Thursday, 19 September 2013

Reading Flower Meadows in September 2013

Autumn is upon us and the flower meadows are drawing to a close now. There are still a few flowers left which attract pollinators but apart from a few bumblebees, hoverflies and solitary bees there is not a lot flying around anymore with the colder nights getting more frequent now.

As this is the last year of the Urban Pollinators Project the future of the Reading flower meadows is still uncertain. It will depend a lot on how much money Reading council can spare to resow (annual meadows) and maintain the flower meadows in the coming years. If you liked the flower meadows in Reading why not write to Reading council and let them know about it. With a lot of positive feedback there may be a greater incentive for them to find a way to bring at least some of the flower meadows back next year.

Update: We received the great news that Reading council will keep 11 out of the 15 wildflower meadows in Reading. Three of the perennial meadows will be maintained for the coming years and 8 of the annual meadows will be resown around Reading next year.

Perennial meadows

A garden spider caught herself a meal
The perennial meadows have finished flowering (there are just a few flowers left here and there) but an abundance of seeds, especially of Wild carrot (Daucus carota), provides food for birds and other seed-eating animals. The meadows also provide shelter for insects and we have seen caterpillars, beetles and earwigs hiding in the birds nest-like seed heads of Wild carrot. Spiders use the meadows as a hunting ground and especially the Garden spider uses the tall plant stems to build its net to catch any passing insect. So even without lots of flowers the perennial meadows are still very in demand for all sorts of wildlife.

 A highlight for us was to find the Ivy bee (Colletes hederae) in several of our meadows and watching it collecting nectar from yellow daisy flowers such as Autumn hawkbit (Scorzoneroides autumnalis) and Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.). The Ivy bee was first described in 1993 and was found for the first time in the UK (Dorset) in 2001. The bees are now slowly spreading North with one of the most northerly populations found near Abingdon in Oxfordshire. Read more about the Ivy bee here.

Ivy bee collecting nectar from Autumn hawkbit

In October the perennial meadows will be cut to give the plants light and space to regrow ready to flower again next year.

A Common Carder bee visiting an Autumn hawkbit flower

Annual meadows

After the annual meadows have suffered a lot in the heat wave in July they have finished flowering earlier than usual and most of the meadows look quite spent now. But there are still flowers left especially in our Prospect Park meadow which has lots of Cosmidium and Golden tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria) flowering. We have also seen quite a lot of hoverflies in the annual meadows which seemed to be very fond of the poppy flowers.

The last flowers in the meadow in Caversham Cemetery
Eristalis tenax, a hoverfly which pretends to be a honeybee
The last poppies ...
Two hoverflies meeting in a Californian poppy flower
Pot marigold and Sweet alyssum flowering in abundance
A self-sown sunflower
Lasioglossum calceatum male in a Pot marigold flower
A red variety of Golden tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria)
Golden tickseed and Cosmos
Common Carder bee in a Cosmos flower


  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the Urban Pollinator blogs and have learnt a great deal from the site. I would also like to say that the photography has been outstanding. Thank you very much and good luck in your careers.

    1. Many thanks for your positive feedback, this is very much appreciated. There are still a few more blog posts to come (for example about the Ivy bee, Colletes hederae) but the fieldwork is now finally over.