Luncarty in bloom

Louise Summers, Chair of Luncarty in Bloom, provides today’s guest blog. Luncarty, just north of Perth, has seen a popular community group invest in a variety of planters (and considerable time) to add a splash of floral colour to this popular village. This has also been a welcome addition for pollinators. Here Louise talks through how the group came into being and offers advice for any villages tempted to follow in Luncarty’s footsteps.


Louise, your group has transformed the public spaces and verges in Luncarty. What was the inspiration for taking this work on ?

A few of us saw there was nothing in the common areas of the village apart from grass and wanted to add colour and brighten up the village.   Iain Matheson and Alex Cook were founder members and Lyn Mackintosh and myself attended a council meeting, mainly to discuss road safety and by the end of the meeting had somehow got ourselves enrolled into Luncarty in Bloom!  We had no idea that the group existed prior to the meeting and decided to try and promote the group and get it better established.  Luncarty has a great community spirit and we knew local people would get on board.  Now we have a popular Facebook page and it’s fair to say most people in the village know about us!

Planter 2

There must be a fair amount of work in looking after so many containers. How big a time commitment is keeping Luncarty in bloom ?

It might surprise folk to learn that our main core of helpers, is only 6 people!  3 retirees and 3 working mums!  It can be difficult fitting it all in, but we all enjoy it and work well as a team.  In busy periods such as planting and watering seasons, we rely on the power of Facebook to call on local people to assist.  So far we have been lucky with ample volunteers helping to plant bulbs, joining us on litter picks, dedicated waterers etc. The boys in the photo even found a £5 note on the litter pick, so were very chuffed!

Litter Pick

You have a range of plants on show.  How did you go about picking which species to plant?

One of our group, Nicola MacNee is a trained horticulturist and we rely on her to pick the plants for our displays.  These are her comments below!

  • We are aware that insects generally are under threat so we knew that any planting we could do would likely help pollinating insects.
  • We chose the plants initially for their tolerance of the Scottish weather and irregular watering.  We wanted a long flowering season but we have tried to mix up the varieties to get a good range of plants.
  • We are aware that we needed to include a lot of single flowering plants for insect life (Begonias give a great show but are all doubles so not good for pollinators)
  • This year we chose a much broader range of plants to try to get more insect friendly plants in the mix.  We also grew them from plugs instead of buying in well grown plants, this allowed us to choose from a bigger range of plants.
  • We hope to establish some wildflower meadow areas in the future



Other villages might like to follow your lead … what advice would you give them ?

Go for it.  Initially when we started, we had limited funds and could only manage to fill a few old whisky barrels!  3 years later we have expanded into 3 tiered containers, barrier baskets, recycled containers and even 6 benches!!

We had the confidence to enter ‘Take a Pride in Perthshire’ last year and won Best Newcomer and got Silver award in the Large Village category!  We did not expect this at all, but the recognition definitely spurs us on to keep up the momentum.  It’s amazing that, after a while, more ideas come to mind, and looking at what other groups do is a great way to get inspiration.  At the same time, don’t be overwhelmed by other groups results!  Some have been established for a long time but remember, they all started small!  That could be your village in the future!!


Bike Scarecrow

Any funny tales to tell along the way?

We entered the local Scarecrow competition organised by Luncarty Primary School.  One of our entries named ‘OOF’ made the “Courier” and created a lot of laughs in the village. Our other entry  — Flora L Bouquet  — stood on the main road greeting motorists driving through the village. While ‘OOF’ was fun, Flora was very colourful and flowery attracting insects as well as looks!


Does it cost a lot to plant as much as you have in a village?

The cost is relatively cheap as we all give our time for free and often other bits and pieces.  The main costs are plants, which we’ve cheapened by buying plugs this year, bone meal and compost.  We were donated winter pansies and primula last year – hope we manage the same again this year!  Plants come from Nurseries organised through a Council contract.  The Council gives us a small grant annually which covers the cost of plants.  Paying for the one-off costs such as buying display planters is expensive and has been achieved through grants.


This year we have been really lucky in winning funding from Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme and also funding from a council-run initiative for local community groups.  We also ask local business to donate where possible. In return we display their name on the planters and give them a wee mention on Facebook!!

Recently we had a visit from Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, John Swinney.  He says he has noticed the displays on his way home and was impressed with our work!  A bit of fame for us at last!


Find out more:

Our Facebook page is if you want to have look.




C’mon the Yellows!

It’s all about the yellows and the purples this August in Caroline Anderson’s latest blog. But hang on we aren’t talking football teams, we’re looking at the wildflowers at Taynish.  And with Caroline behind the lens you are in for a photographic treat.

The yellow team includes Hawkweed, Celandine, St John’s wort (above right) and Sow Thistle.   With Devils Bit Scabious (above left), Hemp Agrimony, Purple Loosestrife and Knapweed for the purples.

