Peas for Bees

Sweet peas (1a)

These flowering plants are members of the pea family.  This is the third largest flower family in the world and includes peas, beans, lupins, wisterias, gorse, clovers, brooms and trefoils. (1a,1b) They have five petals which include a flag or standard which is upright, two wings below the flag and below these, two petals fused together to form the keel which contains the pollen and nectar.  (2) The purpose of the flag is to attract pollinators, so they land on the wings.  When an insect lands the keel with its nectar and pollen is exposed.  These plants have weak stems so at the end of leaves hooked tendrils protrude to cling on to nearby vegetation for support.  They all produce fruits called pods.

Sweet pea flower (1b)
Flower parts (2)

Bush vetch (Vicia sepium) or Peasair fhiáin in Irish is common on roadside verges and hedgerows from May to August. (3a) Its pale purple flowers attract numerous bumble bees which are the only insects able to access its nectar.  Bee guidelines direct them to the nectar source. (3b) Its leaves are compound ones consisting of pairs of leaflets ending in three tendrils.  The seed pods are black

Bush vetch (3a)
Close-up of Bush vetch flower (3b)

Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca) or Peasair na luch in Irish is common on roadside verges and hedgerows from June to September. (4)  The purple-blue clusters of flowers or racemes hang downwards from one side of the stem and attract bees, butterflies and flies.  The compound leaves usually have about a dozen narrow leaflets and end with two tendrils. The seed pods are brown.

Tufted vetch (4)

Meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis) or Peasairín buí in Irish is common on roadside verges, hedgerows and long grass from June to September. (5)  It is sometimes called Yellow pea because of its rich yellow flowers. Its leaves contain pairs of lance shaped leaflets with tendrils between each.  The seed pods are black.

Meadow vetchling (5)