Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Bombus terrestris on Christmas Day

Didn't think I'd be out in the garden photographing bees on Christmas day, but hey ho, down at my mother in laws with a naff camera for those indoor Christmas shots and I spotted movement outside, two bees, buff-tailed bumble bees to be precise, feeding on the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger.  Rather poor photograph but come on, bees on Christmas day what a result.
Bombus terrestris - Christmas Day 2013 Gedling Nottinghamshire . 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas.

Final blog of this the first year of this blog.  Just a short note to say thanks to all who have commented, all who have read the blog and have hopefully enjoyed at least a little of what I have offered.  Two photographs from yesterday, an obliging Robin in the tree next to where I was fishing and a fine specimen of a Chub form a small river somewhere in Nottinghamshire.  Pretty impressive fish the Chub, it grows quite large but is quite happy living its life in some of the smallest of streams.  They also don't seem to mind the cold as much as some species, hence they can be caught all year round.  For those not into Angling, it was returned alive.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

About as Chritmassy as I could yet yesterday - Hope you like it. 

My son with a Nice River Devon Chub 22/12/13

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Anoplius viaticus - Late October spider hunting.

Anoplius viaticus - 24th October 2013 
After a good few days of proper October weather, rain and wind, a return to calm conditions here in Nottinghamshire on the 24th October. Blue skies a little chilly but a walk on Budby Heath needed.  I go absolutely stir crazy once the weather breaks and we head on into winter. The camera goes away and I begin to do very little.  I like birds but they don't quite get me excited like insects, so even autumn and winter birdwatching is only second best to the invertebrates found during the spring and summer. Anyway back to my Budby jaunt, pretty warm but not expecting much in the way of insect life.  Good start with a late season Common Darter still on the wing, but my wife drew my attention to the pompilid wasp in the photograph, Anoplius viaticus.  These chaps are usually well tucked up by now in a burrow waiting for early spring when they are the first of the spider hunting wasps active on the heath however I was more than pleased to see this one out hunting in late October, it's actually made my week, sad I know, but I can't help it.  Due to the relative coolness of the day (16 degrees Celsius) the insect as well as hunting in its normal manner, running through the heather and dried grass, also took time to sun itself and give me time to get decent photograph or two. Hope you like them.

Anoplius viaticus 24th October 2013 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

October Beauties

Comma - Gedling 06/10/2013

Well yet another weekend of fine weather. A busy week at work led to me feeling a little knackered on both Saturday and Sunday so my urge to walk was beaten by my urge to sloth. However a trip to the in-laws proved productive. There Verbena is still well in flower and with the sun out a few Small Tortoiseshells and Commas as well as a solitary Red Admiral and small white were on show.  The nice thing about their Verbena is that it backs on to their window. Hence my backdrop to the photographs was curtain linings.  This gave what I consider to be quite a nice one tone effect for the background. It kind of makes the insects stand out nicely. Hope you like them. I have a feeling it may be the last of insects for 2013.  You never know perhaps the weather will stay nice until December. I'm not quite sure how many people actually read this blog or any of my blogs, perhaps a dozen at most.  If there is anyone out there with a successful blog could you get in touch.  1) I'd like to look at it to see how you make it interesting so people return to have another look. 2) How did you manage to attract people in the first place. 3) thanks to anyone who does indeed return to have a look.  And a big thanks to someone in Derby whose had several peeks according to google analytic. 

