Thursday, 17 May 2018

Flies and Bees

Went for a walk around Whitewell. There were lots of black flies on nettles and flying clumsily around with long legs dangling - these were the St Mark's flies. There were also lots of Noon flies sunning themselves on leaves.They mate on cow pats and the female lays one egg in a different cow pat which hatches out quickly and feeds voraciously on any other larvae in the pat. The adults  feed on flower pollen. There were plenty of Green Bottles and depending on the direction the light hit them they could appear almost bright copper in the sunshine.


Female St Mark's Fly

Male St Mark's Fly

Crane Fly mating.

Noon Fly Mesembrina meridiana

Orange Tailed Mining Bee, Andrena haemorrhoa (?)

Soldier Fly

Green Bottle

Soldier Beetle

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Newton Ramble

Had a spring walk around Newton, following the river, lots of flowers in bloom and plenty of bees and the occasional peacock and small tortoiseshell butterfly.






Tawny Mining Bees

Saturday was really warm and sunny and we had a gentle walk along the riverbank in Newton. Wood anemone , primrose, celandine, marsh marigolds all in flower and lots of Bumble bees, Red Tailed, Buff and Early flying around. Also noticed some really rich red insects flying around and finally managed to photograph one. It was a female Tawny Mining Bee, its dense, rich ginger coloured coat glowing in the sunlight, very glam. The males are usually smaller and not so densley haired and duller but they make up for it with a patch of white hair on their faces, that looks like a moustache.


This is one of the species that can be parasitized by beeflies. If you see a small hole in the ground with a little volcano of soil around it , then you may have found a Tawny Mining bee nest.

Bee-flies and spring

As soon as the "Lollipop Primroses" (Primula Denticulata) start to flower and we get some warm sunny days, I start listening out for a high pitched whine in the garden and looking out for quickly darting and hovering golden furry flies. For me it means spring is definitely underway when the Bee Flies are back in the garden. For a start they apparently don't feel inclined to fly if the temperature is below 17 degrees c. so sunny days are a must for them. All that hovering and zooming about must require a lot of energy. It also means that the solitary bees whose nests and larvae they parasitize have had time to get their breeding cycles underway. The adult beeflies have a really long proboscis that sticks out from their face to reach deep into flowers for nectar. It looks like it could do you an injury if it decided to, but beeflies are totally harmless, to us at least.



Female beeflies look out for solitary bee nests and when they find one they hover outside the entrance and flick their egg in. Sometimes they collect dust or sand on the tip of their abdomens and coat the eggs with this perhaps to disguise them or add a bit of weight to get them deeper into the nests.When her larva hatches, its a skinny little thing that crawls in and feeds on the provisions the solitary bee has laid in for her own offspring. Eventually it changes into a larger, fatter grub that attaches itself to the solitary bees larva and sucks it dry - and then moves on to the next one as there are usually several to be had in one burrow. Sounds awful but beeflies don't seem to make a dent in the solitary bee populations and to be honest they are one of many insects that prey on them. Lifes rich tapestry I guess, and I love them all.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Lost Butterflies

At last we are getting butterflies in the garden, we had Large Whites and Green veined Whites at the start of the summer then the occasional Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper but only the occasional Tortoiseshell. Now that the buddleia and teasels are flowering we are happy to see Red Admirals, Peacocks and Commas coming into the garden. I hope the Commas might be from caterpillars I found on the hops I grew, as I knew they were a plant their caterpillars like to feed on. We grow lots of plants specifically for their nectar, borage and echiums are a real hit with the bees and hoverflies and we don't use any pesticides, we also leave plants to die back naturally and only cut back in the spring so there are lots of places for overwintering insects. We stock firewood in the outbuildings and often find butterflies and moths hibernating in there (and sometimes in the house). It makes me sad to remember the numbers of butterflies I used to see as a child and ladybirds, I've hardly seen any of those this year.

Comma

Peacock 

Red Admiral



Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Stocks Reservoir

Went for a coffee after work at the cafe at Stocks Fly Fishery. It was lovely, warm and sunny but very breezy which made photographing insects quite challenging. My little camera was up for it though and I got some lovely photos and saw my favoutite fly Tachina grossa.

I think this is Sericomyia silentis

Dung Fly

Heather Fly Bibio pomonae

Tachina grossa, the greenbottle fly gives some idea of size.

Fungus gnats, the yellow bellied ones are Scaridae hemerobioides

I think this is a Sawfly, Tenthredo sp.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

July is a lovely month in the garden, a colourful, buzzing celebration of life ( I'm like Ned Stark though, even in high summer, I keep thinking "Winter is coming!") I spent ages trying to photograph this cute little bee, it has really fluffy front legs which whenever it settles it hides under its chin, like its embarrassed by its fashion choices. I think its a male Willughby's Leafcutter Bee. I also noticed neat little semi-circles had been nibbled out of the leaves of the climbing rose by the kitchen window, probably by a female Leafcutter Bee, wish I could spot a nest.