March always takes me by surprise. I realised today that the end of winter is within sight, and it hasn't really felt like a proper winter, as it has been very mild, with a scattering of frosts, although very windy and overcast. With the sun out today, a dronefly Eristalis tenax stirred up and alternatively visited the Laurustinus on the shade and sunbathed in the wall opposite. A pack of young wolf spiders enjoyed the sun too. I wandered around and realised the garden is ready for my favouring early spring invertebrate, Anthophora plumipes, the hairy footed flower bee. Males should be appearing by the end of this week, weather permitting. I photographed their favourite flowers at bee-eye view. I hope they don't make me wait too long.
After stormy, windy and very dark days, there were some long sunny spells on monday and I came across several stirring insects during my daily wanderings. A cold queen Bombus terrestris on the windowsill, with the tiny sprightly springtail, Entomobrya sp, possibly nivalis, on a walkabout around her.
Then I disturbed a moth in the front garden, the plume moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla.
But the best find was a very fresh looking peacock settled on the pavement by a fence, with is pictured at the top of the post.
The first queen wasp of the year got herself trapped in the conservatory. She was cold and calm, so I decided to give her a session with the white bowl. I held her in a tissue and placed her onto the bowl and she posed nicely. After a few photos, with me breathing onto her, she warmed up, started grooming her antennae and flew onto the window, and I let her go.
The only overwintering stage of social wasps are queens. Males died at the end of the autumn after mating, and the workers a bit earlier. Their large paper nests are now empty, as the life cycle of social wasps lasts for less than one year. Queens overwinter in buildings or other dry places, but the strong wind and mild temperatures have probably helped stir this one out of her hiding place.
The 'anchor mark' on her face identifies her as a common wasp, Vespula vulgaris.
Side view showing how hairy she is.
And a little grooming of antennae before flying off.
I was amazed walking into the kitchen a few minutes ago when I came across this massive slug, stretched to over 10 cm long on the floor. A Limacus maculatus, it was covered on tiny mites, clustered near the bottom of the slug's body (click the photo to enlarge). Slugs and snails often carry mites of the genus Riccardoella but I have never noticed so many in a slug.
UPDATE. Thank you to Richard Comont and Ryan Clark for pointing me to the right species of mites. I have now amended the post.