Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Heat at last

We had a couple of warm days and suddenly everything is moving.

Solitary bees dig private tunnels in soil where they lay their own eggs and bring back pollen to a store which will feed the larvae when they hatch. These nests are often grouped in 'aggregations' of tunnels where the situation is favourable, but each individual tunnel remains self-sufficient. The largest family is Andrena, where the females can often resemble small bumblebees. My favourite is Andrena cineraria, where the female appears to be wearing a Barbarians rugby jersey:

Female Andrena cineraria gathering pollen
Once the pollen has been gathered, the female will seal the tunnel and the larvae will hatch, eat the pollen, pupate and then hibernate until next spring. The species with the shortest season is Andrena clarkella, which feeds exclusively on Willow pollen, and most nests will already be sealed: this is a bee that can be seen for perhaps 50-60 days each year.

Staying with Dandelions, I spotted this 14-spot ladybird in the precise centre of one. this will give a good idea of scale:

14-spot ladybird on Dandelion

And an intriguing shot of an aberrant Dandelion:

Aberrant Dandelion
Dandelions belong to the Compositae, which includes Thistles, Daisies, Knapweed, etc. Each 'flower' is actually a composite collection of individual flowers, some of which are Ray florets (the outer ones), and an inner group of Disc florets. This specimen appears to have dispensed not only with disc florets, but also with the reproductive parts of the ray florets. I rather suspect that this is a genetic experiment that is doomed to be unfit for survival. All flowers on the same plant were identical.

The following shot shows just how late this year has become. I normally see Greater Stitchwort in late March, but this specimen is at least 6 weeks behind the usual date:

Greater Stitchwort

Lady's Mantle has a habit of not being there one day, and then being fully opened the next. When I was down taking a shot of the lovely folding leaves, I noticed a couple of other leaves waiting to be discovered:

a) Lady's Mantle b) Meadowsweet c) Meadow Buttercup
Flowers of the Lady's Mantle are at the lower left.

I wasn't expecting to see too many fungi at this time of year, but I found a couple of very old Polyporus badius on dead Snowberry:

Polyporus badius
And a couple of specimens of a Psathyrella which I think is Psathyrella spadiceogrisea. I'll do some microscopic work on these once the spores have been gathered:

Psathyrella cf. spadiceogrisea
Yesterday, I saw 3 species of butterfly in the garden. There were perhaps half a dozen Small tortoiseshells, a single Green-veined White and late on, a single Speckled Wood.

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly
The Green-veined White and Speckled Wood are this year's first butterflies, whereas the Small Tortoiseshells are actually last year's autumn brood which have emerged from hibernation. Orange Tip has to be next, since the Cardamine is out.

Bilberry has flowered, so perhaps we might see a Green Hairstreak or two in the next week or so:

Bilberry flowers

I was a little surprised to find Field Woodrush on the patch. I normally see Heath Woodrush, and maybe I have been ignoring these smaller specimens. One major clue to identification is the pale 'blob' at the end of each leaf:
Field Woodrush - Luzula campestris

Lastly for today, a few specimens of Green Alkanet were spotted on a verge at the side of a remote road:
Green Alkanet
These are garden escapes, but I cannot imagine anyone taking their garden refuse for such a distance in order to dump it. Maybe bird-sown.

1 comment:

Gill said...

Another lovely page - the stitchwort and bilberry are particularly cracking shots as they're hard to get right.

Isn;t that Barbarian bee lovely? Most of my Andrenas are the tawny miners (which also have a very short season at least in my garden).

re Dandelion "I rather suspect that this is a genetic experiment that is doomed" - not necessarily, don't forget they are apomictic and so basically all dandelions tend to be clones of their parent plant, and any mutation may well persist as a microspecies. I gather there are well over 100 of these now recognised but I'm not going there!

Don't think I have ever seen Polyporus badius.

Here summer has been and gone - we're back to the cold and cloud :-(