Small Tortoiseshell - Gedling Notts 06/10/2013

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Late Season Pompilid Wasp

Spider Wasp with prey, Budby Heath 29th September 2013 
End of September and there are still insects of interest doing the business up on Budby heath.  On the 28th September Tiger Beetles are still active and in reasonable numbers. I'm of the opinion that these represent a 2nd generation given the continuous warm weather from April.  Most of the Hymenoptera have gone, there are still odd Colletes Bees foraging on what's left of the Heather although little is now left in flower.  I was however delighted to watch a late season Spider wasp.  These wasps, without taking a specimen, are rather difficult to identify to species level so I'm leaving the description as to the wasp as in the genus Evagetes or Arachnospila.   However, whatever it is they are rather interesting to watch dragging the paralysed spider around, disappearing to find an old burrow, returning to check on its prey and then off again.   Not a lot else around so late in the year but I did manage to get a couple of nice shots of a Common Darter.  They are always a little more obliging late in the season, probably not as much energy in them so are more likely to hang a round for a bit. Hope you like them, they make a nice large subject. 

Common Darter Budby Heath 29th September 2013. 

Common Darter Budby Heath 29th September 2013. 

Garden Spider

Didn't even have to leave the house to take this photograph of the garden spider Araneus diadematus. Opening the back door revealed this fine lady with a recently captured common wasp, Vespa vulgaris.   I find spiders quite difficult to photograph, they are deep in the body so depth of field becomes a real problem. They are surprisingly sensitive to movement and get themselves into rather boring poses that do not make interesting snaps.  However hope you like this one, most gardens should have one or two of these at the moment.  Needless to say the wasp well and truly lost, had its life sucked out of it and two days later its corpse was disentangled from the web and lying on the doorstep.  

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Harvest Mouse.

Bit chuffed with this photograph.  My son had a few of these at work as a part of an ongoing breeding programme where the youngsters are released into suitable habitat. I couldn't resist the chance to take a snap or two. Result shown below.  The nice part on my behalf is that this photograph is now being used to illustrate the BBC Nature Harvest Mouse Page.  Feel rather good about it. I bet it gets a few more views there than on this blog.  Hope you like them their fantastic little beasts about the size of a man's thumb form his knuckle. 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Bonus Day - Beetles Butterflies and Bees

Handkea utriformis - Budby Heath 22nd September 2013
A pretty impressive day for the end of September and one that I hadn't quite expected after the coolness of earlier in the week. I even sneaked the central heating on last weekend under the pretence of making sure all was working well, when really I was being a little nesh (if you're not from the English midlands and further north, nesh means "susceptible to the cold").  However a late season trip to Budby Heath was order of the day. Plenty of insect action, although nothing in great numbers, there was even an Ammophila sabulosa nest digging (see earlier post) and several Spider wasps still active.  Hornets were also buzzing a patch of golden rod looking for flies, they appear never to take a rest and must spend an awful lot of energy whilst hunting.  Turning over a log revealed a couple of Carabus problematicus, whilst I found two dead, but perfect Carabus nemoralis on the path.  
These are now in my reference collection. I never quite understand why I find this species quite regularly, dead or dying on the paths at Sherwood and also at Holme Pierrepont.

Carabus problematicus  - Budby Heath 22nd September 2013 

After the walk a quick pint at the Red Lion Wellow.  Pretty good for butterflies as Comma and Red Admiral were both attracted to ripe plums that had fallen onto a bench. Photographs show one of the Admirals feeding.  

Vanessa atalanta  feeding on Victoria Plum Olde Red Lion, Wellow 22nd September 2013

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Beewolf - Philanthus triangulum in Nottinghamshire.

Distribution Map for the Beewolf
The Royal Entomological Society handbook describing this species published in 1980 indicates the presence of a fluctuating population on the extreme south coast of England, with permanent colonies existing only on the Isle of Wight. However since this publication this stunning wasp has undergone a rapid and northerly expansion in range with records as far north as Yorkshire.  In Nottinghamshire the first record I can find is for 1996 when Trevor Pendleton found a small colony at Market Warsop.  My first encounter was a little fortuitous and in 2011.  I had been photographing several solitary wasps thinking they were either Mellinus arvensis or Cerceris rybyensis, both common at Holme Pierrepont. Only when I got home and looked at what I'd taken did I realise that one of the pictures was of Philanthus triangulum, the Beewolf.    It was not until my recent forays to Budby Heath that I've found it again.  This time on several occassions, however I have still not found where they make their burrows.  That'll give me something to do next year.    A bit of Biology, best month to see them August.   They make a hole approximately 1m in depth and provision this with Honeybee's that they capture paralyse and carry back to the nest. On the continent they are considered serious pests of hive colonies.  If you want to see them I suggest any site with decent honey bee numbers with suitable sandy habitat, so probably in and around sherwood.  The Holme Pierrepont example I saw in 2011 was on the site of the old gravel and sand yard.
Beewolf - Budby Heath Nottinghamshire 29th August 2013 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Ammophila sabulosa - Caterpillar Hunting on Budby Heath

