On Butterflies and Bumblebees 2

– an update on the 2011 projects


“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower” Hans Christian Anderson

Bumble beesThe Schools` Butterfly Competition was a great success.   We really enjoyed looking at the beautiful paintings done by the children at Barnack and Helpston schools.  The Barnack prize winner was Anna Ellie Smith for her lovely picture of an orange tip butterfly on lady’s smock.    A book has been awarded for the libraries at both schools to encourage them in their environmental work.  

Phil Rudkin led a birdsong walk to Castor Hanglands for Ward residents on a fine May evening.  Yes, we did hear nightingales and a cuckoo, but the highlight for me was a thrush singing his heart out from the top of a tall tree in the wetland as the sun was setting.

I am now besotted with bumblebees.  I have done20 minute counts of those visiting my garden almost every day from early April and reached the grand total of 2568.  The three best days were June 13th with 93, followed by June 11th with 76 and June 10th with 71 recorded, feeding on lavender, honeysuckle, buddleia globosa and perennial sweet pea.  The food source which lasted longest, over 40 days, was lavender, followed by cotoneaster and ceanothus, flowering simultaneously, with 20 days.  

My highlights were the queens, freshly emerged from hibernation, looking for nectar in the pussy willows; females with their yellow baskets of pollen on their legs;  bumblebees wriggling out backwards from a foxglove; my first tree bumblebee,  a recent immigrant from France;  bumblebees almost rolling in bell shaped flowers like hollyhocks and dusting themselves all over in pollen.   They are busy almost from dawn till dusk and appear to live amicably with all the other insects, even sharing flowers.    

I was out with the display boards, talking to people and handing out recording sheets at the Helpston Gala, John Clare Festival and Barnack Horticultural Show.  Bumble bees are not easy to identify and I understand that the 20 minutes-a-day time slot was too great a commitment for most people but, perhaps more important than numbers, everyone is now aware of the importance of growing garden flowers for bumblebees and trying to achieve a succession of their favourite flowers from March until October.

Many of you have said that you have seen lots of bumblebees in your garden, but fewer butterflies this year.  Nationally the numbers of both continue to decline due to habitat loss, pesticides and intensive agriculture.  
Our nature reserves, woods and verges have been spectacular this year.  I counted 47 brown carder      bumblebees on the knapweeds beside the main track at Southey Woods on August 31st.  In July there were too many bumblebees to count and I saw red admiral, peacock, comma, large white and small tortoiseshell butterflies all feeding on the marjoram at Swaddywell Pit.

It used to be thought that by establishing nature reserves we could save our wildlife but now the experts are saying that we have to create linkages between our reserves, gardens and woods.  That was why we surveyed the limestone grassland verges in Helpston, Barnack, Ufford and Bainton which were designated as County Wildlife Sites in 2009.  Protected Verge signs, funded by the Barnack Ward Community Fund were erected this year to remind the farmers and the city council grass cutters that, apart from the roadside visibility-strip, these verges are not cut until the flowers have seeded in September and the clippings are removed.  However, one of our farmers, not content with creating a wildlife-free zone in his fields, mowed a two metre-wide strip of the protected verges on Highfield Road, Marholm Road and Heath Road in early August

In conclusion, thanks are due to our residents who continue to support our aim to create wildlife corridors within and between villages and improve our local environment for the benefit of our wildlife and all of us.  We can’t relax our efforts though!  Did you hear a cuckoo this year?  Or a nightingale?  When did you last see a hedgehog in your garden? Have you seen a barn owl recently? Will the swallows be back next year?  How many different butterflies did you see? 

We would like to know what projects you would like to support next year.   What about a tree, hedge and wild flower planting scheme right across Barnack Ward?  Or chemical-free gardens, concentrating on plants which attract bumblebees and butterflies?
For more information about what you can do, go to www.butterfly- conservation.org,www.bumblebeeconservationtrust.co.uk, www.buglife.org.uk

Frieda Gosling This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.