Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cherry pollinators fest!

It was a warm, sunny afternoon and the cherry was at full bloom (three weeks earlier than last year), attracting a menagerie of bees, butterflies, queen wasps and flies. I did saw a honeybee, but I think even without this species, the cherry would be fully pollinated given the number and diversity of insects on it.
 Several bees were firsts for the year, including Bombus lapidarius, B. pascuorum and Melecta albifrons. I saw the first male red mining bee yesterday but they seemed to be everywhere today.
Bombus lapidarius queen 
Anthophora plumipes female
Queen wasp grooming
Possibly a dronefly
Male Osmia bicornis
and a Peacock also settled repeatedly on the blossom to feed
A small shining metallic wasp fell on the small pond and was rescued.
The first water beetle in the Victorian bath that makes our mini pond, awaiting ID.
Melecta albifrons, a cuckoo bee that parasitises A. plumipes, feeding on Muscari
 Melecta albifrons,  resting on a daffodil
And finally, a shot of a Red Mason Bee patrolling the Muscari.

Black Lace-Weaver wanderer

 In springtime male Black Lace weaver spiders roam in search of females. This one was dangerously walking on the pavement this morning, cold and wet from the night's rain. I took some quick shots and took him home for a white background session. The male palps look like they are holding white balls, these are the characteristically white and very visible palpar organs in this species.
 Black-lace weaver females (Amaurobius ferox), as their smaller relatives Amaurobius similis, have remarkable maternal behaviours, including guarding the spiderlings, feeding them using unfertilised eggs and then finally, encouraging them to eat their own bodies (matriphagy). For a fantastic video documenting this spider's maternal behaviour see this Arkive entry.
 More info in the British Arachnological Society page.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Cemetery Bugs

There is a large cemetery nearby and today me youngest daughter came with me and decided to have a bug safari. It was the first visit in the year that I have taken many more invertebrate than bird photos.
A pine Ladybird on orange lichen, Xanthoria parietina 
A group of the blind millipede Blaniulus guttulatus, with Porcellio scaber and a while slug under a piece of wood
A colourful cluster of Harlequin ladybirds appeared to have emerged from a crack in a damaged tree and some were flying off
Peacock sunbathing
A carpet of Lesser Celandines
Flowering Willow
Harlequins and Amaurobius (with nests?) under broken headstone.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Flies and bees

The morning started chilly, but when the sun appeared in the middle of the day I peeked out of the conservatory and saw a male Anthophora plumipes, the first of the year, stopping on a stone by the rosemary to sunbathe. It patrolled the garden and briefly settled to feed on the lungwort. I watched another male in a front garden in my street later in the day.
Male A. plumipes feeding on Pulmonaria officinalis.
A bit of hovering...
...and a bit of basking.
  On a south-facing Clematis montana in bloom I found a couple of honeybees and a hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii (top shot).
And in my local wildlife garden, a queen Buff-tailed bumblebee searched for a nest site.
It is the start of the bee season and I shall take my macro camera with me from now on in my outings.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

March already

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.
Pardosa sp wolf spider sunbathing
White dead-nettle
Narcissus tete-a-tete