Some butterflies are only just appearing now

Southern Hawker Dragonfly - Margaret Manning (S)
Southern Hawker Dragonfly - Margaret Manning (S)

Butterfly Conservation tells us that because of the soggy summer many butterflies are just appearing now, many weeks later than usual and this of course is causing problems because my observations are that many plants are flowering on time or early and that means no nectar for our insects.

You can help The Butterfly Conservation folk by sending your butterfly sightings to them via their website. They are especially concerned about small tortoiseshell which have suffered a huge decline in recent years, something I have certainly noticed and I am sure you will also have seen. I have witnessed on my travels peacock, small tortoiseshell and the occasional red admiral, on grassland I’ve seen meadow brown, small heath, small copper and ringlet and in our hedgerows an exceptional number of holly blue butterflies, especially on the railway line at Bilton, towards the viaduct along with speckled wood. What I would like is for you to send me your butterfly photos and let’s hope there’s sufficient warm dry weather to allow what few butterflies there are to find sufficient food to ensure the species’ survival for another year at least. Someone who has seen some butterflies this year is Mae Owens, who photographed this peacock and small tortoiseshell near Cattal on September 9

SOGGY BEES!

It’s not just the butterflies which are suffering, bumblebees and honey bees are in equal difficulty, it’s no fun foraging in the wet if you are an insect. Another group Bumblebee Conservation are equally concerned about soggy bees and they tell us, “It has been a tough summer for our bumblebees, so those hardy individuals that are clinging on need our help more than ever if they are to mate successfully. The most effective thing we can all do to help is make sure that our gardens provide flowers until at least October.

At this time of year our bumblebee queens should be starting to produce male bumblebees and new queens. These individuals will leave the nest to mate with partners from other colonies.

This is an energy intensive process so the bumblebees need a plentiful supply of nectar from the flowers in our gardens and the wider countryside. Once mated the new queens need to stock up their fat reserves in preparation for hibernation through the winter. So it is vital that there be flowers available for them to feast upon. If your garden is looking a little sparse at this time of year then consider adding flowers like honeysuckle, lavender, sedum and teasel to help your local bumblebees, next year. For more planting suggestions, visit the Bumblebee Conservation website and look at their Bee Kind tool.

SOGGY STRAY!

Margaret Manning from Forest Lane, Harrogate, writes, “I thought you might like to see my photo of hawker dragonfly which I saw on a wall of a pub on West Park Stray today – Saturday, September 8. It was, I think, at least 10cm and just settled on the wall long enough for me to take this photo - plus shadows, in the lovely September sunshine.” The dragonfly, I believe, is a male southern hawker or blue hawker, Aeshna cyanea. Why it was on the Stray, I’m not quite sure, unless it believes that the Stray will eventually become permanently waterlogged! They are however known to wander into urban areas in search of a mate. I say male because it is blue along the body.

To quote Wikipedia, which I do with some reservations, “The Southern Hawker breeds in still or slow-flowing water, but will wander widely, and is often seen in gardens and open woodland. This is an inquisitive species and will approach people. The adult eats various insects, caught on the wing.

The nymphs feed on aquatic insects, tadpoles and small fish ambushed in the pond they frequent until they emerge as adults in July and August after three years’ development.”

SIGHTINGS

Neil Anderson was returning from watching Leeds United and on the Harrogate by-pass, near Calcutt.

He writes: “Sadly en route there was a dead badger by the roadside (this road is deadly for poor old brock, I’ve seen a few corpses on it),.

The upside however was a barn owl which flew in front of the car for a few seconds before veering off into the trees.”

Please ensure that any photos you submit are at least 400kb, although much bigger would be better to meet the new photo size requirements.