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August Garden Wildlife and Update!

Before I go into August garden wildlife I will just update you with how we're getting on in our challenge to see 400 garden creatures. We have now reached 381 species putting us only two off last years total and just 20 away from our target! Hopefully with some help from the moth trap we will get there. We also need your help if we are to raise £1000 for A Rocha our chosen charity. We have so far raised £600, but with a big push I think we can get there. If you would like to donate to this great course we and they would be very grateful. For more details on how to donate and info about the charity follow this link:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/blumirewildlife


August Wildlife in the Garden

What Garden Wildlife to Look out for in August: Common Carder Bee, Hornet Mimic Hoverfly, Grass Snake, Peacock Butterfly and House Martin.


Not sure how it’s August already! It is even beginning to feel almost autumnal, now with berries and all sorts of fruit ripening. August is one of my favourite months with the colours in the garden too! I have been in Norfolk again recently and back home I noticed the great numbers of butterflies on all the buddleia, which was great to see! I hope you managed to do a Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation, if not you will have to wait till next year.


My first creature for August is the rather furry Common Carder Bee, which will be easy to spot in your garden. The Common Carder is one of the most widespread and numerous bumblebees in the UK. They have generally gingery hairs, with stripes down the abdomen, which distinguishes them from most other common bumblebees, but they can be quite variable so watch out for that. The name comes from their habit of combing through plant hairs hence “Carder” Bee (carding is a textile term for a process that teases apart individual fibres of wool and other materials to make it useable for spinning). The colonies of this social species can be 200 strong, nesting mostly in old bird’s nests, small mammal runs and places like grassy tussocks. I have most often seen them on plants like lavender, but they feed on a wide variety of plants using their long tongues to access flowers many other bees couldn’t.


The Hornet Mimic Hoverfly is the UK’s largest hoverfly species, and I was only really made aware of it this year. Having seen quite a few now I know what to look for. The reason for mimicking a hornet, or like many other species bees or wasps, is a tactic to avoid predators confusing them into thinking they might be a bee or a wasp or in this case a hornet when they are actually totally harmless. There’s even a Hornet Moth! There are several ways you can tell if you are looking at a Hornet Mimic Hoverfly and not an actual hornet. The first thing is the size as a hornet is quite a bit larger, the next thing is the eyes, they will be large and bulbous with multiple lenses on the hoverfly, and their body shape is more rounded in contrast to the hornet’s long more slender body. The lava of this hoverfly is in fact laid as an egg in wasp nests and feed on the debris the wasps leave behind so the two benefit each other. This sort of mutual beneficial relationship in nature is called symbiosis. The Hornet Mimic used to be a rare visitor to the UK up until the 40’s but is now a common sight in the south of England and is slowly moving northward.

It's a very striking insect!


Sadly the Grass Snake is seemingly harder to spot these days, but it is still a real garden possibility, especially if you have a pond or a decent compost heap. They are attracted to ponds as they are particularly fond of frogs for dinner and are very strong swimmers. Our compost heaps are great hiding places for them and provide heat and a safe place to rear their young. The grass snake was in the news in 2017 as it was discovered that the ones we get in the British Isles are in fact a separate species to other parts of Europe and have now been renamed the Barred Grass Snake. There was initially some confusion as it was reported that we now had four species of snake but was later corrected as still being three. Those three species are the Adder, the much rarer Smooth Snake and the newly named Barred Grass Snake, which is the largest of the three at up to about 3m long. You will be pleased to hear it is harmless to humans and doesn’t really bite. Our only venomous snake is the Adder and if you are in a known Adder hotspot keep an eye on your dog if you have one as the bite could be serious. Unless you are extremely unlucky, if you are bitten it should just be painful and inflamed, but that said you should still seek medical attention. Most of all though, these wonderful and in my opinion beautiful creatures should be respected and cherished as an important part of our biodiversity in this country. I’m glad to say all three species are protected by law and should not be disturbed.


Now to one of my favourite butterflies, and arguably our most beautiful, the Peacock which has been really abundant this year alongside the Red Admiral. Like most butterflies they are especially fond of buddleia and are a common sight in gardens, but their main habitat is woodlands. They are apparently up by 16% since the 1970s which is great to hear. Their peacock feather like eyespots make it unmistakable from other butterflies and therefore one of our most familiar. These eyespots not only look beautiful but actually have a function of warding off predators by confusing or startling them. Another distinctive feature is their very dark and almost black outer wings, which provide camouflage. As caterpillars their preferred foodplant is nettles so you may want to consider leaving a small patch of nettles in your garden if you are keen to encourage them. Many other species rely upon nettles so you won’t just be helping Peacocks, but if you really do not like that idea maybe behind your shed for example where no one will see might be a good compromise. Another alternative would be to grow hops to help them and then maybe you can make your own home brew!


It's a photo dad took earlier in the year but it's a great shot!

The House Martin would probably be more of a bird to highlight next month with migration. However, many are already gathering together as they get ready to leave for their long journey south to Africa. The young have all left the nest by now and are preparing to make that journey for the first time. If like me you are not fortunate enough to have House Martins nesting nearby it can be the best time to see them as they gather overhead. My parents can remember when there were nests on every house in the road but sadly it is becoming an increasingly rare sight. Their ‘raspberry’ like call is an easy way to pick one out and then if you look up you should see some, you rarely just see one. They also associate with Swallows, Swifts and even Sand Martins so look out for them too. The best way to tell if you’re looking at House Martins is by their white rump which the other similar birds don’t have.


I hope you had a good summer, and I will be back with more garden wildlife for September!

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