Thursday, 23 August 2012

Butterflies, Bees and Buddleia

There's been a fair bit in the news today about the massive affect that the weather seems to have had on some insects. The main spcies in the headlines is the Honey Bees, already badly decimated by Colony Collapse Disorder. The weather hasn't actually killed honey bees, but in very bad weather they are unable to get out and forage and therefore the production of honey has been greatly reduced. Bad news if like me you like honey and in my case it is an important ingredient of the bread I make.

On plant that does attract all sorts of insects is Buddleia, sometimes known as the butterfly bush. It isn't one plant, it is a genus of over 100 species of plants. The name of the genus was given by Linnaeus to honour  the Reverend Adam Buddle, a botanist and rector from Essex. There are native species of Buddleia in Asia, Africa and North and South America, but not Europe or Austalasia.

We've got a few Buddleias round the garden. Most have the normal candle type flowers that vary from a deep purple to a pale lilac. These probably come from Buddleia davidi (name after the missionary, and famous botanist and zoologist, Armand David, who brought the plant to Europe from China).

The deep coloured plants seem to attract the most butterflies, especially Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells, though so far this year no Peacocks or Painted Ladies have arrived on them.

The paler flowered plants don't seem to be so actractive to these brightly coloured butterflies, but do seem to be the choice of the whites.

There are also yellow species, some with candle flowers and some with "pom-pom" type blooms. These seem particularly good for bees, bumble-bees and hoverflies.

This Buff-tailed Bumblebee is covered in pollen and it demonstrates one of the worrying aspects of the decline of  bee numbers. One of the most famous quotes about this was supposed to have come from Albert Einstein.  “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!” He wasn’t an entomologist, and he almost certainly didn't say this! but entomologists around today agree that the sudden and mysterious disappearance of bees from their hives poses serious problems!

1 comment:

Susan said...

Honey bee numbers globally are actually the highest they have ever been (because China has taken up largescale honey production). Thus it's not honeybees we should all be worried about. Many bumblebees and solitary bees are more important pollinators of certain sorts of foods and are also in decline for reasons other than CCD. Bumblebees in particular are cool climate creatures, and climate change will do them no favours whatsoever. They are the group I am most concerned about. It is worth noting that honeybees do not buzz pollinate, and are therefore unable to pollinate important food crops such as potatoes and tomatoes. Also remember just how many crops are wind pollinated and don't rely on insects at all.