Thursday, 11 August 2016

Catching up

It's been a while since I last posted, partially due to lack of time, but also due to a bit of a lack of notable wildlife recently. It seems to be a really quiet summer for invertebrates, especially at The Lodge where a lot of my wildlife hunting takes place. Right now the heather is out, and that usually means it's covered in bees, hoverflies and wasps, but this year it's more of a smattering than a covering.

One of the few species that looks like it's having a good year is one of my favourite bees, Dasypoda hirtipes. For a few weeks now, the patches of ragwort by the path to the heath have been playing host to the delightfully fluffy males of this species. They lack the outlandish pantaloons of the female, and resemble instead a larger, hairier version of the Colletes bees that also love the ragwort at this time of year.
Dasypoda hirtipes (m)
A male Dasypoda hirtipes

The paths through the heath are riddled with holes made by nesting bees and wasps, especially the extravagantly name Ornate-tailed Digger Wasp Cerceris rybyensis which stocks its burrows with bees. The wasp doesn't have it all its own way though, as its burrows in turn often fall prey to the dazzlingly marked Ruby-tailed wasps which are easy to see at present as they search for nests to lay their own eggs in. Cerceris burrows play host to two of most striking Ruby-tails to be found in the UK, Hedychrum niemelai and H.nobile, two closely related and hard to distinguish species, sharing a pattern of metallic green and red across their bodies. In an entirely gratuitous shoehorning in of another ruby-tail picture I'll also mention the Chrysis ignita aggregate of species, a collection of near identical green wasps with ruby tails, one of which I found wandering along a rail one day.

Hedychrum nobile/niemelai
Hedychrum niemelai/nobile
Ruby-tailed Wasp
A gratuitous Chrysis ignita agg.
Man-made structures are often good places to look for wildlife, one Lodge speciality in particular, the UK's largest jumping spider Marpissa muscosa, seems to only ever be seen on a certain stretch of fencing by the heath. Unfortunately that bit of fence has now been removed after being damaged in high winds recently, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across a splendid female Marpissa on the log pile that sits around 50m from the traditional spot. As with all jumping spiders, this is a highly photogenic species with the large eyes and hairy face making them the cutest of the UK's spiders.
Marpissa muscosa
A lovely fluffy female Marpissa muscosa
The logpile is proving to be a productive spot this year, having already delivered a set of goodies back in May, it turned up my second ever Chalcosyrphus nemorum earlier this week, a species normally associated with wet woodland, but also found in drier woodlands, especially on log piles - it's nice when species do what they're supposed to!

Chalcosyrphus nemorum
Chalcosyrphus nemorum
Hopefully we'll have some good weather for the remainder of August and the numbers of insects will pick up a bit - and I'll have no excuse not to get a few more posts in before the end of the year!

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