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - Painted lady on buddliea

Painted Lady butterfly on Buddliea

These are all ‘pollinator plants’ which attract insects in great numbers.   Just like the recent influx of Painted Lady butterflies that descended on Buddliea all around the country, so our Taynish insects have their own personal favourites.

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - hoverfly on purple loosestrife DSC_1223

Hoverfly on Purple Loosestrife

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - speckled wood on purple loosestrife DSC_1482

Speckled Wood on Purple Loosestrife

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - bee on purple loosestrife DSC_15461

Bumblebee on Purple Loosestrife

Particularly popular was the Hemp Agrimony down at the Mill which was weighted down with hoverflies, bees, butterflies and even the odd moth or two.

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - hoverfly on hemp agrimony DSC_1404

Hoverfly on Hemp Agrimony

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - moth on hemp agrimony DSC_1415

Bird Cherry Ermine moth on Hemp Agrimony

It looks to be a good year for the brambles too, slowly turning a deep luscious red.  The Common Darters were resting in amongst the ripening fruit and were very well camouflaged against the berries and leaves.

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - common darter on bramble DSC_1458

Common Darter on Brambles

Interestingly, the Sow Thistle  at the shore had no insects on them at all – not one – how curious!  So, for this visit, I would say its 2-1 to the purples, though there is still time to equalise.  C’mon the yellows!

2019 Taynish Pollinator Trail - August - hoverfly or bee on knapweed DSC_8584

Why not come along and see the pollinators in action at our family fun event on Saturday 31st August.

Join us at Taynish Mill on Sat. 31st Aug. for free family-fun day packed with pollinator-themed activities! Drop-in between 11-3pm. Best to walk from the village, as car parking is v. limited. Email or call 0131 316 2658 for more info and to book.

Details can also be found here

Undertakers, pests, healers, pollinators: The multi-faceted green bottle flies

You have probably seen these shiny, metallic green flies in your garden or around the bins. They are blow flies of the genus Lucilia, which comprises several species that are difficult to tell apart. As Athayde Tonhasca reveals these flies are flashy and exuberant, but also have a dark reputation because of their association with death and decay.


Lucilia sp.   ©Athayde Tonhasca

Female green bottle flies use their powerful sense of smell to track minute volumes of sulphur volatiles released by recently dead animals. Once a fly finds a corpse, sometimes within minutes of death, it lays 150 to 200 eggs on it. The eggs quickly hatch into maggots, which feed on the rotting flesh. After about ten days, the maggots leave the body and pupate in the soil nearby.

Gross, you say? Well, green bottle flies help decompose carcasses, accelerating the release of organic matter and nutrients into the ecosystem. Without blow flies and other scavenging insects such as flesh flies and carrion beetles, decomposition by microorganisms would take much longer, so rotting carcasses would accumulate in the landscape.

Because green bottles and other blow flies are so dependent on dead bodies, they are an important aid to forensic science. By noting the flies’ life stage, criminal investigators can determine a person’s time of death, and the presence or absence of flies in certain environments can be an indication of tampering with the body.

But alas, these flies can lay their eggs on live bodies as well. The common green bottle fly Lucillia sericata is a serious pest of sheep, causing significant expenses for farmers.

However, green bottle flies are not all death and pestilence. Because their maggots preferentially consume dead tissue, they have been used for the treatment of diabetic ulcers, bedsores and other chronic wounds in people and animals. Disinfected L. sericata maggots are placed in a non-healing wound, where they eat the necrotic (dead) tissue and produce antimicrobial enzymes that prevent infections, thus speeding the growth of new tissue.

Maggot therapy has been known since 1557 when Ambroise Paré, the Chief Surgeon of King Charles IX of France, described a soldier with a deep head wound filled with a ‘great number of worms’ (probably maggots), and noted that the patient ‘recovered beyond all men’s expectation’. This unusual but effective treatment has saved many lives before antibiotics become widely available, and the therapy is experiencing a comeback because of antibiotic resistance.

This is not the last of L. sericata roles in nature. The species is a good pollinator of crops that produce few flowers or little pollen such as Cruciferae (cauliflower, cabbage), Compositae (lettuce),  Umbelliferae (carrot) and Liliaceae (onion, leek, asparagus); so much so that this fly is commercially available to complement the pollination by bees in glasshouses. One study has demonstrated that the common green bottle fly helps to distribute pollen evenly across strawberry flowers, thus improving fruit quality. More is to be discovered about the role of green bottle flies as pollinators of crops and wild flowers.

Not so bad for those green creatures buzzing around your rubbish.

Busy Buglife

This is a tale of perpetual motion. Pollinators get more than a passing mention, but the focus is on the energetic team at Buglife Scotland.  We caught up with their Scotland manager Suzanne Burgess recently, and found out more about their impressive range of projects for pollinators.

First up is a look at Falkirk. Best known for the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel, the town has rapidly become important for its pollinator provision.  Much of that is down to the fabulous strides being made to develop a series of Pollinator Parks.


