Favourite Insect Friendly Flowers and Plants – July

Please read the introductory page in the Real Botany of Desire for the background to why I’m listing the observed insect favourite flowers that bloom during this month, and which seem to be the most popular with the groups of insects which frequent our garden. Another summer month where choosing an arbitrary top 3 favourite insect friendly flowers for the month is tricky. But Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’, Francoa sonchifolia and Monkshood, Aconitum ‘Spark’s variety, are my current choices …

SDIM3458 (2)

… Several of June’s insect friendly flowers continue flowering into July, of course …

If reading the introduction is a click too far, then briefly, there’s a huge issue with loss of wild flowers as agriculture intensifies and mono-cultures prevail. This impacts on all the insects which rely on flowers as food sources. But all flowers aren’t equal in their appeal to insects, or particular groups of insects, (e.g. Honeybees, Bumblebees, Hover flies, Moths, Butterflies) and many nursery bred plants have been designed to be attractive to our senses, not insects. Some flowers are useful as both pollen and nectar sources (P,N) whereas others just seem to provide one of these insect foodstuffs, and I’ll try to include this information with the images.So this simple record is to help gardeners think about this issue, and maybe plant more flowers to help our very diverse native insect groups. I’ve found that many of the best plants seem to be some of our native wild flowers which can in other respects have real garden merit. Equally there are many plants from the other side of the globe which are preferentially favoured over native flowers at certain times of the year – there is no simple easy guide to their relative appeal.The positive spin offs from incorporating more insect friendly flowers in our gardens apart from the appeal of seeing the insects themselves will be better pollination of our crops, and more varied wildlife in our gardens, since insects are at the bottom of many animal food chains.

It’s certainly not exhaustive, and if you know other flowers which have equal appeal, which aren’t listed here, do please let me know, and I’ll trial them up here as well. This work started a couple of years before my blog began in March 2011, but previous to that I’d produced the UK’s first DVD-ROM guide to Garden Moths ” In A Different Light”. This project attempts to widen that work in a more general way.

July is definitely one of the months when we seem to have fewer insects around in the garden, perhaps in part because we don’t have the right balance of nectar and pollen source flowers, or perhaps because late June and July are often quite dull and wet down here, even if warm and so not conducive to much insect flight, or observation! Though I should add that moths do not seem to be affected by inclement weather to the same extent. In spite of this, July 2012 has seen Honeybees in the garden through the year for the first time ( in spite of the very poor wet summer up here), and we’ve added many more bee friendly flowers. So we seem to be moving in the right direction with our plantings. But I’m also starting to realise that there are real insect preferences at work. For example plants which flower over a long season and attract many insect visits early in the year may lose out when there is greater flower diversity in the garden – an example being Sea Campion, which is very popular in late April and early May, but less so now.

Finally as I mention elsewhere, the actual number of flowers of a single plant type growing together, and their position in the garden (e.g.sun or shade), can also impact hugely on how favoured the flowers are by your garden’s insect population – probably because sun and warmth can affect nectar and pollen production and release, and a bigger block of identical flowers present a more obvious sampling target.

Difficulties in moving images around on the blog means that the photos are a bit randomly ordered, but hopefully it still provides an interesting overview of what’s going on in our limited garden space. Perhaps sometime I’ll add a list of all the other flowers which we grow, which rarely seem to get insect visits ( in July many Clematis cultivars fall into this category) …

… Rosa moyesii flowers continued to bloom into July 2012, and after the deluges of early July  these were some of the first flowers visited by Bumblebees and Honeybees after the rain eventually stopped falling. Apparently only valuable as a pollen source, since only Dog Roses, Rosa canina produce nectar …

… Honeybee on Rosa moyesii flower …

… Rosa rugosa flowers are also visited by Bumblebees and Honeybees for pollen, the Bumblebees often using sonication, or buzz pollination to loosen the pollen …

… For the first time in 2012 Honeybees were seen visiting R.’Bonica’ flowers, again just for pollen …

… The common Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea continues to be a valuable nectar flower into July for Bumblebees, even in wet weather …

… And I’m not sure if this fly is simply sheltering from the wet conditions …

… In 2012, Geranium phaeum continued to flower into July, and was still one of the favourite flowers in the garden for Honeybees and some smaller Bumblebee species …

… We grow masses of Geranium nodosum as a good plant for poor places in the sun or shade. It’s not as obviously popular with insects as some Geranium (G.procurrens, G. magnificum, or G. macrorrhizum, for example), but did get some Honeybee and Bumblebee visits in 2012….

