Favourite Insect Friendly Flowers and Plants – June

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. As with May, choosing just my top 3 favourite insect friendly flowers in this month is tricky, but I’ll go for Rosa moyesii, native White Dame’s Violet, Hespera matronailis, and native Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, …

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…  several brilliant insect friendly flowers from May do of course still flower into June …

If reading my 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, Bumble bees, 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.

In a normal June, flower numbers are building to a crescendo and as in May the challenge for a busy gardener is to have the luxury of spending time just observing which flowers are being visited by which insects. In 2012, which looks like being one of the wettest and gloomiest on record in West Wales and the UK as a whole, even fewer opportunities existed. But I do have the subjective impression that some flowers which in previous years have been buzzing with insects, have not been visited to the same extent. Whether this is because insect numbers are reduced in the cold wet conditions, or whether certain flowers require more warmth and sunshine to produce a rich nectar harvest, or a combination of factors, I don’t know. As an example, Cotoneaster flowers seem to have been quieter than normal with fewer insect visits in 2012.

It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, 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 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.

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 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.

… The tiny flowers of Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ are surprisingly popular with many solitary bees, hover flies and Bumblebees in spite of their very small size 18/06/11 …

… Clematis orientalis which flowers for many months in the summer and early autumn is, unlike many Clematis flowers, frequently visited by Bumblebees and hover flies 15/06/11..

… The common trailing Campanula poscharskyana, indigenous to the mountains of Croatia and Bosnia, which grows in very dry sunny places like cracks in walls, as here, is visited by hover flies and Bumblebees 28/06/11 …

… The honeyed froth of Alchemilla mollis flowers seem to be enjoyed only by various flies, not bees or Bumblebees….another indication that scents which are powerful to our sense of smell don’t necessarily equate to valuable food sources for all insects 15/06/11 …

… Native Sea Campion, Silene uniflora/maritima, continues to bloom through June and attracts flies, bumblebees and moths 14/06/11 …

…. a Silver Y moth on Sea Campion flowers….

…. and in 2012 for the first time, Honey bee visitors to Sea Campion flowers, so one of those few flowers with wide insect appeal …

… Honeysuckle flowers are a magnet after dark for many larger moths as well as Bumblebees and hover flies during the day 8/06/11…

… here is a beautiful Elephant Hawk Moth approaching Honeysuckle flowers at dusk, with uncoiled proboscis ready to take in some nectar…

… Many of the Geraniums in the garden do get visited by flies and Bumblebees, though few are as popular as G.macrorrhizum and G.phaeum, pictured again below, which begin flowering mainly in May, and G.procurrens which flowers in the autumn. 8/06/11 …

… Another unknown vigorous Geranium cultivar just seems to appeal to honeybees …

….whilst the pretty flowers of Geranium sanguineum var.striatum principally attract flies, and not any bees, as indeed do the vibrant flowers of Geranium psilostemon shown below …

… Both G. sanguineum and G. psilostemon produce viable seed very prolifically in the garden demonstrating that flies alone can be very successful pollinators …

…. Geranium macrorrhizum continues to flower well into June, and in 2012 for the first time attracted lots of Honeybees, as well as Bumblebees, so confirming it as a favoured early season Geranium species …

…. Geranium phaeum also blooms through to the end of June, and rivals G.macrorrhizum in its appeal to Honeybees and smaller Bumblebees, and some fly species …

….. Geranium x magnificum has been added to the garden for 2012 as a later flowering insect friendly hybrid. Although I’ve hacked it about to create larger drifts for next year, the flowers have still been visited by flies, Bumblebees and, as you can see below, Honeybees. And yet this bee attracting hybrid flower is sterile and doesn’t set seed, it seems.

….. another pretty Gelli Geranium seedling, a form of Geranium x oxonianum, which appeals to the smaller garden Solitary mining bees…

….and this form of G. x oxonianum f. thurstonianum, with its upright split petals. It occasionally gets Honeybee visitors, though it’s interesting to see that the bees consistently approach the flower in this unusual way, rather than landing in the open flower…

….Erodium manescavii, a Storksbill, looking similar to a Cranesbill, (Geranium) is a favourite flower we grow in free draining areas, and which has a long flowering period from May onwards, and attracts Bumblebees and some solitary mining bees. N,P…

…. the fairly short lived flowers of Iris pseudocarus ‘Variagata’, a variant of the native Yellow Flag Iris, gets occasional Bumblebee visitors …

