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Parish of Llandudno
Bees    |     Moths     |    Wildflowers     |      Birds
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Wildlife in the churchyard

We try to maintain the churchyard to allow wildflowers and wildlife to flourish, while preventing the graves from becoming overgrown.  Although it is not always easy to achieve both objectives, we are encouraged by the amount of wildlife appearing in the churchyard. 

Bumblebee nest

We were delighted to have had a nest of bumblebees in the churchyard during summer 2012. 

The entrance to the nest was a hole in the ground between the flat slab and the cross shown in this photo.  Anyone standing quietly on the path was able to see and hear the bees buzzing in and out of the nest.  Bumblebees are placid and rarely sting but they might sting if the nest is disturbed.  By staying on the path, watchers and the bees were all safe. 

Location of bumblebee nest  Bumblebees at nest 

These were buff tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), like the one shown in this photograph below.  Buff tailed bumblebees nest in holes below ground (e.g. mouse holes).  Brightly coloured balls of pollen may have been seen on the legs of bees returning to the nest.  The pollen feeds the developing larvae.

Buff tailed bumblebee

Nearly all of the bees going in and out of the nest would have been female worker bees.  The queen is very much bigger than the workers.  The males appear in late summer and do not gather pollen or return to the nest once they have left it, though other males may hang around waiting to meet the new queens.  At night and if it is raining, the female bees stay in the nest but the males have to find other shelter, often under flowers which they use like umbrellas. 

As summer turns to autumn, the old queen, workers and males will all die and the new queens will each search for another hole in the ground in which to hibernate.  The queens emerge again in spring and each will look for a suitable place in which to make a nest and form a new colony.

The buff tailed bumblebee is one of the more common bumblebees in the UK.  However, the numbers of all bumblebees have been declining as the number of wildflower meadows has declined and we are privileged to have a nest here in the churchyard.  Bumblebees are very important pollinators of wildflowers, fruit, vegetables and crops.  It is important that we do all we can to help bumblebees survive.  Wildflowers and  cottage garden plants generally provide more nectar and pollen for bees than do modern bedding plants. 

You can learn more about bumblebees from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust

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Bilberry bumblebee

In September 2011 this bilberry bumblebee (Bombus monticola) was spotted foraging on white clover in the churchyard.  A ball of pollen can be seen on the bee's hind leg.  It would be more usual to find this bee in the mountains and as far as we are aware this was the first record of this bee on the Great Orme.  Another bilberry bumblebee was seen on the opposite side of the Great Orme in October 2012. 

Bilberry bumblebee

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Cinnabar moth

Cinnabar moths (Tyria jacobaeae) are occasionally seen in the churchyard we usually see the brightly coloured caterpillars feeding on ragwort during August.  However, if sheep get into the churchyard they will eat most of the ragwort flowers which we had hope will feed wildlife. 

Cinnabar moth

Cinnabar moth caterpillars  

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Common ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) is the main food plant of cinnabar moth caterpillars and is also an important source of nectar for bumblebees and other insects during late summer.  In this photograph of ragwort in the churchyard the top bee is a common carder bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) and the bottom one is a buff tailed bumblebee (
Bombus terrestris).  Common ragwort in hay can be dangerous to horses but in the churchyard it poses no danger to livestock and the plants are left to grow when the grass is cut, to provide food for insects.  This policy is approved by the Great Orme Country Park.  Further informationon ragwort can be found on the UK Wildflowers website

Bumblebees on ragwort

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Pyramidal orchid

In 2009 two pyramidal orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalis) were found in the churchyard and have reappeared each year.  Unfortunately, sheep grazing on the Great Orme sometimes get into the churchyard (particularly if a gate is left open) and eat the flowers before they have a chance to set seed.  The Great Orme goats do not do this. 

In 2013 it was found that the orchids had increased in number and spread, so an area of grass to the east of the church was left uncut.  It is hoped that with appropriate management the orchids will continue to thrive. 

Pyramidal orchid

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Other wildflowers

In spring, primroses, cowslips and bluebells can be found in the churchyard.  As the seed heads can be difficult to spot when the grass is cut, the Friends of St. Tudno's Church mark patches of flowers with canes and tape, to show the grass cutters which areas to leave uncut.  (N.B.  The building in the background of this photograph is the cemetery chapel and not St. Tudno's Church.)  In late summer the grass cutters leave other plants such as thistles and knapweeds to flower, to provide late season food for bees and other insects. 

Protecting the wildflowers


In the summer of 2013 it was observed that collections of limpet shells were appearing on graves or other flat areas and this photograph shows one of the larges collections, which also included same fish bones and a crab shell.  We assume that these have been brought here by birds and oystercatchers have been suggested, though we are unsure whether they venture this high on the Great Orme.  We would welcome any other suggestions. 

Limpet shells in churchyard

In the evenings, jackdaws (Corvus monedula) often congregate in the churchyard and may be seen perching on many of the headstones or on the telegraph wires just outside the churchyard.   

Jackdaws by St. Tudno's Church

Other bird visitors to the churchyard have included a firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus) or two.  We would be very pleased to hear from anyone with records of birds or other wildlife spotted in the churchyard.  Please contact St. Tudno's

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Web site co-ordinator           Last updated: September 2013