Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Beautiful high pressure

A rare high-pressure weather system brought dry heat yesterday, so a lot was going on.

My first worker bumblebee (probably Bombus terrestris, but hard to be certain) of the year was gathering pollen from a half-open Dandelion:

Worker Bumblebee with phoretic mites
When I got back to the computer, I spotted the mass of mites on her back, between the wings. Phoretic mites attach themselves to a number of different insects, but do not feed on them directly: they use the insects as transport between feeding locations, such as bee nests or corpses.

I previously showed mites on this page:

Notice that they attach themselves in a place where the transporting insect cannot easily wipe them off, and can also choose precise locations that disguise their presence.

Field Horsetail has pale fertile shoots which precede the green sterile ones:

Fertile shoot of Field Horsetail
The cone at the top produces spores which have 4 curved 'legs' that are very responsive to humidity. As the air humidity changes, the legs expand and contract, curling and uncurling. Little hooks at the end catch on to surrounding vegetation, and the spores pull themselves around in different directions order to increase their chances of dispersal. Here's a shot of the spores that I took in 2003:

Equisetum spores at x100
As an aside, I noticed that Google Chrome has a facility to search for 'similar pictures'. The list of images for this included Chinese script, pen and ink portraits and maps.

Bilberry (local name mulberry) flowers opened over the last day or two:

Bilberry flowers
Leaves have scarcely emerged before their fungal rusts appear. This is the rust Puccinia chaerophylii on Cow Parsley:

Puccinia chaerophylli on Cow Parsley 

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