from our Nature and Wildlife correspondent, Sally Worby
Grass & crop pollens (such as oil seed rape for e.g.) along with weed or wildflower pollens tend to be at or approaching peak as we move into June, which is great for our insect population.
Some pollen is challenging to collect; tomatoes, blueberries, poppies and climbing roses are examples of flowers that conserve their valuable pollen. Bumble bees use their strong flight muscles for 'buzz pollination'; by vibrating at just the right frequency they can shake pollen off the anthers.
A not so welcome site as our bumble bees, cobwebby coverings on defoliated trees such as spindle and native privet are the result of tent caterpillars, the larvae of a moth. The tent provides protection from predators. Opening the tent with a stick may allow predators such as common wasps and several species of birds to pick-off the caterpillars.*
Yellow and black or white and black parasitoid wasps such as Ichneumons may catch your eye at this time of the year, moving jerkily and waving their antennae. Females may have a long ovipositor (egg tube) but they don't sting, it's for laying eggs on or in a host such as moth or butterfly caterpillars! The larval wasps feed until the caterpillar eventually dies, the wasp then transforms into an adult.
Tiny species of parasitoid wasps are used as biological control for pests like whitefly in commercial greenhouses and the National Trust is tackling clothes moths (which attack carpets, clothing and other silk and wool furnishings) with their help. Tent caterpillars are also vulnerable to parasitoids if the female can get inside the tent!
(*I wish I'd known that when we had an infestation of tent caterpillars two years ago – Ed)
Sally operates the Graceful Badger Forest School in Drayton Woods with Wilderwoods and Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership. For more information click here under 'other'.