… Native ‘Fox and Cubs’, Pilosella aurantiaca, now grows in profusion on our bank in really poor conditions, but produces 6 weeks of vivid flowers which appeal to flies, Honeybees and Bumblebees …

… In spite of very poor pod production with the horrendously wet June weather in 2012, Broad Bean flowers (home saved ‘Witkiem Manita’ beans) continued to attract Bumblebee visitors in July, principally as a nectar source flower …

… Sweet Rocket, Hespera matronalis, in its white form, flowers into early July in 2012, and attracted a few flies in pauses between the rain …

… The first flowers of our autumn fruiting raspberries, ‘Autumn Bliss’ attract Bumblebees and wasps …

… The poached egg plant, Limnanthes douglsaii, is visited by Honeybees, Mining bees as above, and flies as a great nectar source annual flower, which we’ve grown for the first time in 2012 …

… Although highly toxic to humans, the intense purple flowers of Monkshood, Aconitum ‘Spark’s Variety’, are very popular with some larger Bumblebee species …

… This single  un-named Verbascum always surprises us, appearing at the end of July from beneath other tall foliage and flowers with very pretty flowers, and attracted this beautiful silver and orange/red Hover fly amongst others feeding on the pollen, as well as Bumblebees 30/07/11 …

… Penstemon ‘Huskers Red’ is now the only Penstemon which we’ve managed to keep going in the garden, and is visited by Bumblebees, but we also really like the purple foliage colour and form and contrast with the pale flower colour 25/07/11 …

… The daisy like flowers of this un-named  Coreopsis are visited by hover flies and solitary bees and Bumblebees 25/07/11 …

… The wildflower, Common Bird’s-foot-Trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, grows in our fields and also in areas of the garden, and is a popular flower with Bumblebees in July and August 19/07/11. In 2012 these flowers were also visited by Honeybees …

… Still flowering is Clematis orientalis and is also still attracting Bumblebees and hover flies, but this Bumblebee seemed to have an interesting habit of exiting the flower for a few seconds of hovering just outside the flower bowl whilst it combed pollen onto its hind leg, before re-entering the same flower. It would repeat this activity 3 or 4 times per flower before moving to another one. A marked contrast to the usual habit of a brief visit only to each single flower. Did it need to do this after spending too long upside down in a single flower? Or for some other reason? 13/07/11 …

…  Achillea Ptarmica ‘Benary’s Pearl’ is attractive to a few moths, but I haven’t noticed other insect visitors …

…  When garden forms of Stachys officinalis, like ‘Rosea Superba’ start to flower in July, they are a magnet for a range of insects including hover flies, Bumblebees and moths, as seen below …

… Bumblebee on Stachys ‘Hummelo’ …

… Moth on Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ …

… White clover flowers left in our currently un-mown lawn are one of the favoured flowers in July for the currently low number of Bumblebees in the garden 13/07/11, and in 2012 attracted Honeybees for the first time …

… This upright red conical clover flower is both pretty and a big hit with Bumblebees 8/07/11 …

… Even in a wet July 2012, the Welsh poppies, Meconopsis cambrica, continue to flower attracting Bumblebees and Hover flies …

… A new annual for us in 2012, Cerinthe major var. purpurescens, is a beautiful plant with blue green drooping stems, and the blue/mauve flowers are popular with smaller Bumblebees, which will buzz pollinate them …

… Another new annual suggested to us by a knowledgeable garden visitor in 2011, is Echium ‘Blue Bedder’. It looks great en masse, and has generated lots of interest from visitors this year. Whilst it took a while to get going in July, it attracts Honeybees, Bumblebees and several fly species, being a member of the Borage family …. see August folder for more images …

… After seeing the gorgeous blue flowers of the native Cornflower attracting insects on the Jekka’s Herb Nursery stand at Hampton Court Flower Show in 2011, I bought some seeds. What an intense blue, and the Honeybees, some Bumblebees and flies love the flowers too …

… And finally, not normally bothering with the fag of annuals, I’ve grown some Cosmos ‘Purity’ which i knew was a pretty good flower for attracting hover flies …

… Another new plant for 2012 is the native perennial Linaria purpurea, which we love for its tall spikes of small purple flowers coming at a good time for us in our July/August lull. Honeybees and some Bumblebees and flies love it too …