…. as do the lovely short lived blue flowers of Iris sibirica …

……Anchusa ‘Loddon Royalist’, Italian Bugloss, continues flowering through June, and attracted a few flies and bumblebees in its first year in the garden 2012 …

…. the flowers of an unknown Weigela florida shrub continue to be very popular with Bumblebees into June, and also during the day this Large Yellow Underwing moth, one of the commonest garden visiting moths over the summer months …

…. an insect attracting June flowering bulb new to the garden for 2012 is Allium or Nectaroscordum sicculum, which gets Bumblebees, Honeybees and wasps as potential pollinating visitors. In 2014 in the Magic Terrace Garden, it was almost exclusively large wood wasps visiting these flowers…SDIM7787 (2)

… Many Umbelliferae, like this Parsley plant, are very attractive to Bumblebees, flies and hover flies 10/06/11 …

…. and Sweet Cicely, Myrrhis odorata, continues flowering through June, attracting a great variety of flies …

…. and Scotch Lovage, Ligusticum scoticum, again a huge hit even in dry shade with our Welsh flies. Is this strange since it is a native to exposed Scottish coastal cliffs? …

…. Common Aquilegia vulgaris continue to flower through early/mid June, and are some of the favourite Bumblebee flowers at this time. But occasionally you see other insects on them. In this case a rarely seen Trichiosoma sorbi – a Club-horned Sawfly. I suspect a chance sighting, whilst it paused on the flowers …

…. Saxifrage urbium, London Pride, finishes flowering in June, and for the first time in 2012, I saw small Bumblebees working its flowers – normally only flies and occasionally Honeybees seem to visit them …

…. Kidney Vetch, Anthyllis vulneraria, a  native wild legume flowers through June, attracting flies and Bumblebees, growing in the gravel of our yard and banks, in spite of our very acid soil …

…. and one of the garden plants which we’re keen to see pollinating insects on. Broad beans, Vicia faba, flower through June and attract several Bumblebee species, some of which have long enough tongues to reach the nectar normally through the flower. After being ‘robbed’ by other smaller Bumblebee species which pierce through the base of the flowers to reach the nectar, the flowers may also be visited by Honeybees and flies, which lack tongues long enough to reach the nectar through the normal flower opening …

…. the common Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is another lovely native biennial flower for mid June to July which we allow in wilder bits of the garden, and which is a Bumblebee favourite. But unless you want to be taken over by foxgloves, you do have to dead head before all those millions of seed are shed, like the Aquilegia vulgaris above, and Welsh Poppy below …

…. Meconopsis cambrica, Welsh Poppy, are starting to slow down flower production and look a bit tatty by the end of June, but the flowers are still popular with solitary bees, flies and some Bumblebee species. Yet another great native insect friendly flower …

… Several simple single roses like this Climber, Rosa Francis Lester, are visited by many flies, and occasionally Bumblebees 18/06/11 …

… Fox and Cubs, Pilosella aurantiaca, a native Hawkbit, which flowers for many months is popular with Bumblebees and hover flies, and grows on dry sunny banks with almost no soil 14/06/11 …

… Yellow horned Poppy, Flavium glaucum, a native coastal plant which grows in amongst cobbles with us is very popular with hover flies and Bumblebees 20/06/11 …

… Astrantia major can bloom for many months and its’ flowers attract flies like this Bumblebee look alike as well as hover flies 14/06/11 …

… Another Astrantia, and another bumblebee look alike fly 14/06/11 …

… Rosa moyesii has become one of our favourite insect friendly flowers. Partly because of its ability to generate Bumblebee musical buzz pollination in its flowers (see my posts Dragons, Damsels, etc). Partly because I’m intrigued as to how it became hexaploid and whether this has anything to do with its insect appeal, and partly because of the gorgeous hips later in the year. I grew our plants from seed. They grow in rock/shale and get better every year. OK they don’t have a perfume, but if you can plant one in a sunny spot, I’m sure you’d be delighted over the years with its garden value. 10/06/11 …

… Rosa moyesii flower with Hover fly and moth caterpillar 10/06/11 …

… Rosa moyesii flowers and mating bugs. The larger female appeared to be slowly eating pollen/plant tissue whilst the male clung on. 13/06/11 …

… Native Sticky Catchfly, Lychnis viscaria, grows on poor dry sunny soil, and flowers for about 6 weeks. It attracts solitary bees, Bumblebees and flies, both for its nectar and the sticky secretions on the flower stems. A perennial and easy to grow from seed, it will take 2 years to flower. 12/06/11 …

