Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Beesel and rags

Here are bees on one of our teasels. A beesel. They love the plant (which we grow out of nostalgic West Riding associations with wool-combing. Click and look at its daggers and hooks - or try brushing past a blooming teasel in a wool sweater). It got me thinking about garden plants which attract butterflies (or moths). This is a topic endlessly discussed in newspaper and magazine columns, but not in my view to much effect. Buddleia is the one great reliable, in my experience. Otherwise for butterflies you need sunshine and for moths warmth (What are these? Consult wikipedia) plus a good range of blooms covering the whole season, and if possible some wildflowers and weeds. On the last score, I am a ragwort fan so here's a picture of that. Horse and cattle owners can get terribly cross about this plant. There was a foaming-at-the-mouth letter on the subject in the Yorkshire Post last week. Mind you, foamers have always dominated the letters column of the YP, except when my brother and I pulled off a coup by getting eight letters published in favour of proportional representation on the same day. Seven of our friends and relations were startled to see their names in print. Anyway, heed what the Countryside Alliance had to say on ragwort in a press release I got, also last week: "Ragwort has its place in the countryside; it supports a wide variety of invertebrates and is a major nectar source for many insects." It needs controlling, yes, but not exterminating. It isn't just a pleasant sight on the side of roads, but a nectar and foodplant corridor around the country.


sarah meredith said...

Martin, I so happy to know the name of those wonderful plants - the teasels. They grow very large in Delaware County and quite tall. I have just posted a painting on my blog - not terribly good, but reminiscent of autumn at the farm - of teasels and other grasses in a vase in my studio. I am loving your blog! s

MartinWainwright said...

Hi Sarah! I shall zoom to your blog. The teasel is venerable indeed - still used for combing in some places. When it's mature it has the most amzing little barbed hooks, as you prob know. Vicious indeed!

D. Allen Sherman said...

Are bee populations dwindling in the U.K. as drastically as here in the U.S.?
We have hundreds of domesticated hives in Florida, as they set them out among the orange groves so that the honey will take on the flavor of the orange blossoms, but an alarming number of those hives have been dying off.

MartinWainwright said...

Hi! It's very interesting that you write about the bees. My colleague at the Guardian Alison Benjamin has just co-written a very interesting book about this called A World Without Bees. Stand by for an incredibly long website address: http://www.guardianbooks.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_10401_25501_126224_?cm_mmc=Google%20Adwords-_-Google-_-A%20World%20without%20bees-_-A%20World%20Without%20Bees&gclid=COut56D2tJUCFQyN1QodawnGPw
There are also reviews etc on Google. I chaired a fascinating talk she gave which included a whole section on the US problem. I hadn't known about the pollinating system, with all the bees being trucked from your part of the States to California and there even being 'bee brokers' who line up hives with almond growers. At the moment here there's more worry than an actual decline in bee numbers. But yes, GB and Europe are certainly worried. All v best M