Welcome to your first week of education activities! This week’s topic will be Habitats and Wildlife and we will be looking closely at the Pollinators!
On this week’s activity page:
- So who are the Pollinators?
- What can we do?
- Other handy links
With the coming of spring and flowers appearing under our feet and blossom above our heads in the trees we thought this week we’d introduce you to some of the pollinators living in the Broads habitats.
The Broads National Park covers an area of 300km2 and protects Britain’s third largest inland waterway. It is made up of five main habitats. There’s the water itself in the broads, rivers and dykes (water filled ditches) and along the water’s land-based fringes there are the fen, grazing marsh, reedbeds and wet woodland (alder carr) habitats. These five habitats are home to 11,000 different species of plants and animals! 66 of these have been identified as Broads Specialities because the Broads National Park is key to their UK populations. Indeed 14 of them, like the Swallowtail Butterfly, are only found in the Broads National Park.
The fen and grazing marsh are the most biodiverse habitats making up 40% of the Broads National Park. The huge variety of flowering plants found in both these habitats provide essential nectar for a range of pollinators. In return these pollinators ensure the plants are pollinated and able to produce viable seeds for the following year. The pollinators also provide a crucial Ecosystem Service to the surrounding farmland – pollinating our crops. Amazingly, insects in the UK pollinate £690 million worth of crops annually, with wild pollinators doing up to 90% of this work! Like everywhere, UK pollinators are declining due to destruction of habitat and the use of herbicides and pesticides making the continued protection of these Broadland habitats vital.
2. So who are the pollinators?
BEES: We all know the Honey bee, they’re the ones that live in our hives and make honey for us but there are also lots of wild bee species. The Broads National Park is home to 17 of the UK’s 25 threatened bee species. They are found in all habitats – just not underwater!
In the wet woodlands and among the trees along the river banks, at this time of year, you’ll find Bumble bees feeding off the nectar from Willow catkins. They nest in marsh banks and up on higher dry ground.
In the fen and reedbeds we’ve got a couple of cool species. First up, the Mining Bee (Macropis europaea) likes the nectar from the Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). They excavate their nests in banks and slopes and line them with a waterproof wax-like substance derived from the oils of the Loosestrife which keeps the nest dry in winter time. Next the Fen Mason Wasp (Odynerus simillimus) nests in dry habitats but uses reedbeds, fen and grazing marsh to forage for nectar and invertebrates, such as weevils, to feed its larvae.
Mining Bee (Macropis europaea)
FLIES: Yes some types of fly are avid nectar lovers! The two main ones are the Hover Flies and the Bee Flies and are found throughout the fen, reedbed and grazing marsh habitats. It’s only the adults that feed on nectar. Hoverfly larvae eat other insects such as aphids while Bee Fly larvae are parasites of other larvae and eggs.
Pollinators have adapted in many ways to reach the nectar in flowers. One adaptation is tongue length! Bee Flies have really long tongues (proboscis) that they use to stick down long thin flowers to get at the nectar. They can’t roll their tongues up like butterflies do, so fly around with them stuck out in front making them very easy to identify! Hover Flies on the other hand have short tongues and cannot reach into deep flowers so prefer flat flowers like Hogweed, Yarrow and Elder. The Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) is a Hover Fly that feeds on white or yellow coloured flowers in the fen habitat such as Milk Parsley (Peucedanum palustre).
Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)
BUTTERFLIES: Found in the grazing marshes, fens, wet woodland and along river bank habitats. The Broads National Park’s most famous butterfly is obviously Britain’s largest – the Swallow Tail Butterfly (Papilio machaon britannicus). It occurs nowhere else in the UK, its caterpillars feed solely on Milk Parsley and the adults can be found drinking nectar from Marsh Valerian (Valeriana dioica) and Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi).
Swallow Tail Butterfly (Papilio machaon britannicus)
MOTHS: The night time butterflies! Look out for China-Mark Moth (Elophila nymphaeata) their caterpillars live underwater and the adults can be seen fluttering about above the dykes. If you’re lucky you might get to see the Emperor Moth (Saturina pavonia), which does fly about during the day, and whose caterpillars feed on Meadowsweet. The Fen Bent Wing moth (Pseudopostega auritella) feeds on Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) and can only be found in the Broads National Park and Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire.
(LEFT) China Mark Moth (Elophila nymphaeata) © Nigel Richards
(RIGHT) Emperor Moth (Saturina pavonia) © Pete Withers
3. What can we do?
It feels cruel to tell you about all these amazing animals that we can’t go out and see at the moment but, luckily for us bees, butterflies, flies and moths are very mobile and do turn up in our gardens, houses or fly by our windows. So without having to go anywhere you can see some of these amazing creatures and identify them using the spotting guides below. But hold on a minute…. What if you want to do more than look at a bug passing by? What if you want to help it? Or attract them so you can watch them whenever you want to for as long as you want to? Well we can help with that too!
Have a look at the video below created by Wild Patch, one of our Water, Mills and Marshes projects, and you’ll get lots of ideas how to help pollinators and wildlife by keeping a patch of your garden, school or local area untidy and perfect for wild beasties of all sizes to live in.
Click here to watch the Wild Patch Video on YouTube.
Now that you’ve watched the film I bet you’re feeling inspired and can’t wait to get on with doing something! So below are a few downloadable and printable activities to help turn your ideas into ACTION even if you don’t have a garden! We’ve also included some great links that will help you take your new passion further.
- Grow Plants Pollinators love!
- Identify Bees, Butterflies, Bumblebees and Bee Flies in your garden.
- Sign up to iRecord and record your sightings on the national database.
- Make a Butterfly and Moth feeder.
- Take part in a Survey!
Download the printable activity sheet here
Download the printable I.d guides for Activity 2 here:
5. Other handy links
- Keen to make your garden as butterfly friendly as possible? The Wild About Gardens site has loads of tips to help you.
- The Wild Patch video tweaked your interest but need help getting started or ideas of how to go further? Well this excellent site from The Wildlife Trusts is the one for you!
- My favourite – bumble bees, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is a great site to learn more about these lovely critters and how to help them.
- Want to go the extra mile? Thinking about life after lock down? Then have a look at X-PolliNation some fabulous ideas and ways to get involved in the future.