Nature Natters (6) Wild Flower Campaign

WNCF – Wild flower campaign: Bee-Orchids – Nature Natters (6)

Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) are wild flowers that look like bees on a spike but they are sensitive to disturbance and can be difficult to spot however when you do you will be amazed at what you see. The Bee Orchids of Stockton Heath inspired me to make them the subject of a watercolour painting that I submitted in the local arts competition.

It was one of our members who first reported seeing them at a Greenall Avenue site. He sent me a map of their location which I passed on to Warringgton Bourogh Council so that they would protect them by leaving an unmown strip. It turned out that a trainee didn’t receive the message in time and mowed them down. Fortunately, no damage was done to the 50 Bee Orchids that were in the adjacent small wood.

A year later, as part of a cost saving exercise, WBC stopped mowing grass verges across the borough allowing the landscape to return to its natural habitat of tall grassland. In one of these patches in Birchwood, alongside the expressway, more than 100 Bee Orchid spikes and 50 Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) flourished, hidden amongst the tall grass.

Unfortunately, since then both sites have been mowed annually destroying any chance of them growing. To make matters worse this year some of the young saplings in the Greenall Avenue wood were cut down and turned into saw dust which was scattered across the wood and over the Bee Orchids. The net result was that this year only 4 Bee Orchid spikes were found in the wood and none at the grassland area.

This summer our eagle-eyed member has found a new site further on a grass verge further up Greenall Avenue but before the land owner could be alerted their grass cutter operative had mowed them down.

These examples go to show just how fragile wildlife is and why it needs to be protected. We hope that WBC will adopt policies like Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s web page that states “Bee orchids are protected, as are all wild flowers, under Section 13 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). This section prohibits unauthorised and intentional uprooting of any wild plant. In addition, because orchids are particularly slow growing and may only flower once in their lifetime, it is important to never pick the flowers.”

We are more hopeful for next year because both the private landowner and WBC have agreed to refrain from mowing these grassed areas during the Bee Orchid’s brief flowering season and for future years.

We are so lucky to have at least three sites in Warrington and our aim is to protect them as best we can. We need your help, so If you come across any wildlife sites that you feel need protecting then please contact the WNCF via our contact web page and tell us about what you have found.


Geoff Settle