Friday, 31 July 2015

Black ant nuptial flight

Its that time of year when the flying ants take to the sky, new queens and males on their nuptial flight.  

The Royal Society of Biology (formerly the Society of Biology) have been running a flying ant survey in collaboration with the University of  Gloucestershire between 2012 and 2014 and I have provided my records for this survey.  This year, the survey is more informal but society is keen to receive reports, find out more at  get-involved/biologyweek/flying-ant-survey

Ants had been gathering around the entrance holes of the ant nest outside the garden under the pavement at least an hour before the nuptial flight. At 7.40pm, ants started to pour out of the ground near our front door, streaming up the wall and also the flower pot by the door. 

They took flight when they had gained enough height although some launched from the ground.

The yellow field ant’s nuptial flight, from a small nest in the front garden, also took place at the same time. 
The black ant’s nuptial flight from the nest outside our garden occurred not long after.  I set up the USB microscope to have a closer look. 

As the queens were leaving the nest several worker ants were positioned around the hole with their jaws open wide.
 As usual, the nuptial flight attracted herring gulls and smaller birds such as sparrow and starlings. Some of the flying ants were taken on the wing while others were picked up off the ground.

The largest black ant nest, which is in the back garden did not have a nuptial flight, although by this time of the day the back of the garden was in shade and the air was quite cool. Not only was the air warm, the ground had absorbed the heat from the sun all afternoon.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Black ants preparing for nuptial flight

The black ants are getting busy in our garden preparing for their nuptial flight. In the back garden on the rockery they have been building a huge mound of soil - an amazing feat of earth moving for their size.

From past experience I have found the nursery chambers are beneath the rocks that absorb and retain the suns heat. The ants are now building soil chimneys up the side of one of the rocks.

Back on 23rd July, a aborted nuptial flight took place at 5.50pm from the nest outside of our garden beneath the pavement.  
A few of the queens left the nest and some were eaten by sparrows that found them on the ground. But they seemed to change their mind (wrong environmental conditions!) and went back inside.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Wildlife sightings round up

Apologies for lack of posts over the last few months. I have been working on a Heritage Lottery Funded wetland project in Lewes which has taken up much of my time.

Lots of interesting wildlife recorded in and around my garden and here are a few highlights from the last few months.

Hundreds of tiny froglets successfully emerged from the pond

The Red Mason Bees continued to nest in the bee hotels and were also joined more recently by leaf cutter bees.

The small red damselflies have emerged from the pond. 

I rescued one emerging damselfly that fell from the pond plant it had emerged from. It was still pale and needed to dry out.

I found it a safe perch in the garden sheltered from the wind.

The swifts have returned and have been nesting as usual in the eaves of our neighbour’s house. 

I have been watching several herring gull nests close to our house. They are at different stages, all have chicks, and some are learning to fly.

Lots of interesting invertebrates such as this cockchafer also known as May bugs. 

They are considered a pest as the larvae eat plant roots and can be a big problem to root vegetables.

I have continued to plant and grow stuff in the garden, as this is my chill out time. Lots of plants in the window boxes, tomatoes, green beans,strawberries and sunflowers to name a few. 

The bees have been busy pollinating the soft fruits such as raspberries and blue berries.

 I have eaten all the raspberries and some of the blue berries. So much more tasty than shop bought.

In the sunny evenings I have been enjoying sitting in the garden and reading and watching the spectacular sky as the sun sets.