30 Days Wild – Day 9

Today began with a bat survey, where there was little to be seen in the way of bats activity but plenty of swallows who started chirping away a good 90 minutes before sunrise and taking to the wing soon afterwards. After dawn, it was back to the hotel to catch up on a little sleep and then into the office for the day.

It was another blue-sky sunny day so I took a walk up the meadows which rise out of the back of Grantham for my lunch break. One of the main tips I took away from shadowing an invertebrate specialist yesterday was to check out hogweed flowers as they’re a draw for so many insect species. Sure enough, there were a good number of insects to be found, many of which were small and beyond my knowledge to even begin identifying, but a few  were a little easier to attempt.

Ashy mining bee on a hogweed flower

One of the reasons why hogweed is so popular with inverts is the large number of flowers it produces – each flower head is an ‘umbel’ of  hundreds of smaller flowers meaning there’s plenty to go around. They are relatively easy flowers for a range of insects to access – as opposed to the likes of foxgloves, campions or vetches whose shape selects particular pollinators but excludes others.

Early mining bee on a hogweed flower, with an ashy mining bee in the foreground

Finally, the hogweed is a robust flower which means it can take the weight of more significant insects, such as longhorn beetles, which smaller and weaker-stemmed flowers would struggle to support.

Nomad bee on a hogweed flower

A great activity for a sunny day is to find yourself a good patch of hogweed and see what range of insects you can see. They are such a good buffet for pollinators that they draw in insects from the vicinity so if you sit and watch for a few moments, you can watch the various comings and goings as different species drop in for a re-fuel. A great way to pass a few moments of your 30 Days Wild!

Hogweed flowers viewed from below against a blue lunchtime sky