Five parks have now been transformed into urban wildflower havens for pollinators. A combination of planting plugs, sowing seeds and sourcing native bulbs for Princes Park, Policy Bing, Camelon Park, Bantaskine Estate, and Ash Park has delivered super resources for pollinator and people alike.


Not only do these parks individually help pollinators in Falkirk, they increasingly bring connectivity of good habitat whilst driving relentlessly towards a pollinator corridor approach.

One of Buglife’s goals is to use the 134-mile long popular long-distance footpath, The John Muir Way, to deliver a pollinator way.

With funding from Greggs Foundation, and Scottish Government, Buglife has created 32 sites (seven more than initially planned), totalling almost 8 hectares, along the route. Over 300 people have been involved in planting events, and when it comes to teamwork the combined industry and efforts of Buglife, the Central Scotland Green Network, and the local authority, are clearly delivering huge benefits for nature.

Both the John Muir Way and Falkirk Parks are part of Buglife’s nationwide and impressive B-Lines project.  In essence they create ‘insect pathways’ running through our countryside and towns, restoring and creating a series of wildflower-rich habitat ‘stepping stones’.

Central Scotland B-lines is the newest kid on the block and this project will create and transform habitat for pollinators along further stretches of the John Muir Way including sections in East Dunbartonshire and South Lanarkshire.  The work is one of 14 projects across Scotland to have been granted funds from Scottish Natural Heritage’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund.


If Falkirk has grabbed the headlines it would be only fair to say that Buglife have been active in the west of Scotland too.

Garnock’s Buzzing is creating over 15 hectares (roughly 15 international rugby pitches) of wildflower meadows. It’s a joint initiative that draws upon the expertise and skills of North Ayrshire Council., RSPB, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, SEPA and Historic Environment Scotland.

Staying the Ayrshire area there are plans afoot to create two meadows in the parks of Kilbirnie. This work will take place in the autumn and include involvement from local school groups.

The involvement of the next generation is a key aim of Scotland’s Pollinator Strategy.

Working with schools offers an opportunity to explore the importance of pollinators, highlight the challenges they face, and encourage positive actions to help address those issues. A series of training workshops and FIT (Flower-Insect-Timed) counts will bolster efforts to engage new audiences with our vital pollinating insects.

Providing food sources for our hungry pollinators is crucial to ensuring they can thrive in Scotland, and that can take discussions beyond wildflower meadows and species rich grasslands into one which promotes an acknowledgement of the value of weeds for pollinators.


Buglife are delivering a hugely important message in changing perceptions and raising awareness of this often misunderstood topic.

Clearly Buglife have been busy and look set to be so for some time. That, as ever, is great news for our vital pollinators.

Join the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme!

José van Paassen provides our guest blog today, looking at the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme. Their 1km square survey takes a systematic approach, using pan-traps to take samples of insects from a set of 75 1km squares across England, Scotland and Wales. There are still squares available to adopt in Scotland, so read on if you want to know more about how to get involved.

IMAG1297 - square 51 Laggan

Square 51 Laggan

It is 2pm. I have set up the pan traps for the Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (PoMS) four hours earlier, and have two more hours before having to pick them up.

Today I am surveying a square on the North coast of Scotland – one of the prettiest places in Scotland in my opinion. The sea here is extremely blue and looks very inviting after hiking to and from the PoMS square, even though it will be very cold. The heathlands are just about to turn purple with the flowering heather, changing the views completely and no doubt attracting many interesting bees and other insects.

Every PoMS survey square is different, there are 75 survey squares scattered across Great Britain, and 22 of them are in Scotland.

Surveying a square is a good day out – it always has to be nice weather to survey! – and a great contribution to gathering data on pollinator abundance and diversity.

Square 161 near Tongue

Square 161 near Tongue

Each square is ideally surveyed four times each summer, from May to August. The survey consists of setting out five sets of pan traps across the 1km square (the locations are shown with GPS coordinates and notes on a detailed map of the square), assessing flower abundance around the traps, and conducting 10-minute Flower-Insect Timed counts on 50×50 cm patches of flowers.

Most squares in Scotland are already taken up by volunteers, whom I or one of the PoMS team will have met on site to go through their first survey together and hand over equipment, but there are still a few available.

Square 42 Bettyhill

Square 42 Bettyhill

There are two beautiful squares on the North coast, near Bettyhill and Tongue (number 42 and 161 on the map). There are also still three squares available around the Aviemore area, one near Grantown-on-Spey (number 86, good lunch spots near the river!), one near Feshiebridge (number 128, very pretty valley), and one near Laggan (number 51), which is a stunning upland site with lots of orchids, sundews and hoverflies disguising as bees and wasps.

I feel very lucky being able to go to all these places in summer and would highly recommend people to take up a PoMS survey square near them. It is amazing to see what’s buzzing, and how it changes between the months as you become familiar with an area that has likely never been surveyed for pollinating insects before. It brings you to great places, and, if you dare, refreshes you with an ice-cold swim.

Contact if you are interested in joining us for an August survey, before it’s too late!