July - the view from here

My wild, untidy and flower-filled courtyard is becoming an insect haven

A bumblebee works a dahlia flower in the vegetable gardenI've just been to look outside in the courtyard to look at the number of insects around and thought it would be interesting to mention some of what I see right outside the door.

Standing out amongst other species, for weeks now, are dozens of white-tailed bumblebees (Bombus lucorum), mixed in with a few early bumblebees (Bombus pratorum) tumbling around on the lavender that grows in the bed alongside the path to the door. The stems bounce gently as the bees work and it is soothing to watch. 

Beyond that bed, the courtyard is quite a clutter. There are five raised beds containing a variety of vegetables and herbs, while the gaps between the surrounding paving have become home to a small forest of self-sown plants. Oregano, thyme, chives, Verbena bonariensis, Malva moschata, sedums and asters, all escapees, jostle for space with the forget-me-nots, hollyhocks, poppies and violets introduced by birds, insects or the soil falling from my boots. Here and there a deposit of sandy soil thrown up between the pavers, tells me ants have moved in below. I'm not inclined to move any of the plants for they are all visited by insects and create an atmosphere which pleases me. As for the ants, let them get on with their ant business. 


Going for oregano

In the raised beds, the most popular plant is oregano. This is visited mainly by honey bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and tiny wasps. A patch of bright dahlias attracts more bumblebees. The climbing beans have  black aphids on them, which has been noted by ladybirds who are busily eating them while others mate nearby – their larvae will do a good job of eating more. Here and there a blue-tailed damselfly flits about amongst the plants. Numerous spiders crawl about among the plants or weave webs between stems. 

There aren't many butterflies this year but you've seen some then you can take part in The Big Butterfly Count. I've seen the usual peacocks, red admirals, large white, gatekeeper and common blue, but not in large numbers. There are more mint moths (Pyrausta aurata) than I've seen previously, though they're on the sage and rather than the mint. It's good to see that hoverflies have suddenly made an appearance, favouring scabious flowers.

Centurion fly on buckwheatSomething of a disappointment is that, having read about how the bees would love it, I sowed an experimental patch of buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum).

It has been flowering for weeks now but I have yet to see a bee on the flowers. Maybe they just haven't seen it before and don't recognise it as a food plant, preferring the oregano in full flower nearby. They are not entirely ignored, for they are attracting good numbers of centurion flies and I get to see their shiny, metallic blue-green bodies. Hoverflies and other small flies and wasps are also making use of the nectar.

Overall, the current success story is the bumblebee, I have seldom seen as many of them which consoles me a little for the bees ignoring the buckwheat.

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