Considering we live in a very exposed area, we do get a lot of Bumblebees, Moths and Butterflies. But I suppose, if you think about it, the fields and moors on Skye are covered with wild flowers, native shrubs and dare I say, generally neglected wild areas of land so there’s no reason why we wouldn’t have such a variety of winged creatures. We have heather in abundance – which in early May is slowly changing to a bright green from dark brown – transforming the foothills and glens. In July, there is the surprising joy of waking up one morning to find the hills throughout Skye have suddenly turned lilac as the Heather & Ling bursts into flower. Its a stunning sight and one I could never grow tired of, mostly because it is so sudden. The Heather alone provides nectar for a myriad of Moths – both day and night flying – Butterflies and indeed a wide variety of Bumble Bees. Also at this time of the year there is Gorse, acres and acres of it with bright yellow flowers in huge cascades, strewn across the glens and along roadsides. Bumblebees in England that are sadly endangered because large tracts of wild shrubs and flowers have disappeared due to redevelopment are plentiful here on Skye. In fact, ironically, the most prolific habitats in England are those alongside motorways, where developers are unable to erect their huge estates for housing and warehouses – those vast areas of desolate concrete jungles where wildlife is reduced to blowflies & wasps around bins or if your lucky butterflies around Buddleia bushes.
But I digress, on Skye, Bumblebees are plentiful and the variety is surprisingly large. All you have to do is watch the bees in your garden or on a walk through any glen as they visit the flowers to gather nectar. To name the best, we have the ginger Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum), the Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) which has a buff tail on Skye and the Western Isles, the rarer Blaeberry Bumblebee (Bombus monticola) which has an orange-red lower abdomen and the very rare Great yellow Bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus) which is – as it says on the tin – yellow yet also has a black band on its thorax. Its really all a case of identification and the best place to check these out is The Bumblebee Conservation Trust. My goal this summer is to see how many of these I can identify in our garden. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Butterflies are another surprise, not just the variety, but also the size of these beautiful winged insects – well food is plentiful here so they are large. Those that over winter as adults, such as Peacock and Tortoiseshell, often awaken hungry as soon as we get a couple of warm days and generally aim for any plant that is in flower. Others that over winter as pupa such as the Large White and the Green-veined White emerge around now so keep your eyes peeled.
At night when the lights are on, Moths are attracted to our windows. Whilst Butterflies are obvious in their grandeur, Moths are more subtle for the most part. Because there is such a wide variety of wild flowers on Skye, it naturally follows that the variety of Moths will also be wide and we freely see both daytime flying moths as well as the night flying varieties. Their pupa are however, grandiose, bright and truly beautiful. I used to enjoy times in Hampshire when I took part in Moth surveys, starting in mid evening and finishing very late at night, but the experience was both fascinating …….. the varieties of moth both large and small…. and breathtaking….the sheer beauty of some of our native moths. I have a special ‘insect pot’ which has a magnified lid. You carefully catch your moth and then watch it through the lid. It’s a truly amazing experience seeing them magnified this way and gives you a chance to study them in more detail than you would otherwise.
So here are a few of those we have seen here in our garden at Crossal. They need little explanation other than their name – although come to think about it, identifying them is a mission in itself … but fun. 🙂