Tag Archives: Apis mellifera

Moths and Butterflies Return

Winter has been very long and drawn out, but at last the weather seems to be improving and very gradually warming up. Late last night I was delighted to find two spring moths on a wall by a window. The first is the old reliable still lacking a common name, Diurnea fagella:

Slightly more impressive than this drab but variable moth was the stockier, and more handsomely marked Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi):

   This medium-sized (small medium) moth had a small chunk taken out of its left forewing, which was very possibly due to a nip from a bird’s beak.  The recent more consistent temperatures have caused spring flowers to bloom in a big way, and the annual mass flowering of dandelions is now beginning. Dandelions are extremely important for pollinators, and many other insects, as are the Lesser Celandine flowers. You can see one here being attended to by a Honey Bee (Apis mellifera).

   However, today I saw something which really lifted my spirits, my first butterfly of the year, a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae):

And I even made a video about it, and it’s not as bad as it first seems:

 

Spring Creatures Awaken

It’s after midnight now, but here are the photos I promised in the last instalment. Firstly, I saw my first hover fly of the year and it was one of our most common and recognisable species, Syrphus ribesii.

This species has very bold patterns and to the casual observer looks like a wasp.
This species has very bold patterns and to the casual observer looks like a wasp.

Feeding on the flowers of the same shrub (a Viburnum) was a Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), the first I’ve seen this spring. Clearly the rise in temperatures matters to bees as much as hover flies.

A Honey Bee hovering as it decides which flowers to collect pollen from.
A Honey Bee hovering as it decides which flowers to collect pollen from.

A short time later I spotted my second hover fly, a Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax). Drone Flies are large, harmless flies that mimic Honey Bees, which have stings. In spring people often think they are looking at thousands of Honey Bees on the flowers but there are in fact very few bees and a huge number of loud, boisterous Drone Flies. Like all hover flies, and bees, they are important pollinators of plants.

Drone Flies have enormous eyes that meet in the middle. Bees have two large eyes at the sides of their heads and three tiny ocelli mounted on the tops of their heads between their eyes. You can easily see this is a fly. Also, bees usually fold their wings over their backs whereas flies like this one have them resting side-by-side.
Drone Flies have enormous eyes that meet in the middle. Bees have two large eyes at the sides of their heads and three tiny ocelli mounted on the tops of their heads between their eyes. You can easily see this one is a fly. Also, bees usually fold their wings over their backs whereas flies like this one, have them resting side-by-side.

Finally, although it’s not an insect and I saw it the previous day, here is another creature exhibiting spring behaviour – a female Blackbird collecting dried grass to line her nest.

This Blackbird has found a lot of dried grass. Nest-building is busy work for birds in spring.
This Blackbird has found a lot of dried grass. Nest-building is busy work for birds in spring.

 

Bees and Frogs

In the last few days a small number of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) have been arriving in gardens to collect pollen from the early blooming flowers, of which there are quite a few these days. Getting a half-decent photo in the early light of spring is another story, but I think I just about managed one or two.

One of the first Honey Bees I've seen this year.
One of the first Honey Bees I’ve seen this year.

Two days ago I found my first frogspawn of the year, although there are reports of it from all over Ireland at this point. Frogspawn always puts the seal on spring. But spring is also a long and dramatic change in Wicklow, and my own favourite time of year. In Ireland we have only one species of gfrog (so far), the European Common Frog, Rana temporaria, but there is also one species of toad, the Natterjack or Running Toad, Epidalea calamita, which is so far only found in the southwest of Ireland, mostly in Kerry. But we also have one other amphibian species, which is found in Wicklow, the Smooth Newt, Triturus vulgaris, and I hope to get some decent photos of this species this year, although it is difficult to see in ponds, being quite small and shy.

Like a cluster of little jewels, frogspawn in a Wicklow pond, covered in duckweed.
Like a cluster of little jewels, frogspawn in a Wicklow pond, covered in duckweed.