Sunday, 7 April 2013

Warming up

It was 15C today (that's 59F in old money), so I was quite hopeful that I might find some activity. A loud buzzing led me to a queen Bombus lucorum that was scanning that back wall of a ditch, looking for a nesting spot:

Queen Bombus lucorum searching for a nesting spot
I had already seen a queen B. terrestris earlier in the week, but couldn't get a shot, since they move pretty quickly. I would certainly expect to see B. terrestris a lot earlier than B. lucorum, so this one was a bit of a surprise. I also saw another B. terrestris in my garden late yesterday afternoon, so they're clearly out and about.

Now that I'm doing the 1k square challenge, I'm looking even more closely at everything. I noticed that a specimen of Soft Shield Fern had some brown blotches on the upper surface and suspected that something was going on. I turned the frond over and found the feeding signs and pupal case of the micromoth Psychoides filicivora:

Larval case of Psychoides filicivora (centre)
The larva eats the sori (spore-bearing containers), leaving the distinctive brown blotches (to the right and top of the image) and then makes a shelter (centre) where it pupates. The adult emerges in May. Psychoides filicivora was discovered in Dublin in 1909, and has now spread throughout the island. It is thought to have arrived on ferns brought in from other countries, and has now been found in coastal areas in England and Wales. The literature states that it is known from Soft Shield Fern, Male Fern and Hartstongue Fern, but in Ireland it can also frequently be found on Polypodium. I examined a few fronds and, sure enough, I found this specimen: 
Psychoides filicivora on Polypody
I'll have to inform the references to get them updated.

A couple of flowers have opened in the last week:

Primrose, which is probably 2-3 weeks behind the usual schedule:


And Coltsfoot which is at least a month late in flowering:

Coltsfoot is a little unusual, in that the flowers appear before the leaves. That means that the energy used to produce the flowers comes from last year's growth, and must be stored in the root system. There must be a good reason for that odd behaviour, but I can't immediately think of a beneficial one.

The 1k challenge has now reached 258 species. You can see the list here.


Gill said...

That's a cracking shot of the primroses.

Re the coltsfoot, I imagine it is like bulbs - allows the plant to get up and flower/seed quickly in the spring before being shaded out. It must be temperature rather than daylight triggered - which makes sense if it is insect-pollinated.

The best our temperatures made was 9° yesterday, with warm sunshine, but it's back to about 4° with uniform cloud cover and a bitter E wind again today. I did hear a chiffchaff for the first time yesterday but fear for its chances of finding anything to eat.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this blog on TV - amazing! Many congratulations - will be keeping an eye - thank you! Coltsfoot a fab plant - Beautiful, weird and wonderful!