All around our garden wildlflowers make their home and they are welcome with open arms.
Here tufted vetch. One of the earliest vetches to flower and loved by bees especially Common carder bees.
Secondly globe marigold. I transferred a bit of a plant to our pond many years ago where it grows. Though it is in the nearby drains where it flourishes. It’s bright yellow petals are just like mini suns.
Thirdly lesser celendine with violets; for me the colour combination is just perfect. Violets along with primroses are my favourite spring flowers.
Fourthly the humble buttercup. While the creeping buttercup is a bit of a nuisance as a “weed” in the vegetable patch you cannot but enjoy the bright yellow flowers.
Next bluebells. Yes they are already in flower. I collected seed from a woodland not too far away and have waited five patient years for these seeds to grow enough to produce flowers. It was worth the wait.
And finally dandelions – many of which are now seed heads. But these are loved by bullfinches, goldfinches and chaffinches.
Is it really time for Six on Saturday already? Despite everything, the week flies by. Spring is well under way. I do love this time of year. It has been exceptionally warm and sunny (for the west of Ireland at least), but we won’t complain. So here is this week’s six.
1. Ragged jack kale self seeds its self freely around the garden and at this time of year the flowers are valuable food source for pollinators – usually bumblebees and hoverflies but I have also had a solitary honey bee.
2. Common carder bee – this one feeding on comfrey that is now flowering outside as well as in the greenhouse.
3. Autumn olive – the flowers smell a little of citrus and are popular with bumblebees too.
4. Crab apples. There is the one I showed last week. It is at it’s best now and the scent is heavenly. I have another crab which is the red leafed variety. The flowers are pink and not too plentiful – in fact it’s hard to see them against the leaves. The fruits are tiny. Still I like the leaf colour, as it adds contrast to the mainly green leaves of the other trees in the garden.
5. American Hawthorn is also in flower. It usually flowers a bit earlier than our native hawthorn.
6. Red campion, I grew these from native seed collected at Raheens wood and they are doing well at the base of a hedge.
We visited The Burren in County Clare last August. If I was to return I would go in early spring to see the famed spring flowers. The late summer flowers were stunning but when botanists speak of The Burren they talk about the spring flowers particularly.
Another place I would love to return to is Clare Island. We visited in January 2018, but if I was to return I would go in the early summer to see the wildflowers and nesting sea birds.
One day, when we are back to some form of normality, we will again visit the many amazing places we can find in Ireland.
A few days ago my son came across this extraordinary beast in the garden. Measuring about 30mm long this is a pretty big beetle. None of us have ever seen one before. So first it was run for the camera, and then run for the identification books.
While we were looking through the books, my son suggested it may be an oil beetle. We’d never seen one of these but the evening before we had been reading about them in My Family and Other Animals by British naturalist Gerald Durrell (a book I had read many years ago and was just rereading with the children). And funnily enough that is exactly what it was!
After a search on the internet we could find very little about this beetle in Ireland though my insect book suggested it was found throughout the island. There were no records on the national biodiversity database (Update: I was incorrect – there are three records, one each for counties Clare, Cork and Wexford) but there were articles about it occurring on the island. A search on UK websites brought more information. In fact Buglife UK started a citizen science oil beetle hunt last year. From UK’s National Biodiversity Network (NBN) we found that the five British native oil beetles species have suffered drastic declines due to the changes in the way the countryside is managed and a further three oil beetle species are thought to be extinct.
The beetle has a fascinating life cycle. We spotted our beetle at 11am. By 2pm she had dug herself a hole in a bare soil bank. This is where she lays her eggs.
She can lay up to 1000 eggs, and they take 2-3 weeks to hatch. By 5.30pm our beetle was meticulously filling the hole in again. Once the eggs hatch, the louse like larva dig themselves out and climb up onto a flower. Once on the flower they wait for a passing solitary bee.
The larva climb onto the bee and hitch a ride back to the bees nest. Here they eat the bees eggs and turn into a grub like life stage. They then moult a few times before they pupate, still inside the bees nest, where they stay till they hatch into adults the following spring.
We think this one is the Black oil beetle – Meloe proscarabaeus, but are open to correction. (See comment below from thremnir who suggests it is in fact Meloe violaceus, the violet oil beetle)