Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Bees In The Chimney, Nightjars & Glow Worms On The Heath, Great Tits In The House, And (after a request from Amanda), A List Of Flutter Food Plants


A swarm of Bees has taken up residence in the chimney pot. Apparently, this isn't good news so unless they decide to vacate their new home we'll have to get them moved on. My neighbour is keeping her aga on in an attempt to gently dissuade them from staying and the garden smells of aga fumes as a result :o( 

Meanwhile, in what is quite possibly the hottest week of the year so far, it looks like we'll be having fires every night this week in the hope of smoking them out (humanely, of course), otherwise it'll be a cherry pickers or scaffolding and heaven knows what that's going to cost. If only they'd chosen the oak tree instead...

I'm going to have a word with them later (when no-one's listening) to see whether I can persuade them to move on :o)



While putting clothes away I discovered a Great Tit sitting on the maps in F's room. This is a Perfectly Normal Occurrence in this house. Most weeks something small and wild can be found wandering around or flying about in one room or another. Last year we were woken by a wren buzzing about our heads early one morning, last month one of the Robins came in, left a calling card on my jewellery box and took himself out again, of course there are often stray moths left in the house who need escorting back outside and today a Rose Chafer Beetle decided to investigate the breakfast room and was avidly watched by a fascinated Poppy. Less welcome was the Queen Hornet who found her way into our bedroom last week and required Considerable Bravery and Daring Do on my part to get her back outdoors without stinging occurring.






Anyway, the GT flew out the window once I'd opened it and showed him the way.

I have Mystery Flowers growing in the Wild Flower Patch. Can anyone enlighten me?


 This next one is Poor Man's Orchid, one of my faves..



 And here's the Wild Flower Patch, coming along nicely (t'other side of the fence)...



Brian (Orange Tip pillar- remember?) grew considerably last week, and then unaccountably shrunk. I was measuring him every day with religious commitment and could not work it out. I'm fairly sure that caterpillars don't shrink. But then I realised that there are two Brians- one, much smaller pillar, came in on the Jack In The Hedge we 'borrowed' (ahem) from the bank on the lane and planted in the pot with the Ladies Smock. Brian 1 is not far off pupating now, having reached close to 30mm, whereas Brian 2 has some way still to go. Once they've pupated I will put them in the butterfly cage and see who comes out.

M tells me I should re-name Brian 2 because it isn't fair on him! So if you have any suggestions....



The Dress is finished! Can't quite believe it, but it is wearable and it fits and my husband likes it. I have some hemming still to do but that won't take long. What do you think? Not bad for a first attempt?



I also whipped up a pair of running shorts over the weekend. I couldn't face going into town and resent spending money on running kit (apart from a decent pair of trainers), and it's too hot for tight lycra, so I had a dig about in the fabric box and made these. I've got to shorten them a wee bit (hence the safety pins), but I ran in them last night and they work just fine. 


I've now made up a list of things I want to make (a decent knitting bag, linen trousers, pillow cases and some other bits and bobs) which I will do in Sewing Club this summer. It's great fun, I'm really enjoying it and I'm learning a lot. I've also just bought some new feet for the sewing machine, which will mean I can put in invisible zips and hems :o)

It has been crazy busy here of late (even more than usual), and apart from last night I can't remember the last time we had a night in. Part of this has been due to Nightars and Glow Worms who are out at this time of year after dark.

Here's a short video of the NIghtjars on the Forest calling. If you've not heard them before they make a whirring noise before displaying to the females. They're ground nesting birds who fly in for the summer from Africa to heaths and woodland and they are in decline. They have cryptic camouflage and are very difficult to find by day so your best chance is to go out at dusk or later and listen for them. We did see them displaying but didn't get it on the vid.



We've also been out surveying glow worms and have found them at both the sites we checked (one Heath, one Chalk), which is really pleasing, They are little-studied so there is no consensus on their numbers, although they are believed to be in decline due to loss of habitat and light pollution, which makes it hard for the boys to see the girls. 

