Welcome to the Eastern Moors blog site. In recent months this has been updated so that wardens, volunteers and supporters can now write blogs, submit photographs and comment on Eastern Moors topics. Please click on an appropriate tab above to get involved. If you are unsure how to post a picture, article or comment then please look at the Users Guide or email us.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

More about our Bee Orchids

We are lucky on Eastern Moors to have at least one patch of bee orchids. These plants prefer an alkaline soil, and there is not much of that at the surface on our moors. The bee orchid's name comes from the flower's attempt to mimic a bee in order to attract real bees. They arrive with the intention of mating with the mimic and finish up covered in pollen to transfer to another flower.

As mentioned in an earlier blog, this year has been particularly good with over 100 plants recorded on this patch.
But all is not rosy on the bee orchid front.

On returning to check the seed heads recently, this is what I should have been seeing:

 2 good fat seed pods each containing hundreds of seeds.

However, this was the only one I could find as all the others looked like this:

Something has systematically eaten every other seed head leaving a shrivelling stem.

It is easy to blame the cattle for such a deed as they have access to this area. There are no sheep on this Moor and not so many hares or rabbits in this area, even if they were unusually partial to a few seed heads.  The only other culprit could be the deer!
It is easy to tell if cattle have been around as cow-pats would be everywhere but, unlike last year, these were few and far between. On the other hand there were occasional signs of deer droppings:

Why then did we have a good crop of bee orchids this year?
Last year this area had cattle in it for much of the time as you could hardly take a photograph without cow-pats dominating the scene! Could it be that they kept the deer away, or had the deer not discovered their existence at that time?  Lots of presumptions here and it will be interesting to see how next year's flowers have withstood this attack.  The plants are not annuals but some research is needed as to whether these plants need a bit of protection or will manage to survive on their own.

1 comment:

  1. A friend has suggested that the culprits are mice, voles and other mammals. I respect his opinions at all times but would have thought that some debris would remain from their attack in the form if half eaten seed heads and stems. No such evidence here, just a clean break as if an animal had taken a seed head in one bite.
    Another suggestion is that badgers are to blame. Perhaps they do have a taste for such things. I know there is a badger sett close by and I think it is still active. Maybe a stakeout next year is needed to see who is doing the damage!