Even in the workaday streets around where I live the diversity has amazed me. Crouch and watch a little piece of weed-covered waste ground for a while and it's akin to your eyes adjusting to the dark. More and more details loom out - another species of wildflower, and another, and another. How many different types of bumble bee is that now? And how many hoverflies? And what's that little creature on the cow parsley - a bizarre insect, or the larva of another insect?
Here's a selection of what I saw (or what I think I saw - please let me know if there are any howlers here!):
|Greater celandine, showing seed pods as well as buds and flowers, by a vacant office block in London SE1|
|Ox-eye daisies with common knapweed and yarrow, Bricklayer's Arms|
Back in the 1960s and 70s, highway engineers drunk on modernism built huge roundabouts, often with motorway-style flyovers, right in the middle of residential areas. The car was king, and the car driver's journey was implicitly deemed more important than those of the bus passenger, cyclist or pedestrian. Parts of London are blighted by these types of roundabout. They channel and speed up vast amounts of traffic and create menacing barriers between different neighbourhoods. Sometimes the pedestrian has to negotiate them by a confusing network of subways. They also create large void spaces where they go against the grain of existing streets, leaving little offcuts, patches of waste ground in the angles, soon colonised by vegetation.
|Common ragwort, Bricklayer's Arms|
|White campion, Bricklayer's Arms|
|Yarrow on the site of an old subway entrance, Bricklayer's Arms|
|Harlequin ladybird larva on cow parsley, Bricklayer's Arms|
This patch of land has been guerilla gardened in the past, but lately it's been left to its own devices.
|Bombus terrestris on red dead-nettle, Mandela Way|
|Common mallow grows by Stompie's wheel|
|Dog rose, Mandela Way|
|Hedge bindweed, Mandela Way|
|Bombus terrestris on green alkanet|
Insects are a sort of final frontier for naturalists; they admit there are thousands of species still to discover. The variety of species, the (often gruesome) niches they exploit, is dizzying. For most species of social bumble bee there is a corresponding species of solitary cuckoo bee that usually looks very similar and can invade its nest, kill the queen, lay its eggs and 'enslave' the workers to rear their young using powerful pheromones.
|There are around 5,000 species of hoverfly.|