So few of us are out after dark without lights of some form on these days that my own personal feeling is that there may well be loads of them about, we just don't see them. It makes me smile that many of the reports of GWs come from people walking home from the pub at night too sozzled to remember to carry a torch and then doubting the evidence of their eyes when little green lights pop up from the ground before them. Fairies, anyone?

Glow worms are actually a type of beetle and it's the females who glow, to attract a mate. Once she's laid eggs she switches off her light and dies. You can see in the pic below that the glow comes from two bars of light which are produced by a biochemical reaction.



Venus and Jupiter are bright in the skies here in the Southern UK at the moment. The night's we've been out surveying have been clear and we've had a good view of both..


I love being out in the countryside after dark, but getting to bed after midnight too many times catches me quicker than it once did and I need a few day's recovery before I can go out again! Back to surveying butterflies tomorrow after teaching a group of year five's this morning.

Amanda of Quiet Walker fame, asked me whether I could put together a list of flutter and moth food plants. I'll do some moth ones in a separate post so these below are for the more common butterflies. The more specialist species tend to be defined by geology. So, for example, many of the Blue Butterflies are Chalk Specialists and feed off Chalk Plants such as rock rose and some of the vetches as a result.

Generally, when a book refers to a 'food plant' it means the plant eaten by the larvae (caterpillar), not the adult. Many adult flutters will feed from a wide variety of plants or nectar sources, any restrictions are usually due to the time of year (eg if they're an early or late species and not much is available). I noted this Spring that the early butterflies almost all feed from Willow Catkins, because it's one of the earliest nectar sources available, and the same is true of moths. In the Autumn its Ivy, because it flowers late and is one of the few plants to produce nectar from Sept/ October onwards when everything else is closing down for the winter.

Plants in itallics in the list below indicate a plant that the adult insect feeds from, those in bold are the food plants for the larvae. Obviously, you need a mix of both if you want to attract lepidoptera (moths and flutters) into your garden and have them breeding there.

The list is not exhaustive, but hopefully gives you an idea of what to plant/ encourage. Thanks, Amanda for asking :o)

Butterflies

Peacock: willow, teasel, buddleia, bramble, lilac, scabious, common nettle.

Red Admiral: buddleia, bramble, fruit trees, common nettle

Comma: willow catkins, buddleia, fallen fruit, common nettle, hop, currants, willows, elms

Small Tortoiseshell: willow catkins, buddleia and other flowering plants, common nettle, small nettle, hop

Large Skipper: scabious, ox eye daisies and other flowering plants, wild grasses, usually Cock's Foot (must be left tall)

Small Skipper: as per Large Skip but prefers Yorkshire Fog grass for egg laying

Brimstone: A number of flowering plants including everlasting sweet peas, scabious, ox eye daisies, Buckthorn & Alder Buckthorn 

Orange Tip: variety of flowering plants, Cuckoo Flower, Jack In The Hedge, Charlock, Hairy Rock Cress, Turnip, Winter-Cress

Green Hairstreak: scabious, ox eye daisy, birdsfoot trefoil, rock rose, kidney vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, rockrose, gorse, broom, bilberry

Purple Emperor: aphid honeydew, tree sap, muddy puddle salts, shrimp paste, dog poo, carrion, goat willow (sallow).  Requires mature oaks beside Sallow as habitat.

White Admiral: brambles and other woodland flower plants, honeysuckle

Painted Lady: wide variety of flowering plants, thistles 

Gate Keeper & Meadow Brown: wide variety of flowering plants, grasses especially: bents, fescues and meadow grasses


Hope that's useful and that all are well?

CT :o) 



35 comments:

  1. Just recently found out what a Nightjar was and am glad to hear one. We don't have them in the US.

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    1. We don't have many here now either sadly. It's a very unusual sound.

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  2. The list is indeed useful m'dear and I shall be endeavouring to find room within the confines of Compromise garden for some of them there plants. No idea about your mystery plant although perhaps it belongs to the 'Pea' family?

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    1. Pea family- good idea. I'm just being lazy as I haven't bothered to check my books! Glad the list was useful :o)

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  3. I once read that Butterflies don't serve any purpose other than being a creature of beauty. Is this true CT? I am sure the must help pollinate flowers. They love our hay meadows, the buddleias and the seedum plants in our gardens.

