6-spot burnet moth

Safeguarding the prosperity of the thousands of insect pollinators that carry out the essential task of gathering pollen and ensuring the continuation of plant life is a top priority at the Heart of England Forest.

A busy time of year

As spring turns to summer, the weather becomes warmer and trees and plants burst into bloom, the army of pollinators gets busy, collecting and transferring pollen from male to female plants to ensure seed propagation. The best known are bees and wasps, both of whom deliberately collect pollen. In the UK there are some 1,500 species of insect pollinators including flies, butterflies, moths and even some species of beetles that spread pollen through their constant movement. We take a look at just a few of the vast array that the keen-eyed wanderer might spot on a Forest visit below.

Pollinators require both pollen and nectar-rich flowers to provide food throughout their nesting season from February to October. Nectar has a high sugar content and provides fuel, while pollen is food containing both protein and nutrients. The farmland and woods throughout the Heart of England Forest provides a veritable banquet, rich in both!

Sowing the seeds they love

Of course, the Heart of England Forest has a strong focus on planting trees, but with an eye on the other aspects of a healthy ecosystem that are inexorably linked to our woodland, we also do our best to provide varied and attractive plant life for our pollinators.

While our Haydon Way Wood walk, with its purpose-made wildflower meadow and the variety of pollens and nectar it offers, is perhaps our best-known pollinator-friendly spot, you may not know that we also sow a mix of wildflower seeds across other tracts of our land.

Although primarily designed to appeal to butterflies and bumblebees, the seed mix includes various species of fescue, vetches, grasses, birds-foot trefoil, ribwort plantain, field pansies, musk mallow, clovers, betony and agrimony. This wide variety of native plants will attract a mind-boggling collection of pollinators. Here are some of the more colourful species to look out for if you are out and about in the summer months:

Wasp beetle – as its name suggests it looks like a wasp but is actually a beetle. Its colouration and behaviour serves as a cunning deterrent against predators. Look out for them on hedgerow flowers or along woodland rides.

Potato capsid – a variation on the omnipresent common green capsid, this chap is at home in meadows and grasslands, favouring the nectar of flowers such as knapweed and hawkbits.

Marmalade hoverfly – the most common hoverfly in Britain, often found in gardens and woodland glades. Another insect that uses wasp-like black and white markings on an orange marmalade background as a defence against predators.

White-letter hairstreak – tough ones to spot as they are very discreet, these butterflies can be seen flitting about treetops and along tall hedgerows between June and August.

6-spot burnet moth – a day-flying moth recognisable by the six bright red spots on each forewing (although very occasionally these may be yellow). It can be found among flowery grassland and along woodland rides.

Tree bumblebee – a relative newcomer to the UK, these were first spotted as recently as 2001 and often start colonies in bird boxes or house cavities. A very effective pollinator, they prefer wide-open flowers such as daisies from which to collect their nectar and pollen.

These are a small selection of the thousands of less renowned pollinators that can be found in both the Heart of England Forest or in your own back garden. As always, don’t forget that we’d love to see any pictures of these, and other species that you spot so keep in touch: