These hoverflies are bumblebee mimics and come in many colour variations, over the past week I have found them at several locations around the reserve. The red or white tailed forms appear to be the most common in my garden at the moment. The larva of these hoverflies live in the bulbs of daffodils, bluebells and other plants and can cause serious damage, english names for this hoverfly include Narcissus-fly and Greater Bulb-fly.
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The impact of the cold winter and late spring can be seen in the meadows on Dungeness at the moment. Delayed growth of vegetation means that flowers have been slow to open, and there are even fewer bumblebees than at Northiam to feed on them. Over the past week Read the rest of this entry »
Two weeks ago I marked 4 worker red-tailed bumblebees using a bird nest-box in our Northiam garden so that I could recognise individuals and try to see how hard they were having to work to gather food. A plastic tube, rudely placed over the entrance hole forces the bees to halt allowing the colour, and number of the disc to be recorded on the way in and out of the nest.
For the past two weeks two bees have been observed regularly leaving the nest box, with a third making an occasional trip. The fourth has not been seen, either the disk has fallen off, it is staying in the box, or it has died. It may yet put in an appearance.
This morning saw Read the rest of this entry »
With the change in wind direction it was good to get out in the back garden to see what was buzzing around the flowering bushes and shrubs. A good selection of insects were found, bumblebee workers of four species were present in good numbers and the rather bristly Tachina fera is hard to miss. Seven species of hoverfly were found the highlight being the superb Neoscia podagrica, this little fellow is easily overlooked as it flies low down in the dappled sunlight amongst the long grasses and pot plants. Easier hoverflies to pick out included Epistrohe eligans, Myathropa florea and Meliscaeva auricollis.
Bombus terrestris/lucorum worker with polllen load Read the rest of this entry »
12 years ago when I moved into a new house a young two-stemmed oak sapling gave me the opportunity to create a young pollard. This was something I did partly because in English Nature I had been responsible for a magnificent wood in this area full of oak and hornbeam pollards, but also because I wanted to plant native deciduous trees for insects, and pollarding the tree every 2-3 years was one way to stop the sapling getting too big for the garden.
Pollards were created in the past Read the rest of this entry »
Some distinctive hoverflies are on the wing now and are worth looking out for in your gardens, during the sunny spells check the flowers and shrubs for species like Rhingia campestris, Helophilus pendulus, Myathropa florea and Syritta pipiens they are spectacular to look at closely, all are pictured below.
The warmer weather is making a few hours in the garden more interesting with the appearance of adult insects which have successfully hibernated through the winter. Yesterday around mid day 3 Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), Red Admiral, Small Tortoishell and the hoverfly Eristalis tenax (Drone fly) which is a superb bee mimic were all found.
Eristalis tenax (Drone Fly)
We had two infrequent avian visitors to our Northiam garden this week. The first was a reed bunting. Feeding under the seed feeders, flicking its white edged tail, and hopping about nervously. For some reason a female house sparrow took great offence to it and kept trying to drive it off. Graphs on the BTO Garden Birdwatch website show that this time of year is the period when these birds are most likely to turn up in gardens, presumably as food is in short supply in the countryside. The second bird was an early morning arrival, a grey heron. These birds are particularly shy and tend to be seen first thing in the morning.
A second reed bunting appeared one week later in the snow.
Perhaps, like me, it was Read the rest of this entry »