The fields were alive today as over thirty Northamptonshire Naturalists and Friends of Bradlaugh Fields came to hear Professor Jeff Ollerton from the University of Northampton give us an insight into bees, flowers, pollination and the natural history of the Quarry Field and ‘Scrub’ Field Wildlife Trust Reserve. We found out that plants, despite their innocent looks, are actually pretty cunning and manipulate animals, such as bees, into serving the plants’ needs for fertilization, by luring them with attractive, eye-catching colours and odours and paying insects off with sugar in the form of nectar, for energy, and with pollen which supplies the insects’ brood with nutrients like protein and fat.
Some plants, famously, even trick insects into thinking the flower is a potential mate! However, more prosaically, the common bramble is a bumblebee favourite, after which the blackberry fruit tops it off by then persuading mammals to eat it and disperse the seeds.
We also discovered some useful tricks of our own, like the use of binoculars upside down to turn them into magnifying glasses in the field. A very handy tip.
We looked at a range of attractively bright-petalled insect-pollinated flowers such as birds’ foot trefoil (which changes colour from yellow to orangey-red after pollination), black medick and common vetch, and compared them with grasses and plantains which are wind-pollinated, and so lack bright petals as they do not need to attract insects.
We then finished with some general botanising and photography. Many thanks to Jeff Ollerton for what was altogether a fascinating afternoon discovering more about the hidden life of Bradlaugh Fields.