From the Banks of the Bela

Needing to deliver A to a dance class in Milnthorpe, and with the boys in tow, I decided to revisit that stretch of the Bela which the boys and I walked in the spring.

Where we’d looked at butterbur flowers we now found the giant leaves of the same plant…

The bank was also clothed in a tall umbellifer…

…not dissimilar to the hemlock water dropwort I saw at Leighton Moss, and which I had originally mistaken for wild celery. But this I think was wild celery.

Although I’m far from confident. It was popular with bees…

I noticed that the polled baskets on this bee were grey – it never occurred to me that the colour of the pollen basket might be a function of the type of pollen being collected until I came across that idea here.

Whilst I was chasing bees, I noticed in the corner of my eye a movement on another flower and just managed to see the tail-end of something disappear into what seemed to be a silken tunnel…

A tantalising glimpse of….what? Shame the picture isn’t sharper.

Away from the river we found this garden, which aside from a small vegetable plot in the centre was almost entirely given over to nettles and ground elder.

Still, ground elder was once grown as a garden vegetable…

This garden weed is not a native of Britain, but more of a guest that has outstayed its welcome. It was introduced from the Continent, presumably by somebody who wanted to eat it: the young leaves, boiled like spinach and eaten with butter, were once considered a delicacy.

This is the 16th Century naturalist John Gerard complaining ground elder…

groweth itselfe in gardens without setting or sowing, and is so fruitful in its increase, that where it hath once taken root, it will hardly be gotten out again, spoiling and getting every yeere more ground, to the annoying of better herbes.’

I had partly sold this route to the boys as being ‘the way to the playground’, which was true – it’s the scenic route. Once the boys were enjoying the swings and climbing frames I found ivy-leaved toadflax and more biting stonecrop on the wall of the park…

From the Banks of the Bela

8 thoughts on “From the Banks of the Bela

  1. Emily Heath says:

    Thanks to linking to my blog and for more lovely pictures. You will notice that a honeybee will always have the same colour pollen in its baskets, because honeybees show ‘flower fidelity’ – each bee chooses one flower species at a time to gather from. For that reason you usually see them around big clusters of a particular type of flower or on flowering trees, whereas bumbles are happy to visit multiple types of flower on their foraging trips.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      That’s interesting – I wonder is there a popular theory amogst apiarists as to why honey bees show flower fidelity? I now have an image (probably completely erroneous) of bumble bees slowly acquiring rainbow striped pollen baskets as they flit from one flower to another and back again.

      1. I’m not sure what other beekeepers think, but my theory is that honeybees are very efficient creatures and picking one flower to stick to at a time is a very efficient way of doing things. That way you visit a concentrated area of flowers on each foraging trip rather than flying all over the place. Worker bees have a limit of 800km of flight before the glycogen reserves in their wings become exhausted and they die, so they need to get maximum nectar/pollen bang for their buck on each trip.

  2. Hi Mark, I love that last photo of the Biting Stonecrop on the stone wall.

    The tail-end of something disappearing might be the caterpillar of the moth Depressaria daucella, one I’ve seen taking up residence in various umbellifers and which was id’d for me a couple of years ago. (Moths are a know-nothing, need-to-know-everything area for me).

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Thanks Rob – I looked up Depressaria daucella on UK Moths and I can see why you thought this might be its caterpillar. It tells me there that the caterpillar fo this moth lives on water-dropworts and related species, which might mean that my ID of the ‘wld celery’ is incorrect!

  3. beatingthebounds says:

    Making some connections: that fidelity would explain why honey bees are so important as pollinators and why some flowers – like butterbur – have mechanisms to both keep out other insects and to make their nectar only available to long-tongued collectors like bees. I wonder whether, havig been looking at a lot of orchids over the last couple of day, that’s why orchids often have a long spur at the back of the flower?

    1. Yes, that’s why honey bees are so important. I believe their tongues are shorter than most bumblebee species, so the butterbur may be trying to attract bumbles. Tomato plants can only be pollinated by bumbles because a buzzing/shake action is required which honey bees don’t instinctively carry out as bumbles do.

      Darwin correctly predicted the existence of a moth with a 35cm proboscis, the length needed to pollinate a particular Madagascan orchid with a particularly long spur:

      1. beatingthebounds says:

        And you thought that I might know a lot about flowers – thanks for the link, it was a story I didn’t know – and absolutley fascinating.

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