Wildflower Bank Sign, Butterflies and Bumblebees

 

OPWP is currently working with OPCC to finalise the sign which will show the Wildflower Bank and its wildlife. The sign was funded very generously by Education Services 2010. We hope it will be installed quite close to the school entrance so that during school pick up and drop offs, pupils, parents, and guardians will be able to discover more about the flowers and wildlife that they support. All of the drawings submitted during last term’s competition will feature on the sign. We’re designing a chart showing flower colour, flowering period, and flower shapes to help you do some of your own identifications.

I had a wander over to the end of the Wildflower Bank close to the Premier Inn yesterday to see what I could ID, and found there were lots of Small White butterflies (Pieris rapae) around. They’re out again in large numbers today, as their populations peak in late August and early September. Unlike the Large White, this one doesn’t cause such a problem for folks growing brassicas. The Small White is very widespread in the UK, reaching as far north as Scotland including the Orkney and Shetland Islands. They can even migrate here from continental Europe. It’s possible that some individuals can fly up to 100 miles in their lifetime, absolutely amazing considering their 38 – 57mm wingspan, however most will not exceed just a few miles of travel. If you see them flying around, you can tell which are females as they have two spots on their wings, whereas the males have just one. Their UK population is fairly stable, and they are not of conservation concern (source: adapted from UK Butterflies click link for more details).

The hairy ginger bumblebee in the other photograph is the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). This species is one of the earliest bumblebees to emerge in spring, and one of the latest fliers, so it’s one you’re likely to see if you venture over to the Wildflower Bank for a little survey of your own. Although this species is occurring less frequently, its range is expanding northwards, and like the Small White butterfly, it too can be found in the Orkneys. Carder Bees gather moss and dry grass to cover their nests, which are above ground in grasses, under hedges and similar, with each nest accommodating just 60-150 workers, quite small as nests go (source: adapted from Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Bees, Wasps, and Ants Recording Society click links for more details).

 

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Q: Why do owls never go courting in the rain?

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A: Because it’s too wet to woo!

Wet wildlife jokes aside, it’s been a difficult time for wildlife this year, what with the extended icy cold spell at the beginning of the year, soon to be followed by the recent searing heat and droughts.

Thankfully the wildlife and their habitats in Orchard Park are getting a thorough watering today.

If it does turn hot and dry for another extended spell, please do consider putting bowls of fresh water (definitely NOT milk) and some food: cat or dog food, chicken ideally (definitely NOT fish) out each night for hedgehogs. They’re suffering particularly badly according to local sources: Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital and Kingfisher Wildlife Sanctuary in Great Abingdon are both calling for equipment and donations because of the increased numbers of seriously dehydrated hedgehogs being taken to them for attention. It’s a similar story all over the UK as Fay Vass from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said in a recent article in the Independent “Food is scarce as well because their food is worms, slugs and beetles and they are all hiding away well below the surface… so they are coming into the centres very skinny, very hungry and desperately needing water.”

 

Birds and other wildlife will also appreciate any food you can provide. Water should be plentiful for a few days if the rain continues like this – and it will according to forecasts.

An OP resident that has been feeding and providing water for hedgehogs regularly has been rewarded for their efforts recently – they captured the video and photos of this healthy looking hedgehog included this blog post 😍. Thank you for sharing 😀 and most importantly, thank you for helping our local wildlife.