Nature Notes #47

The Butterflies and the Bees

A splash of Summer in this time of dark skies and windy weather.



25.07.13. Green-veined White, Redwall Reedbed, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

Butterflies reproduce the way other animals do — sperm from a male fertilizes eggs from a female. Males and females of the same species recognize one another by the size, colour, shape and vein structure of the wings, all of which are species specific. Butterflies also recognize each other through pheromones, or scents. During mating, males use clasping organs on their abdomens to grasp females.

WSM (images 1-3.

A Garden Full of BeesRed Mason Bee female Osmia bicornis 6158

A well stocked garden will be visited by most of the common bumblebees which most birders may be familiar with and able to identify. However, as my perennial collection began to grow, especially in the umbellifer category, so did the number of bees that weren’t bumbles. I had noticed Red Mason Bees collecting mud from my lawn edges where the hose pipe had wet the soil. I constructed a bee hotel out of an old ship’s oak timber, and they took up residence immediately. I began to look at other bees and found that the garden was alive with them, in their hundreds through the day. I am a real amateur when it comes to identification, but the new Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland has helped me to identify five of the commonest visitors. They are fascinating to watch, all are non-aggressive and will sit on your hand quite happily if you entice them with sugared water.  Some garden centre bred fancy plants aren’t much use because they have extra petals at the expense of pollen producing apparatus, so old fashioned perennials and annuals are best. Once the insects know where their food and nest material is in your garden they will return constantly, often attracting other, rarer insects as well, those that usually parasitize bees…

Field Guide 8298 (960x1280)I took the photos with an ordinary happy-snapper camera which has a good macro lens.

Get into the garden this winter whilst you are waiting for the Spring sunshine, organise your perennials and enjoy a summer full of bee activity.

Wool Carder Bee Anthidium manicatum Wilmslow Jul6th14   8127

Wool Carder Bee   Anthidium manicatum  Often seen on Lamb’s Ear where the females collect hairs from plants like this with hairy leaves. Great Mullein and Yarrow are other favourite hairy-leaved flowers. The hairs are used to construct the cell walls of nests and for plugging the entrance. They will return to the plant many times and fly off with a ball of hairs between their legs. An attractive species and the sole representative of the genus in Britain.

Hairy Yellow-face Bee male Hylaeus hyalinatus 6372 -  Copy

Hairy Yellow-face Bee   Hylaeus hyalinatus  Very small solitary bees, around 5mm, mainly black with white or creamy markings on the face, antennae, legs and thorax. They nest in hollow plant stems or exiting holes in wood, walls or earth banks. Pollen, collected from plant such as umbellifers, is carried back to the nest in the crop and regurgitated, which is unusual for bees.

Red Mason Bee worn male Osmia bicornis 5984

Red Mason Bee   Osmia bicornis One of the early bee species to emerge around their nest holes on warm Spring days and will take up residence in bee houses and collect mud from the garden to plug up their nest holes. The males hatch before the females. Both have ‘horns’ on their faces which are used to manipulate mud into cells.

Patchwork Leafcutter Bee female Megachile centuncularis  7149

Patchwork Leafcutter Bee   Megachile centuncularis  Common on a variety of garden flowers and easily recognised, especially females, by the orange hairs around the abdomen. Another hole-nesting species and one which uses leaves, cut from plants such as willow-herb, Honeysuckles, Lilac and Ash etc.

Ashy Mining Bee male Andrena cineraria Garden June 19th13  6395

Ashy Mining Bee   Andrena cineraria   Belonging to the largest bee genus in Britain, this one is the easiest to identify and is a spectacular insect in fresh condition. Quite regular but not especially common in some area, they use light soils to excavate colonies in south-facing slopes, either bare of vegetation or short-grazed.

Tony Broome. (images 4-10)

05.12.15. Birdlog

04.12.15. Birdlog

A Short-eared Owl was hunting the grassy margins of No.5 tank in the growing gloom at dusk.

Observer: Sparky, WSM

05.12.15. Birdlog

05.12.15. Goldeneye and ducks, Weaver Estuary, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

It was hard going with Storm Desmond putting paid to any decent birding with most of birds seeking shelter wherever they could find it. I made my way to the Weaver Estuary where the hoped for duck were assembled in a relative port in the storm. Goldeneye were wintering in small numbers with 15 birds countered, of which several were finely dressed drakes. A large flock of 120 Tufted Duck included 12 drake Pochard, 100 Common Teal, 9 Wigeon and 2 pairs of Shoveler.

Shorebirds were spending their time out on the Mersey Estuary but a few lingered on the Weaver estuary where 9 Black-tailed Godwit shared the sandy bay with 45 Redshank and a Common Snipe.

05.12.15. Redwing, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A female Sparrowhawk was hunting the hawthorn hedgerows where a mixed flock of Fieldfare and Redwing were feeding in the waterlogged horse paddock.

05.12.15. Wigeon, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton

A short drive to No.6 tank produced little in the way of variety but what was there included: 500 Black-headed Gull riding the blow out on the water, while over head Herring Gulls locked out of Arpley tip flew overland to Gowy refuse site. The small flock of Wigeon seen earlier were now on the tank where 200 Common Teal with Gadwall and Shoveler stayed in the thick Michaelmas Daisy clumps to avoid the wind chill.

As expected my expectations were blown away with the wind.

Observers: Frank Duff, WSM (and images).