common shrew, common spotted orchid, greenbottle flies on shrew carcass, greenbottle fly, honeysuckle, medicinal plants, Pyramidal Orchid
Bryn Euryn’s woodland trail is a circular route that travels more or less around the circumference of the bottom of the hill and is a good one to follow if you want a ‘proper’ walk without too many distractions. That’s not to say there isn’t anything to see; on my walks there is always something that catches my eye, or as happened on one particular evening, my nose!
I had rejoined this trail after my diversion onto the more open hillside where I had earlier watched the butterflies, and by the time I reached there it was late afternoon and a little cooler; just the time to catch the intermittent scent of honeysuckle, which for me is the absolutely perfect fragrance. The fresh perfume of the honeysuckle takes me back to walking through shady summer woods as a child when the heavenly scent brought the plant to my attention and I would always have to find it and inhale more of it. In fact I still do that; I just cannot resist it.
Honeysuckle – Lonicera periclymenum
Therapeutic and medicinal uses
I remember being very disappointed when, training as an aromatherapist, I learnt that Honeysuckle is not an essential oil that is practical to use for therapeutic massage. It is very difficult to extract the oil on a commercial basis, so it ends up being very expensive and difficult to obtain in an ‘absolute’ or pure form; any you buy is likely to have been mixed with something else. It is more widely used as a component of perfume. Shame, because the essential oil supposedly has some wonderful properties and if it had been practical to use I probably could have used it by the bucketful!
“Honeysuckle aids one to get past mental regrets, and move forward freely in life. It’s captivating scent is able to instil love and beauty, and banish any fear and sadness brought about by such events as divorce, death, and loneliness. The oil allows one to overcome harshness, indulge in self-renewal, and inspires hope, progress, freedom, and unity.”
Honeysuckle has been used medicinally for thousands of years to treat respiratory conditions, diarrhoea, ease childbirth, and stimulate the flow of energy throughout the body. Aromadendrene, a terpenoid, is a constituent of honeysuckle essential oil, which contributes to the oil’s antimicrobial properties. The terpenoid inhibits growth of micro-organisms, such as, bacteria, fungi, and protozoans. Eugenol, a phenylpropene, which is known to be a restorative and has a palliative effect, meaning it relieves pain and prevents further suffering.
I was soon snapped out of my state of pleasant reminiscence brought about by the aromatic honeysuckle as my olfactory sense was assailed by a far less pleasant smell, immediately recognisable as that arising from something that has died. Never one to shirk the responsibility of recording all aspects of the nature I come across on my wanderings, I followed my nose regardless, although trying not to breathe through it. I soon found the source of the stench: another little shrew had passed away; probably murdered by another cat. It was creating a mighty smell for something so tiny in life, but it would have attracted my attention anyway as there were a dozen or more Greenbottle flies swarming over its tiny body. (Those of a squeamish nature should probably look away now!)
I know it’s not nice, but we all know that nature is not always about pretty flowers, butterflies and birds singing. Everything dies and it is actually interesting to see what benefits from that; it is often insects that are responsible for completing the circle of life. And, sorry, I do find Greenbottle flies very interesting.
Greenbottle Fly- Lucilia sericata
The Common Green bottle fly is a blow-fly, a member of the family Calliphoridae, is the most well-known of the numerous green bottle fly species and found in most areas of the world. It is 10–14 mm long, slightly larger than a housefly, and has brilliant, metallic, blue-green or golden colouration with black markings. It has short, sparse black bristles (setae) and three cross-grooves on the thorax. The wings are clear with light brown veins, and the legs and antennae are black.
The fly is found feeding on flowers, but is also a common visitor to carrion and faeces. The female greenbottle lays a mass of eggs in a wound, a carcass or corpse, or in necrotic or decaying tissue. (A single female typically lays 150-200 eggs per batch and may produce 2,000 to 3,000 eggs in its lifetime.) The eggs hatch out in about 8–10 hours in warm moist weather, but may take as long as three days in cooler weather.
Like most Calliphorids, the insect has been heavily studied and its life cycle and habits well documented and L. sericata is an important species to forensic entomologists. One of the first insects to colonise a corpse, the stage of the insect’s development is used to calculate the period of colonization, so that it can be used to aid in determining the time of death of the victim.
L. sericata, along with other species of blowfly also makes an impact in a veterinary sense. In the UK and Australia it is commonly referred to as the “sheep blowfly” since sheep are its primary, although not sole host.
In Northern Europe, the fly will lay its eggs in sheep wool. The larvae then migrate down the wool to feed directly on the surface of the animal’s skin, which can cause massive lesions and secondary bacterial infections. In the UK, it is estimated that blowfly strike affects 1 million sheep as well as 80% of sheep farms each year. This causes a huge economic impact in these regions: it costs money to treat infected animals and to take measures to control L. sericata populations.
To end on a pleasanter note, here are some more flowers I found along the woodland trail that same evening:
Foxgloves are not common here, but there were a couple of stems of them; tall now and maybe a little more than half-way to being finished.
Amongst the grass and other tougher plants on the path edge a pretty Common Spotted Orchid pushed through.
Further along, in quite deep shade I was surprised to find another Pyramidal Orchid.
Yes, that would be taking things a bit too far wouldn’t it? Although it might have been nice to get a whiff of the honeysuckle.
Emily Heath said:
I don’t mind seeing the dead shrew, but am glad not to receive the accompanying smell through my computer.
I agree completely, this particular species is very attractive to behold. I find them fascinating for the part they play in nature and the fact that their existence is not just to annoy us!
I can’t really claim to ‘like’ flies, but no one with an ounce of the artist in them could surely fail to be amazed by the iridescent colours – that’s what I find remarkable and captivating.