Late summer butterflies and bees

Butterflies illustrations by Penny Philcox

Butterflies illustrations by Penny PhilcoxStory and photos by Penny Philcox

Butterflies, bees and hoverflies need nectar and pollen all summer long. We can really help, whether in our gardens, pots in our back yards, on windowsills, or anywhere you can plant the sort of flowers they like.
As well as the well-known buddleia, or butterfly bush, at this time of year they love lavender, sedum, verbena bonariensis, the thistle family, or simply thyme and marjoram.

The wild flowers which sustain the most butterflies and bees in our Pitsmoor garden, in late summer, are knapweed and scabious.

I have done an illustration of some of the butterflies you can look out for now in local parks and gardens. You may have seen on the news that there is an especially good chance of seeing the Painted Lady this year. This butterfly is extraordinary as it doesn’t overwinter here. It migrates, up to 100 miles a day, from North Africa, reaching as far as the Shetland Isles, filling up with nectar at our flowers like we might at a petrol station. Every few years there is a mass migration and this year is such a year. In the last mass migration, in 2009, 11 million Painted Ladies migrated to the UK!

If you or your children are nervous around bees and wasps, because of their potential to sting, it is worth taking a careful look at your patch. In the animal world, yellow and black are a warning colouration that has evolved for many bees and wasps over millennia. However, other non-stinging insects have craftily developed the same yellow and black warning disguise but are completely harmless. An example is the hoverfly family. Far from being a danger to us, hoverflies are extremely valuable, eating garden pests like aphids. Ladybirds, and hoverfly larvae can eat fifty a day, each.

Hoverfly by Penny PhilcoxThe best way to recognise hoverflies, is that they do just that – they hover around flowers for some time, before landing. They are usually narrow-bodied and smaller than honey and bumblebees (see photo of a typical hoverfly species you can see in Burngreave)