Monday, 22 April 2013

A bit warmer

We had a couple of weeks when the wind was blowing from the east, and I agree that it's "fit for neither man nor beast". I reckon nothing happened in wildlife terms during that period, so I'd say we are currently running about 4 weeks behind what I have come to expect on the patch. Now that we have reverted to the prevailing westerlies, we have to dodge the rain showers. Ho hum.

Now that Willow catkins have opened, a few insects have started to pollinate. This hoverfly is Parasyrphus punctulatus:

The hoverfly Parasyrphus punctulatus
Parasyrphus punctulatus is one of the earliest hoverflies to be found, although I rarely find it in large numbers. The main identification features are the semicircular yellow markings on the abdomen, which are strangely described in the standard reference as 'hemispherical'.

I have seen plenty of queen bumblebees searching for a place to nest - both Bombus terrestris and Bombus lucorum - seemingly in larger numbers than I have seen before. Perhaps the searching season has been compressed by the weather. I first found Bombus pratorum - the Early Nesting Bumblebee - in a fairly wild area in 2006, but I have seen several workers appearing on the hedgerow in the last few years: apparently it is becoming increasing urbanised due to the removal or loss of its usual habitat.

I found this queen - one of two queens that I have seen for the first time this year - crawling slowly around, so I suspect she had just emerged, since she is shiny clean.

Queen Bombus pratorum
Bombus pratorum is one of our smaller bumblebees, with queens the size of the workers of larger species and workers not much larger than a pea. Identification of the queen is based on size, the orange/red tail and the two-tone yellow bands on thorax and abdomen. You can see the worker here, and the male here.

A couple of moths came to light. The micros were worn beyond identification, but the March Moth is always very easy to identify due to the very triangular shape of the wings at rest:

March Moth
This is a good 6 weeks later than I normally see.

A few more flowers have opened, the most notable being Common Fumitory:

Common Fumitory
The Fumitory family (which is large and complex) gets its name from the glaucus ('smoky') colour of the leaves.

The 1k square challenge list now sits at 295 species. The list can be seen here.


Gill said...

Nice page (again). That's a cracker of a shot of the fumitory, which I find really hard to photograph - none anywhere near flowerng here yet.

"... so I suspect she had just emerged, since she is shiny clean." do they overwinter as pupae then? No , that makes no sense, as they have to mate - so do they hide away as soon as they have mated?

"the two-tone yellow bands on thorax and abdomen" - they look uniformly yellow to me. Fine shot.

stuart dunlop said...

Queen bumblebees hibernate as mated adults, although some individuals actually return to the nest and act as workers for a short time, which is why queens can sometimes be seen gathering pollen late in the year.

The front band is orange/yellow, but the abdominal one is lemon yellow. Having said that, that particular pattern applies to my local bees: bees in other areas can have partial bands or even lose them altogether.

The Weaver of Grass said...

You are of course a long way ahead of us Stuart - we have absolutely no wild flowers out yet apart from a celandine here and there and a scattering of marsh marigolds. I would say we are at least a month behind and the grass has not yet started to grow.
What is your opinion on this business about banning pesticides because of the drop in the bee population? We saw it on country file yesterday and it is certainly an issue that needs attention.

stuart dunlop said...

Weaver, I was annoyed (but not surprised) that the decision was to not ban nicotinide-based pesticides.

It is clear that they are deadly to bees and hoverflies, but politicians have absolutely no interest in making decisions that don't win them short-term votes.

Since you read The Times, you will probably have read my letters over the past year which set out my views on politicians and preservation of wildlife.

Bees and Hoverflies are crucial for human survival: they pollinate flowers and trees, including fruit, vegetables and even some grains. Without them we will starve.

Our dependency on wildlife (and the overwhelming weight that money wields) can be summed up by the ancient indian proverb:

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."

Given that the decision-makers cannot be convinced that wildlife should be given some priority (I would actually say 'top' priority), I cannot envisage a very satisfactory outcome for us as a species.

Emma Springfield said...

I am hoping the snowstorm we are getting today will be the last of the season. We got about three inches this time. The temperatures are supposed to rise into the 70's by the weekend. Your pictures make me long for spring and flowers.