I'll just let the series of photographs tell the story.   One unlucky caterpillar gets entombed alive on Budby Heath Nottinghamshire and  one impressive and stunning solitary wasp, Ammophila sabulosa gets to work. Surely one of best insects the UK has to offer.  If you click on an image you can see them in larger format. Hope you enjoy them, I certainly liked observing them. 

1. The wasp.  Ammophila sabulosa.  If it has a common name I'm not sure what it is and to be honest I'm not too bothered, just googled it, apparently known as the "red banded sand wasp". not very descriptive particularly when there are other wasps of similar appearance living in sandy environments.    Ammophila has to make a good job of entombing the caterpillar as other Ammophila will come along and steal the caterpillar from the hole and reintern in a hole of its own construction with one of its own eggs.  

2. Catch yourself a caterpillar and drag it several yards to a pre-prepared hole. 

3. Get to your hole and admire your handiwork. 

4. Admire your capture, Make sure it's paralysed. 

5. Give it a cuddle.   "It's actually positioning itself and the caterpillar" 

6. Final positioning - Lining the caterpillar up with the hole. 

7. Back yourself in, grab your prey and pull

8. Entombment begins. 

9. Reminds me of the old wartime reels showing a U-boat going down. 

10. Not quite sure how it gets itself back out past the caterpillar,  however as soon as its put the caterpillar in it starts to backfill. Notice the sand aggregate in its mandibles. 

11. A bit of back filling using its front legs to flick sand into the hole. 

12. Final tamping down - and a little visit from the bee Colletes succinctus to take a look at a job well done. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Methocha articulata - a wingless wasp that hunts Tiger beetle larvae

Late summer Tiger Beetle Budby Heath August 2013 - the larva of this beetle fall prey to the wasp Methocha articulata

Never previously recorded at Sherwood this wingless wasp paralyses larva of the green Tiger Beetle "Cicindlea campestris" in their burrows.  Its plan of attack is also a little special.  It allows the cicindelid larva to lock its jaws around its body.  However its hard exoskeleton prevents damage.  The wasp then stings the larva, paralysing it back into the larva's own burrow, where it lays an egg on the defenceless host.  Pretty impressive don't you agree.  

Methocha articulata - Budby Heath 29th August 2013 
I'm not quite sure why they have never been noted on the Heath before.  However they do not appear in the excellent list of Nottinghamshire invertebrates by Carr, published in 1916, nor in his 1930's supplement. It is also not noted on the NBN database.  In my opinion probably long overlooked, as a wingless wasp probably doesn't have the greatest powers of dispersal.  Interestingly, winged males are known. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

Striped millipedes, Good looking longhorn beetles, plenty of Blues and a Clearwing.

Striped Millipede - pretty common, one of the UK's largest, Home Pierrpeont Notts. 29th July 2013

I've been out and about Holme Pierrepont the last couple of days. Pretty hot if you can dodge the showers.  Plenty out and about, nothing too rare but Insects appear to be in good numbers. I've been particularly happy with butterfly numbers this year,  loads of Peacocks and plenty of freshly emerged Common Blue. I also managed to photograph one of my favourite beetles, Strangalia quadrifasciata.  This time I managed to photograph one egg laying.  They only live on one large decaying willow,  this tree has been rotting away for the best part of six or seven years but it still manages to provide enough sustenance for another years worth of beetles.  

