Bees get a buzz out of fox­gloves

Macclesfield Express - - WILDLIFE -

I LOVE fox­gloves and our gar­den is full of them at the mo­ment. They are sprout­ing out of the gar­den and are even stick­ing out of our stone wall.

The wind blew one of them over dur­ing the storms ear­lier this month, so we now have a three-foot fox­glove grow­ing hor­i­zon­tally over the shed. The rest are just stick­ing up high above the walls mak­ing the gar­den look like some pink­tur­reted Dis­ney­land castle.

And it’s great fun to see and hear bees mak­ing their way into the tube-shaped flow­ers. You can hear them hap­pily buzzing away in­side the flower be­fore stag­ger­ing out with a smile on their faces, look­ing like they have just been on a fun­fair ride.

We even have a white fox­glove and I have no idea where that came from?

These won­der­ful plants can be seen along the river banks of the North West and this year seems to be a par­tic­u­larly good year for them. This is great news for in­sects in­clud­ing honey bees, bum­ble­bees and moths.

Fox­gloves have large, flat leaves that form the base of the plant, and tall, up­right flower spikes. The tube-shaped, pink flow­ers ar­ranged around the stem are un­mis­tak­able and open in se­quence from the bot­tom up.

They re­ally do look like bells hang­ing from that stem. They flower ev­ery two years be­tween June and Septem­ber. Fox­gloves can be found in woodlands and gar­dens, and on moor­lands, coastal cliffs, road­side verges and waste ground.

Over the cen­turies they have ac­quired a num­ber of names, the cutest be­ing bunny rab­bit’s mouth and the worst be­ing a witch’s thim­ble. They are also called ladies thim­ble, goose flop, cow flop, fox flop, dead men’s bells, gloves of our lady and bloody fin­gers.

Some ex­perts be­lieve the fox­glove name might orig­i­nally have come from fairy’s glove but why can’t a fox wear gloves?

Some chem­i­cals ex­tracted from fox­gloves have been used in the treat­ment of heart con­di­tions and for clean­ing wounds in the past, but eat­ing them is not rec­om­mended as they are poi­sonous.

At the very least they will give you a very bad tummy ache and, at worst, they could ac­tu­ally kill you.

Of course if a bee is in­side a fox­glove that fran­tic buzzing is likely to put you off touch­ing the flow­ers. With bee num­bers suf­fer­ing in the UK it is great to see so many bee-friendly sum­mer plants in the wild and in gar­dens.

Fox­gloves make a high­light in any gar­den’s nec­tar café – an area set aside to at­tract in­sects.

It’s a great way to cre­ate a buzz on your own doorstep.

To sup­port the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070.

The Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side is ded­i­cated to the pro­tec­tion and pro­mo­tion of the wildlife in Lan­cashire, seven bor­oughs of Greater Manch­ester and four of Mersey­side, all ly­ing north of the River Mersey.

It man­ages around 40 na­ture re­serves and 20 Lo­cal Na­ture Re­serves cov­er­ing acres of wood­land, wet­land, up­land and meadow. The Trust has 27,000 mem­bers, and over 1,200 vol­un­teers.

To be­come a mem­ber of the trust go to the web­site at www.lanc­swt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more in­for­ma­tion about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewil­dlifetrust.org.

●● A clus­ter of tubu­lar fox­glove flow­ers

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