as a healing herb.
Agrimonia eupatoria is a species of agrimony that is often referred to as common agrimony, church steeples or sticklewort.
The common agrimony grows as a deciduous, perennial herbaceous plant and reached heights of up to 100 centimeters. Its roots are deep rhizomes , from which spring the stems. It is characterized by its typical serrated edged pinnate leaves. The whole plant is dark green with numerous soft hairs that assist in the plant’s seed pods sticking to any animal or person coming in contact with the plant. The flower spikes have a delicately spicy scent, a little like apricots.
A. eupatoria is a foodplant for the caterpillars of the snout moth Endotricha flammealis.
Originating in North America, Michaelmas daisies were originally introduced to Britain from North America in the early 1700’s. Although they are not native, they survive extremely well and are grown in gardens for their late summer flowers. The plant has also become naturalised and is found in wild places throughout the UK, often growing on damp ground or close to streams. It flowers from August through to late October providing late-flying butterflies such as peacocks and small tortoiseshells with a good source of nectar.
Michaelmas means Michael’s Mass. The flowers traditionally bloom on September 29th which is ‘The Feast of Saint Michael’.
Ragwort is still flowering profusely and I photographed a further two insects on separate plants, a Forest bug and a 6-spot Burnet Moth.
The forest bug, Pentatoma rufipes, is a species of shield bug in the family Pentatomidae. It is a common and widespread species found in forests and woodlands worldwide. It is shiny dark brown with red-orange markings on its body and bright orange legs. It is shaped like an escutcheon-type shield, flat, and about 14 millimetres (0.55 in) long. Its distinguishing characteristic is a pair of plates extending forward from the shoulders at the front of its dorsal thorax.
The forest bug’s main food source is any of several species of oak. It is a sap-feeder and uses piercing mouthparts to withdraw the liquid. It can also be found on other species of deciduous trees. The forest bug may also be regarded an agricultural and garden pest, as it will not hesitate to feed on fruit and nut trees. Occasionally it will consume other insects.
Adults lay eggs during the summer in the cracks of tree bark, and the larvae hatch the following spring.