… Another Linaria sp., L. genistifolia was given to us in 2011, flowering for the first time in 2012. Although its pretty and produces masses of flowers over a longer period than L. purpurea, it’s rarely visited by insects. But I did photograph this distinctive but unknown bee on it …

… The common wall growing Campanula poscharskyana is a popular flower with honeybees, and some flies, which I guess is why it seeds around so freely …

… Fly on C. poscharskyana …

… But Campanula are one of those plant groups where different species, or cultivars seem to appeal to different insects. This is very tall C. lactiflora, which seems to attract lots of tiny flies …

… And a few larger ones, and clearly produces masses of pollen, but I’ve yet to see any bees visit it …

… Another unknown white Campanula, which the Honeybees do like, in spite of all those hairs that have to be negotiated to reach the nectar …

… And all 3 of the Adenophora species which we grow, and which are closely related to Campanulas, attract Honeybees and Bumblebees. A. potaninii…..

… Japanese Anemone (unknown variety) flowers are attractive to many species of hover flies 8/07/11 …

… Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’ has been a star flower in the garden for months now, but doesn’t seem to be as popular with insects as I’d expected from the reports I’d read. Perhaps just now in July, other flowers have greater appeal …

… Blue and white Borage flowers are always a hit with Bumblebees and hover flies as soon as they open. We let seedlings develop around the garden, and they rarely dominate 8/07/11. Are they in the same group of plants as potatoes and tomatoes with anthers with pollen in a tube? …

… Loaded with orange pollen, another Bumblebee visits an unknown Geranium 2/07/11 …

… The few Bumblebees around in the garden in early July do seem to visit some of the gap filling Geraniums, like this G.x oxonianum f. thurstonianum which we grow in several parts of the garden 2/07/11 …

… Native Self Heal, Prunella vulgaris, which we allow to seed throughout the garden including our lawns, is a very popular flower with hover flies and other insects 2/07/11 …

… Bumblebee on Self Heal 2/07/11 …

… Moth nectaring on Self-Heal …

… The Cornflower, Centaurea dealbata, is popular with hover flies and solitary mining bees 2/07/11 …

…  The first of a few Dahlia tubers added to the garden in autumn 2011, the species Dahlia merkii started to flower in late June, but this was the first insect visit of a hover fly which I recorded to a very wet flower in early July 2012 …

… Starting to flower in mid July, Francoa sonchifolia went on to flower for weeks in 2012, and was one of the most popular flowers in the garden for flies, Honeybees and Bumblebees. This image was taken early in its flowering period …

…. We now (2012) grow a few forms of Sidalcea malviflora, which have a fairly short flowering season. I haven’t seen insects on the flowers previously, but in 2012, I did see this Honeybee spending time working the flowers …

Thanks for reading. And do browse around the rest of the Blog Pages….

Our garden at Gelli Uchaf opens most of the year, when we’re around, by appointment, for charity under the National Garden Scheme. Please see the Garden Overview page for visiting details, or by clicking here. 

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Last updated  22/01/2013

3 thoughts on “Favourite Insect Friendly Flowers and Plants – July

  1. I am writing on book on garden insects, “The Life in Our Garden”, to be published in September of this year by Tilbury Press. Most of the photos in this book will be my own, but I need a photo of a bumblebee nectaring on a penstemon flower. I found your beautiful photos on the Internet and wonder, would you grant me permission to use the bumblebee-penstemon photos I would credit you, of course, and I am willing to pay a one-time use fee, if you like.

    • Hello Reeser,
      Thanks for the comment. I’d be happy for you to use the photo, if you included my name and the source, i.e. http://www.thegardenimpressionists.com and instead of a fee, how about a signed proof copy of the book …. if you think that’s not too cheeky … Good luck with getting it finished anyway, and I hope that it’s a great success. I’m sure that it will have been a huge labour of love, if most of the photos are your own, knowing how long it takes to get good images of insects on flowers!!
      BTW as luck would have it 2 hours ago we were standing in our garden with a couple of Beeb recce men, from Gardeners World, and I mentioned moth in snowdrop images… (which is how I got started on my blog – are snowdrops thermogenic, was what I asked myself) since I’d seen , and photographed Hebrew Character moths inside them. Were they just sheltering for warmth, or were they pollinating… I couldn’t find anything else about moth images inside snowdrops, and the Beeb men had no knowledge of this, so how about weedling that into your book as well???
      Here’s the link…
      https://thegardenimpressionists.com/2011/03/14/moths-moss-snowdrops-and-blackbirds/

      Best wishes
      Julian

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