Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bees, birds, butterflies and wasps.

A welcomed sunny weekend and lots of wildlife obsevations. The bird life is now in full swing for spring. Blackbirds are beginning courtship and the blue tits also appear to be pairing up. Goldfinches are also passing through regularly.
As I entered our garden first thing this morning a kestrel swooped low over the roof and slowly spiralled up into the air.

A weekend of gardening meant lots of opportunities to keep an eye on the willdife visiting our garden.
 A great increase in bee species and hoverflies busily visiting the early flowering plants in our garden.

I have noticed a peacock butterfly for the last few days and today it spent a lot pof time sun bathing in the garden. Peacock butterflies hibernate as adults and so they are one of the earlier butterflies to see on the wing.
Peacock butterflies are easily identified by the eyespots on the wings, which resemble the markings on a peacocks tails, hence the name.

The large eyespots are thought to be a means of defense agaianst predators. To add to the affect, the peacock butterfly is able to make a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together that is audible to human ears. Sting nettles are one of the main food plants of this species.

A rather unusual looking visitor to our gartden is the bee fly - a true fly belonging to the Order Diptera. There have been several in our garden again this year. This fly has a long probosis for sipping nectar from plants and I have watched them visiting the Margeriefish plant and the grape hyacinth.

This one is resting on our lawn. The beeflies has a distinctive hovering and darting flight, whioch is accompanied by a high-pitched whine (rather than the buzzing sound of a bumble bee of which it resembles. The bee fly is also much more agile than that of a bee and has long dangling legs.

This bee fly is resting on our yellow wall, making the features much more visiible.

The common wasp is often fearered and killed unnecessarily. Most people encounter wasps, especially late summer and autumn when they are attracted to picnics or come into kitchens. The one below is almost certainly a queen whch hibernated after mating last year.

The common wasp actully lives a quite fascinating life style. They live in nests made from paper (chewed wood). The worker wasps collect invertebrates (inlcuding many insect pests) to feed to the developing larvae. The workers cannot eat this solid food (only liquids) so the larvae rewards the worker so iot will fly off and bring back more food. At the end of the year when the larvae have have become adults, they have to search for their own sources of sugary liquids such as windfall fruit and human sugary foods and drinks.

Wasps produce a special chemical if the nest is attacked which will mobolise the workers in defense and also make them more aggressive. This is why you should never swot at a wasp as it will produce this chemical message and then react to it by becoming aggressive. 

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