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    1. It's something I hear often Dave and when I'm giving talks always make a point of debunking.

      You're quite right, they're very important pollinators, they're also crucial in the food chain (one baby blue tit needs 100 caterpillars a day, with ten in the nest for three weeks that's 21,000 caterpillars) and they also help science with tracking climate changes and the health of the environment as they respond quickly to changes in temperature and habitat.

      So funny you should mention that as I'm just putting together a presentation for a school and have a page on that very same point!

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  4. That's a nice dress. You made those shorts without a pattern? You're clever. I'd like get some Milkweed to help out the Monarchs but the garden centres don't seem to carry it and it doesn't seem right to dig it up from somewhere else. I'll have to find a substitute plant.

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    1. The shorts are dead easy to make. There is a post somewhere on my blog (this year I think) with instructions on how to make them.

      Am I right in thinking that Obama has put together a package to help save Monarchs? Someone mentioned it last week at a talk.

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  5. I hope your Bees move on! I light rubbish quite often to dissuade the local jackdaws from nesting in mine. The mystery flower looks a bit snapdragonny/orchiddy/peasey lol

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    1. We've had Jackdaws down the chimney before now - opening the plate the bird hops out into the room and is off out the window before you can sneeze :o)

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  6. Such an interesting post.
    I do hope those bees move on; it is such an awkward awkward place to get to for anyone collecting a swarm.
    I have no idea what that flower is - have you investigated the mimulus family - I think that is a possibility.

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    1. Apparently, if they get between the liner and the brick, it's a really tough job to move them :o( Bee whispering has to be worth a try...
      Don't think it's a mimulus. It must have been in the packet of wild seed. I really should look through my wildflower key book and work it out!

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  7. Ermintrude? It has that je ne sais quois to counterpoint the brutality of a Brian. Won't the local authority relocate the bees for free? Such a shame as you say that they've picked the wrong spot. Love the dress, and the fabric is gorgeous. Brilliant shorts as well. I wish I had the legs for shorts that short. Or any shorts at all if I'm honest. Lovely to hear a nightjar, it's not a bird I've ever heard or seen. The biggest boy is upset that he hasn't seen any new birds for the year at all this month. We haven't been to the wildfowl and wetlands place though, which is our main birdwatching place. Good luck with your bee whispering, I have great faith in your abilities when it comes to wildlife. Oh and I am seriously in love with your shelves of maps. Wonderful! CJ xx

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    1. A caterpillar called Ermintrude would go perfectly with Brian- wasn't that the Magic Roundabout? :o)

      It's the local Bee Keepers who come out (at a cost) if it's a tricksy removal, which this almost certainly will be unless the bees decide to move on.

      New bird sightings tend to slow down from now as everything that's going to arrive for summer has done so. How about Hawk spotting?

      The maps are M's- he has hundreds! :o) xx

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    2. Yes, you're right, Magic Roundabout indeed. I went for a run this morning at 6.10am! You have inspired me. 10.15am now and I am in need of a sleep. CJ xx

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    3. Wow! I am really impressed- well done you! Keep going, you'll feel so much better for it, even if you only do half a mile every other day, which is easily achievable. Early night tonight? :o) xx

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  8. The nightjar recording was great, and apparently there are quite a few around here so I have high hopes for Monday. That is one serious map collection and I should know as we have a similar amount here and my son is now the proud owner of my dad's collection. I would say what is it with men and maps except I find them fascinating too. I'm very impressed by your sewing, the dress looks so pretty. I hope the bees swarm elsewhere soon. I thought the unidentified flower looked like a snapdragon and my wildflower patch at the allotment has just started flowering too.Have a good evening CT.

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    1. M is the map man in our house, although I agree, they are lovely things. We're definitely a map rather than sat nav kind of family.

      Good luck with the nightjars- hope you get to hear them and see them.

      Fewer bees about. Am going to try Bovey Belle's radio 1 trick (or rather, suggest it to my neighbour as we've realised it's her chimney not ours they are in). :o)

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  9. That is a great list CT, I'm inspired to add a few extra plants in garden for the flutters. Your dress is so nice, And the shorts! Terribly glamorous my dear. Very interesting about the bees in your chimney, Hopefully they will move after a gentle whisper. How is the little owl getting on?

