Thursday, 25 February 2016

Stirrings of spring

It's been a quiet couple of weeks on the wildlife front, a prolonged spell of chilly weather has meant that most insects have stayed tucked up in whichever nooks and crannies they've found to spend the winter in. This week though, some sunny spells have started to tempt out the hardiest little souls, and I've started to regularly see hoverflies and also see my first solitary bee of the year. As usual Eristalis tenax - the Drone-fly - has been the first hoverfly to stretch its wings, with the winter jasmine in the gardens at The Lodge being the favoured source of nectar. A bit more of a surprise was a single male Hairy-footed Flower-bee buzzing around the daffodils. This turbo-charged little bumblebee lookalike is a typical early spring species, but my previous earliest sighting was on the 2nd of March in 2012, Hopefully he'll be able to find enough nectar to stay alive until the females start emerging!
Eristalis tenax (f)
A female Eristalis tenax enjoying some warming sunshine
Hairy-footed Flower-bee (m)
A male Hairy-footed Flower-bee taking a brief rest
Elsewhere in the gardens, my eyes were drawn to a patch of sage which was getting plenty of sunshine, and on closer inspection it turned out to be hosting a healthy population of the leafhopper Eupteryx melissae. These attractively marked little insects are often found on sage, and other related plants, such as catmint, mallow and lemonbalm. Photographing them without a flash or a tripod was pushing the limits of what can be achieved hand-held, but amongst all the blurriness I managed a couple of reasonable shots, including one of a hopper that had met an unfortunate end in the jaws of a yet to be identified spider.
Eupteryx melissae
Eupteryx melissae

Eupteryx melissae
Eupteryx melissae - the pattern of dots on the front of the head helps separate from the similar E.decemnotata
An ex-Eupteryx, not sure what species the spider is