A patch of Black horehound (Ballota nigra) at Canvey Point when watch closely was a minor paradise of bug life. Essex Skippers danced around the patch, chasing one another, feeding and resting, and fought the various bees for the best place at the horehound bar.
I am pretty sure that the species in question is an Essex Skipper – the black on the antennae suggesting so. Appropriate considering the black horehound patch stood along the path at the furthest end of Canvey Island, the home of the Essex Delta blues. Oil refineries and power stations, to many, do not herald wildness and nature. Yet the industrial Essex and Kent sides of the Thames Estuary are one of the best places in the UK for rare invertebrates and especially bees. Old industrial land laid waste after the oil crisis and long gone factories have allowed a dry wasteland vegetation to creep back in and with this habitat the bees, beetles and butterflies of the dry have returned.
And there on the path, with the water of the North sea and the Thames lapping at one side of the path and horehound patch on the other, I spent a wonderful hour. An hour with the carder and the cuckoo bees and the skipping Essex Skipper, listening to the sea and the wind and the call of the Oystercatcher – wilderness if ever there was.
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