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    1. Excellent! Other insects will also use those plants so should boost your garden biodiversity and health :o)

      Glad you approve of dress and shorts- how are your sewing projects coming on?

      Bop is fine as far as I know- we're hoping to release him here in a few weeks xx

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    2. The sewing has been put on the back burner so to speak - I'm bitten by the crochet bug at the moment. Also doing a lot of running and walking so the crochet is the perfect lazy antidote to all the activity. Great news about The Bop.

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    3. Excellent about the running and I'm looking forward to seeing what you've been crocheting too :o) x

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  10. Here, if we have a bee "problem" we call a local bee keeper who gathers them....may be worth a try.
    Jane x

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    1. It's the local bee keeper coming out- the complicating factor is the dreaded health & safety because it's in the chimney :o(

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  11. A fascinating post. I may have a cure for your bees in the chimney as we've had them here several times in the swarming season. If you put a radio on radio 1 (has to be noisy music) very loudly in the bottom of the chimney they will literally buzz off. I don't know if it's the choice of music or the vibration, but I know Radio 4 doesn't cut it . . . Hope that works for you.

    Love your shorts and your lovely dress - that looks like some quilt making material I have.

    I've never seen the Poor Man's Orchid before (looks a proper hybrid!) and the plant above it is obviously pea/vetch family but not one I know. I'll look up my biggest wild flower books for you.

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    1. Thank you for the tip- have texted my neighbour as we've realised they're in her chimney. Be great if that works.

      Thanks also re checking your wildflower book. I have now been through mine and the Francis Rose wildflower key and can't find it anywhere. It has to be pea/ vetch family but I'm flummoxed! x

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  12. Hey CT,
    I admire the girl who has the legs for short shorts. My legs are proper sturdy Celtic types. Built for chasing the marauding Welsh back over the Severn from Bristol ;)) My Dad calls them 'stocky' Cheeky bleeder.
    And I was right; you are Snow White. Did the birds run the vacuum round whilst they were in the house?
    Leanne xx

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    1. It's all the running and lungeing in the garden!

      Now, getting the birds to vacuum is a very good idea- it'ud be largely the only time it gets done :o) XXX

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  13. Right were do I start....!
    If the bees are tree bees like what we had in our roof, give it a few weeks and they should move on. Ours have all gone. the male bees are dancing out side the nest waiting for females, this is when most people notice the nest but it all ready has been there for weeks.Just watch as they will start falling to the floor bashing into everything, while they are coupled together.

    Love the dress and shorts, it has been warm enough here to day to think about putting shorts on...

    The sounds of the Nightjar is interesting, just have to talk OH into coming out one evening for a listen.

    Super plant list and others have found it interesting too, must try and get some more Honeysuckle into the garden. So thanks for the list it has been a great help, look forward to seeing the moth list...
    Amanda xx

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    1. That's a good thought about Tree Bees, but, M watched the swarm come in so they've only been there since Sat and I have seen them in my neighbour's house and they're honeys. Thank you for the suggestion though- always useful to hear about other folks' experiences.

      I hope you do get to go Nightjarring. If OH isn't keen, try your local wildlife trust of the National Trust rangers if you have any near- they put walks on here at this time of year to go listen to them. Failing that, come down to the forest and I'll take you!

      Glad the plant list was useful xx

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  14. We are having the same problem with bees, albeit intermittently. A few years ago we had to get out a guy who sadly had to kill them, because they'd nested in the stainless steel flue and it was impossible to get them out. Later the same year hornets nested so same guy had to come out and do the same thing! Hate having to kill anything but you'd think a small fire in the woodburner would be a subtle hint? Obviously not!
    Glad you've seen some glow worms, and that unknown plant was in one of my wildflower mixes too, but I also haven't a clue. Love the poor man's orchids! Never seen it before. :-)

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    1. That's my worry here- if they've got between the liner and the brick it isn't great news. The unknown plant turned out to be a toadflax family member xx

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    2. Aha, thanks for the plant ID! :-)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x