Attracted to Yellow

When the sun shines the number of insects on the flowers goes up. The current batch of pollinating insects seem to like yellow and orange best; the Goldenrod (which is just opening up) being hands down the most popular with many species.

Long hoverflies are one of the commonest species at this time, along with marmalade and white-footed hoverflies. I’ve also seen a few Thick-legged Hoverflies (Syritta pipiens), a species that I didn’t record last year.

The small bee is I believe a collettes, Colletes daviesanus. These are plasterer bees and nest, sometimes in large colonies, in the mortar on old walls. I’m sure they will like the soft lime mortar on my walls and apparently a big colony can eventually damage the fabric of the wall. The bristly, orange-marked fly is Eriothrix rufomaculata. The adults of this species are attracted to flowers, while their larvae are parasites of moth larvae.

Pellucid Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens, #517)

The Pellucid or Large Pied Hoverfly is one of the largest UK hoverflies, looking a little like a bumblebee and very fast-flying. With its white band round the body and black spots on the wings it is quite a striking insect. The adults feed on nectar from flowers, but lay their eggs in the underground nests of social wasps, like the Common or German Wasp. On hatching the larvae drop to the bottom of the wasps nest where they live on dead insects and unhatched wasp larvae, emerging as adults the following summer.

Not a Bee - Narcissus Bulb Fly

It looks like a bumble bee, but the face and antennae are not quite right; in fact it is a type of hoverfly. The Narcissus Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris, #495) is another non-native garden pest, this time a long-term one, imported (no doubt with foreign bulbs) around 200 years ago, it lays its eggs on the dying leaves of daffodils and other bulbs, where its larvae burrow down to feed on the inside of the bulb. This one was in and among my daffs. Usually there is only one larva per bulb, but as it lives in the bulb for a year it has plenty of time to eat the heart of the bulb, including the developing flower bud. The emerging adults only live for a week or two, during May/June. Its bee-like appearance is thought to be a deterrent to would-be predators.

#495 Narcissus Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris)

#495 Narcissus Bulb Fly (Merodon equestris)

Insects Braving the Cold

It’s 5-6 Centigrade, but surprisingly there are still some insects about. The first is a rather pretty mirid bug - Pantilius tunicatus (#367) - that dropped in via my window last week. Recognisable by its reddish-above, bright green-below colours, this species is a late season bug, seen mostly in September-October, that prefers hazel, alder & birch trees. Common Drone Fly (# 379, Eristalis tenax) is a species which can also be seen all year round. It’s a common enough insect, so not sure how it took me so long to record it. This one was taking advantage of midday sunshine for a bit of sunbathing on a south-facing wall. Finally this lacewing popped up out of some vegetation I was tidying. I think it’s a Common Green Lacewing (#267, Chrysoperla carnea), same as many I found during the summer (though the dark spots down the side are a bit curious). This species hibernates over the winter, changing its colour to brown so as not to be quite so conspicuous to predators.

300 Species in my Backyard in 2 months

More or less on the 2 month mark, I added a handful of species to achieve a total of 300 species in the microEden backyard.  The fennel seems to be the most attractive pollen source for flies, hoverflies and wasps,  The population of wasps is really taking off right now, with them all around us as soon as we sit outside for a meal.

The new species in the last couple of days include #297 common orange legionnaire fly, #298 pied hoverfly and #300 a solitary bee Ectemnius continuus.  The solitary bee is a predator, digging a nest hole in wood and taking flies, etc back for its larvae - it has strong looking legs, perhaps for all that digging.  On the fennel though it was more interested in the flowers than any of its fellow insects.