Monday, April 08, 2013

The quadrangle of doom....

I've read that April may be named after a Latin word that when translated to English, means 'to open'.I hadn't considered that this could mean anything other than the spring buds. This year it might more aptly apply to 'the heavens' for that's what they have done; spilling on us not only rain,hail and sleet but to complete the 'quadrangle of doom' (yes, I did make that up)....snow!

Things are now on the up at last though. Yesterday for instance we were basking in a tropical 48 degrees. Slowly,ever so slowly, the little critters are coming out of hiding and I'm even starting to feel enthusiastic, a little excited by the prospect of a new season at last.

New growth is everywhere...

I found lots of these strange,pale shoots beside a crop field recently. I have no idea what they are but love the colours at this stage of growth.

I had my first butterfly sighting on April 7th with a lovely Comma. Also came across this moth larva. Not sure of exact species but possibly Autumn rustic-I have found these before at this time of year...

Autumn rustic (?) larva
I had a day when I went out with the intention of concentrating on photographing moss and lichen and took a number of shots that I may use for another blog entry, maybe even the next? But as sometimes can happen,got distracted by finding something else.

I was prostrate on the ground trying to give the moss pictures a sense of scale, when I began to notice movement in my eye line. Thinking it may be flies or even beetles, I stopped to take a closer look. Here's what I discovered...

Andrena species bee
The more I looked,the more of these I found. All crawling around on the carpet of moss that covered most of the woodland floor. I had a scout around to see if I could maybe locate the source of these little ones and soon came across a beautiful cuckoo bee as well...

A Cuckoo Bee

Hmmm...surely not coincidence these two species were to be found in such close proximity? Cuckoo bees are known to be parasites of mining bees and in particular the Andrena species.

The little copse I was in bordered a footpath that cut through about 8 feet below, and I could see that there was a steep bank that comprised mossy areas, but also some bare portions that separated the two. That seemed a likely place to look for emergence holes.

After spending a while surveying the banks, I soon found what I was hoping for. All of them seemed to be in really awkward,high-up places that made photography quite tricky.

Anyhow, a few failed attempts that resulted in tumbling down from my perch all the time trying to protect the camera as I did so, and then I found a knack of hanging on long enough for a few photos...

There were a good number of these cuckoo bees hanging around the exit holes. I don't know enough about these bees to be sure why they may be doing this, but recently read that they watch for the host bee to emerge and then nip in the hole and lay their own eggs. I would have thought it was too early in the season for that to be the case? If it hadn't been in such a precarious position,I would have hung around (literally) to see for myself.

After some research I think these might be Nomada leucophthalma although I understand that identification to individual species level can be very difficult.

On the plus side for my identification, N. leucophthalma is described as a parasite of andrena species and is a large cuckoo bee (12mm) with dark red, orange-tipped antenna and dark legs. It has a yellow and black striped abdomen with a red band at the front. On the wing March to May fits too.

On the minus side: You might have noticed in the photos above that one of the individuals I photographed seems to have black,or very dark antennae?
Also, the prime host of this nomada bee appears to be listed as Andrena clarkella & these seem to be closer to A.praecox?


 I had a couple of other interesting sightings recently. I spotted a badger out in daylight but sadly no photos as I had Herbie the terrier with me who was even more interested than I was.
And then I saw this wood pigeon. Actually, I heard a lot of strange noises and wing flapping first and then found it looking like this...

I feel that I might have just missed seeing it being attacked by a hawk but can't be sure. It was certainly in a bad way initially and seems to have suffered tail-feather damage? I watched as it recovered enough to struggle up into a nearby tree and that's where it still sat when I passed by again around half an hour later.

And so spring is at last rising like a phoenix from the ashes of winter and mother earth is about to give birth once more-to quote an old disco song from way back..." Celebrate good times, come on...."

Before I wind-up this entry, a couple of arty style shots...

Hazel catkin

Frost turning gravel into a mosaic
Actually, whilst on the subject of frost/ice-this was how our local pond looked one morning...

I will leave you with something of a teaser then. Something completely new to me,as far as I know and my research has drawn a big blank so far. Clues? Well, found under bark, around 20-25mm long. Can't help you much more than that..not much to go on is it? There's also not a great deal of detail here as I didn't have the full set-up with me and so had to resort to natural light only.

They almost look like rat-tailed maggots such as hoverfly but would be surprised if the turn out to be diptera...don't know why,because I have no idea!

Until the next time then...


  1. A brilliant and interesting read as ever JJ! Wish I shared your enthusiasm... it's seems incredibly slow here with the Inverts. Certainly not seen any Nomadas about yet.

    All beautiful shots but love the arty ones!

    Now as you know, I do love a mystery! :-) This link may help solve yours:

    Best wishes


    PS Unable to make link 'live'.... sorry! Hope you can copy and paste it ok!

  2. Thanks for your comments Maria.
    How on earth did you manage to find this so fast? Had you come across them before I wonder? Seems from your i.d. (and I'm convinced you are correct) that they are biting midge larvae. Once again, that'll teach me to say probably not diptera! Thanks so much for this...yet again you have managed to solve a mystery in seconds that I have been unable to all!
    This may have actually provided an i.d. for another photo from years ago as well? Not sure if this will work, again, may need to copy and paste...

  3. Hmmm...that may be just about useless as a link because I have disabled copy and paste on the blog! Sorry!!

  4. Ooh what a fascinating larva that is! Never seen one with droplets like it. You do find the most incredible things!

    As for finding ID, it's with the help of Google images as usual! I just search through until I see something similar. Occasionally, it's quick (as this one was), but sometimes I get nowhere! Lol!

    As you know, I love these challenges as I learn a lot from them too! :-)

  5. PS think you should rename that Hazel catkin a Hazel caterpillarkin! ;-)

  6. Thanks Maria. They are odd aren't they, but looking at the link you posted seem very similar species.
    You seem to be on a roll with your 'pun titles' that one made me chuckle...


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