… Honey bee on Sticky Catchfly 12/06/11 …

… A night time image of the annual Phacelia tanecetifolia, often recommended as a green manure, which like other members of the Borage family is a popular flower with many insects if allowed to run to flower. Bumblebees, Honeybees, and this moth all visit its many tiny flowers. N.P…

… Sweet Rocket or Dame’s Violet, (Hesperis matronalis) here in its white form, is a native flower which continues to flower into mid June with us, and on sunny days attracts butterflies, many flies and occasionally bumblebees. 8/06/12 …

… Hover fly on Sweet Rocket. Although a short lived perennial /biennial Sweet Rocket has the advantage for a member of the Brassica family of flowering early in the year for about 6 weeks, and being capable of growing in very poor dry soil. It can act as a sacrificial plant for Large/Small White caterpillars later in the year. All the plants shown in flower on the blog were shredded by these caterpillars last autumn, but recovered to flower profusely this spring/summer. Seed is easy to collect and germinate. 12/06/11. There are lilac forms as well, but being a colour fussy gardener I just grow the white form …

….Bumblebee on Sweet Rocket, Dame’s Violet, Hesperis matronalis …

… the simple flowers of Cotoneaster dammeri are visited by flies, solitary bees and bumblebees …

…. after years of looking, at last I’ve seen and photographed an insect, here a Bumblebee, visiting some of the many candelabra type primula flowers in the garden. They set seed prolifically, and hybridise freely, so what does the pollination is beyond me. On this occasion it was a warm sunny day, so I wonder whether nectar release by the flowers is particularly strongly influenced by either temperature, or sunlight? They still can’t rank as being really popular with our Welsh insects, judging by how infrequently you ever see an insect on them …

…..the flowers of Sorbus ‘Joseph Rock’, only seem to appeal to flies …

… Lamium maculatum is another flower that blooms for months on end, and is very popular with a number of Bumblebee species …

… A really long flowering plant which is new to the garden for 2012 is the perennial Bowle’s Mauve Wallflower (Erysimum). And at last on a rare sunny June day it was visited by butterflies, (here a Small Tortoiseshell) …

 … and Bumblebees …

… Limnanthes douglasii subsp. nivea ‘Meringue’ is an annual white flowered form of the ‘Poached Egg’ plant which we’re trialling in 2012. It seems more compact, earlier flowering, more vigorous and slug resistant and more floriferous than the normal white and yellow form, whilst retaining its appeal for honeybees and flies. And since we’re not that keen on yellow flowers, it will work into our garden colour schemes a bit more easily….

… another new flower for us in 2012 is the native perennial Linaria purpurea, which has lovely spires of blue/purple flowers with good fly, Honeybee and Bumblebee appeal. N,P ..

… And Campanula glomerata ‘superba’, another new flower with gorgeous intense blue/purple flowers in June. Not, so far, a big hit with insects, but we’ll see how it fares when bulked up. For now this solitary bee did get a good dusting of the flower’s very light coloured pollen grains …

… Centaurea dealbata is a flower visited by Honeybees, flies and occasionally Bumblebees …

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

For 2014, our garden at Gelli Uchaf opens most of the year from February to August when we’re around, by appointment, for charity under the National Gardens Scheme. Please see the ‘Visiting the Garden’ page for details, or by clicking here. 

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Last updated 8/06/2014

4 thoughts on “Favourite Insect Friendly Flowers and Plants – June

    • Hello Annette,
      Thanks for the kind comment. Have just returned today from a BRILLIANT talk by a local commercial bee keeper, that makes me realise that I’m only scratching the surface of a huge topic, but I’m glad you enjoyed the blog, and hopefully over time it will become a more valuable resource or inspiration for other people interested in this subject area. best wishes
      Julian

  1. Great photos, and very useful information. I work in designing pollinating insect schemes for parks departments , latest one just flowering in Kilkenny by River Nore using Nepeta Salia. Calamintha, Stachys Hummelo, and for late flower Aster Asran

    • Thanks for the comment Peter.
      I really need to update these pages with a few more recent additions, but glad you enjoyed them. We’ve just held our first National Meadows day event here today, and being blessed with a rare dry day, for this cool summer, saw many butterflies and burnet moths on the native flora which is speedily re establishing in fields once dominated with soft rush….very exciting!
      Best wishes
      Julian

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