Strangalia quadrifasciata ovipositing, Skylarks NR, Notts 29th July 2013

Six-Belted Clearwings are not a moth I find too often here in Notts, I've swept them on the old colliery spoil heap at Gedling a few years ago and I've now found them down at Holme Pierrepont. Noticed a strange wasp like insect in flight that didn't quite look right for a wasp.  This clearwing is a Batesian mimic, the harmless moth copying a harmful animal in order to offer itself some protection. It didn't fool me.   A beautiful insect non the less.  I couldn't find one posing nicely and when I eventually did, the light was all wrong so I wasn't happy with my shots.  This is where a little background fill flash would come in useful.  Anyone care to lend me £400 for the right set-up?  The last three pictures really make me realise how much I enjoy Summer. How many colours do you want from just three different insects.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

One for the connoisseur! Nicrophorus vespilloides

A walk on Budby Heath today. So much for the weather breaking, it was absolutely roasting.  Plenty of insects but not a lot to write home about. However interesting picture of the Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides.  I noticed this chap in flight and heading in a purposeful direction.   It landed, and to my disgust I noticed that it had homed in on a nice fresh pile of Dog faeces. Still not to be deterred, camera out, held my breath and took a couple of shots. This beetle is covered in mites its a wonder it can see what its doing. Apart from the poo I think it makes quite an interesting photograph.   And yes, it is eating the faeces. 

Nicrophorus vespilloides - Budby Heath 23rd July 2013. 

I'll now put a nicer picture up to soften the blow of looking at a blog featuring dog poo.  These sawfly larvae were found on Sallow, hence the Sallow sawfly, probably Croesus septentronalis. 

Sawfly larva - Budby Heath 23rd July 2013

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Bits "n" bobs

Fantastic weather so been out and about most evenings this week. Not seen any great rarities,  a nice Stenocorus meridianus down at East Bridgford.  The woodlands along here tend to be pretty reliable for this beetle and you can see them most years if you check out the tops of Hogweed.

Also took this shot of a small Skipper,  these a re a very obliging butterfly to photograph, pose nicely and settle for more than a few seconds. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sharp Tailed Bee

Major excitement in the Garden this evening.  Home from work out into the back garden to watch my Leaf Cutter Bees (Megachile willughbiella) fill a few holes in my Bee log (see earlier post for description) Quite happy watching them bring back not just leaves but also   lovely bright red petals.  Then out of the blue, a bee that I have never previously encountered, the cuckoo bee Coelioxys (not sure what species).  Known as sharp tailed bees these chaps parisitise the nests of the leaf cutter.  Indeed I watched it entering the bees nests.  That's 4 species of bees in my log this year,  Osmia bicornis, Osmia Leaniana, A megachile's species and know Coelioxys species.  Other garden highlights today, the day flying moth the Blackcurrant Clearwing. 

Coelioxys bee on my house wall  - Carlton Notts, 09 July 2013.


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Check out the Jaws. - Dune Tiger Beetle

Cicindela maritima - Norfolk 6th July 2013 

With the prospect of cloudless skies and a Saturday free from a cricket match a day trip to the north Norfolk coast insect spotting, with a few birds thrown in if they flew by.  Top of the list and almost an annual visit for me is Thornham Point, walk to the bottom of RSPB Tictchwell and then walk along the beach until you can get no further.  Here you'll find my all time favourite beetle  Cicindela maritima, "the Dune Tiger Beetle".  Fast flighty and pretty active on a hot day theses chaps are also pretty scarce, thornham being the only place where I could be pretty sure of seeing them on the east coast, until you move on down into Kent.  I have been in the past and seen dozens, however on this visit I only encountered about 4 or 5. Still managed to get a half decent shot of one for the reocrd.  Also paid a visit to Holkam NNR. not  a lot happening here, A dead rabbit with Necrodes littoralis being the highlight.  I did however see Dark Green Fritillary, photograph shown below.  An impressive strong flying butterfly and freshly emerged by the look of it.  A quick tip for anyone wanting to go to titchwell.  The tiger beetle photograph was taken at about 7.00pm,  when walking back through the reserve we had it to ourselves,  far better than the usual midday throng.

