1. To spot this month: Keep an eye out for this hoverfly
There are around 180 different hoverflies in Ireland but keep an eye out for this distinctive one. It’s called Volucella pellucens. It’s often found in woodland clearings or along hedgerows, where it likes to feed on Bramble. It lays its eggs in the nest of our common wasp where the larvae feed as scavengers on nest debris. Photo: Gillian Stewart.
2. To do this month: check if your bee hotel is being used – if not, consider moving it to a new location
Now is the perfect time to check if your bee box has been used this year. These boxes are mainly used by two types of solitary bees - leaf cutter bees and mason bees. Leaf cutter bees cut circular pieces of leaves and use them to line the cells in the nest. The Red Mason bee lines the cells of its nest with mud. Check if any of the cavities in your next box are closed off with pieces of leaf or with mud. If there are all still empty, it hasn’t been used this year. In that case, it’s worth moving it to a new location so it’s in place for next spring. The more flowers there are around your next box, the more likely it is to be found and used.
3. Skerries Wild Bee Festival: 26-28th August
The National Biodiversity Data Centre is delighted to collaborate with Fingal County Council and Sustainable Skerries on a weekend of events later in August. Lots of exciting workshops, Q&A sessions and walks are happening throughout the weekend. There are a limited number of places on all events - make sure to register as soon as possible to not miss out! Many of the events will be focused on the rare Large Carder Bumblebee and how local communities can take action to protect it (photo below from Ciaran Taylor). Most events are free.
5. Don’t Mow just yet – August's seeds feed next years bees!
Many of our beautiful long-flowering ‘Don’t Mow Let it Grow’ meadows are coming towards the end of their cycle for this year. There can be a temptation to mow now as the meadow begins to look dead and less tidy. Hold off if you can! From mid-August many plants will be producing seed, ready to drop into the soil. If you give them a chance to do this, you’ll reap the rewards next year. It’s always good to try to leave the meadows into September before you mow for the year. Remember, when you do cut - you should remove the cuttings to gradually reduce the soil fertility and give next year’s wildflowers a chance to compete with the more dominant grass species.
6. Now is a great time to think about collecting some pollinator-friendly wildflower seed locally
Now is a good time to think about collecting a little bit of seed from a native meadow near to you (make sure you have permission). This can be a great way to boost your own small meadows, patches or strips.
My garden strip is cut once a year in September. It has always provided forage from spring through until August, but used to naturally come to an end as the Clover and Bird’-foot-trefoil finished flowering. In the August 2021 newsletter, I mentioned that I was going to collect and plant some Knapweed seed from a small meadow nearby. That worked very well, and a small patch of Knapweed is now flowering this year. Not only does it look lovely; each time I pass by, there are insects feeding on the purple flowers. Next year it should spread slightly on its own. Knapweed flowers in August-September and provides enormous amounts of nectar for our insects at a time when they really need it.The left photo below shows the meadow where the seed was collected from, approximately 500m away.