Dark Green Fritillary - Holkham NNR, 13th July 2013 

DArl Green Fritillary - Holkham NNR, 13th July 2013 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Beautiful Flies and a Snail Eating Beetle.

Criorhina floccosa - East Bridgford, Notts 25th June 2013. 
Three stonking species of fly in the last couple of days along the River at East Bridgford, non of them rare but beautiful all the same and with interesting life styles.  First photograph is of the bee mimic Criorhina floccosa. I find these at East Bridgford most summers but only one or two a year.  Larvae apparently live in damp tree boles. 

Volucella bombylans - East Bridgford June 2013
Another Bee mimic is shown in the second photograph of Volucella bombylans.  Now the female of this fly lays its eggs in the nests of wasps. The larvae then feed on nest debris.  It's thought that when the fly enters the nest invariably gets attacked by the rightful occupants.  The flies response upon being stung is to egg lay. Pretty good evolutionary response if you ask me.

Volucella pellucens - East Bridgford June 2013 
Finnal fly of this weeks triumvirate is the common and large Volucella pellucens.  Pretty common if you search flowerheads of Hogweed,  I even had one in my garden this week on Dog daisy. There are also a couple of other big Volucella species around this part of Nottinghamshire. The wasp mimic, Volucella inanis, pictures of which are on my flickr site and Volucella zonaria, one of the UK's largest flies which always makes me think that a hornet has flown past, they are that large, even copying the flight style of them. 

My Son plays cricket at one of the most beautiful grounds in England, Thurgarton Priory. On saturday (29th June) he told me to bring the camera down as he had found the lovely and distinctive carabid beetle Cychrus caraboides, along snouted carabid designed to get its mandibles into snails.  When you pick this chap up it makes a rather loud stridulatory noise. I'm not actually too sure which parts of it body it rubs together, I think its the elytra (the hardened wings of beetles that give them their distinctive appearance) and parts of the insects abdomen.  Apparently emits soundwaves of up to 80kHz. 

Cychrus caraboides - Thurgarton Priory 29th June 2013. 

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Last of the Mason Bees and Bombus hypnorum

Carlton Notts June 2013
Bombus hypnorum, Carlton Notts. 
20th June and I still have Red Mason Bee activity.  This is the latest and longest that i have recorded them for on my Bee Log.  First emergence April 20th.  Although that was 3 weeks later than 2012 the Bees have certainly made up for late emergence with the amount of holes filled in the garden.  This years total is in excess of 50.  I also have a colony of the Tree Bumble Bee Bombus Hypnorum. In late 2011 I installed a Robin Box on the trellis behind a clump of honeysuckle,  Spring 2012, nothing.  Winter 2012 Nest box full of clematis seeds and a family of Wood mice had taken residence. Fair enough no Robin but I can live with wood mice, their big eyes make me have a soft spot for them.  However they've moved on and the mouse nest has no been taken over by the Bees.  If you're not familiar with hypnorum that's no surprise they are a recent colonist to the UK and particularly like nesting in tree holes or tit boxes.  Lovely bee and in my opinion a nice addition to our fauna.  Interestingly this bee has been spreading across europe and now even found in Iceland!  I've also had a good run of the Wasp Beetle, recording 4 specimens at once on my Dog Daisies.  Bottom photograph shows single specimen feeding. They're always a cracking sight, I never get tired of seeing them, in fact I'm that sad I take a direct course to my flowers when I get home from work just to  check them out. 

Wasp Beetle - Clytus arietus Carlton, Notts, June 16th 2013