Tag Archives: beauty

April Transformation

We had a very cold and somewhat wet March, and April has been somewhat similar, bright and sunny but often windy and chilly at the very same time. However, a huge change is underway and spring is unfolding by the day and the hour. Only a few days ago I was delighted to see a queen Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) sunbathing on some bare ground among the violets.

A furry queen Carder Bee, which usually appears later in spring than the much larger Buff-tailed Bumblebee queens. This is very much the spring bumblebee.
A furry queen Carder Bee, which usually appears later in spring than the much larger Buff-tailed Bumblebee queens. This is very much the spring bumblebee.

Particularly delightful is the sight of Tawny Mining Bees (Andrena fulva) on the wing.  Usually males appear first, but this year I spotted a big furry female days before the first male. This is officially our rarest species of solitary bee, and as a result the National Biodiversity Data Centre are looking for recorded sightings from the public.  Here is a link to the record sheet, which is easy to follow and make submissions on: http://records.biodiversityireland.ie/submit_records.php?fk=SolitaryBeesStandard&caching=cache

And here is a photo I got two days ago of a female Tawny Mining Bee:

25689979503_90c1d788e2And here is a photo of a male Tawny Mining Bee from the same day:

The male Tawny Mining Bee has a distinctive white 'beard'.
The male Tawny Mining Bee has a distinctive white ‘beard’.

There is a similar but smaller species of mining bee also appearing right now, the Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa). The males are very similar to the Tawny Mining Bee males, but much smaller and lack the white beard. The female is very beautiful, and here is a photo of a female from the same day as the Tawny Mining Bee photos:

A pretty female Early Mining Bee. She is much smaller then the female Tawny Mining Bee, and about the size of a male of that species.
A pretty female Early Mining Bee. She is much smaller then the female Tawny Mining Bee, and about the size of a male of that species.

Also buzzing around the lawn, feeding on dandelion flowerheads is a small and somewhat sinister-looking wasp. This is in fact yet another bee, but for the mining bees it is indeed sinister, as it’s a parasitic bee which lays its eggs in the nests of mining bees, its grubs killing and eating the mining bee grubs. This particular species of cuckoo bee is Panzer’s Nomada (Nomada panzeri):

Panzer's Nomada
Panzer’s Nomada. There are many similar Nomada Bee species.

But it hasn’t all been bees. Despite the cold some sunny days have warmed up sheltered areas enough for migrating butterfly species to begin flying about. So far I have only seen two butterfly species, and this one is the second, a Peacock (Inachis io):

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Heritage Week and Butterflies

From the beginning of this weekend until the end of the next weekend is Heritage Week here in Ireland, so there is plenty on. The emphasis is often a little too much on cultural heritage, so make sure you experience some natural heritage yourself. This month is a great time to see nature, and at the moment butterflies are putting on magnificent displays in the gardens all around Wicklow. To help beginners with identifications and to showcase the creatures themselves, here’s a little video showing you just what’s out there, or even in your garden:

Earthly Delights in the Wicklow Garden

This year Wicklow is enjoying an incredible spring, and this Easter is one of the best we’ve ever had. The butterflies have arrived in great numbers and among them spectacular beauties like the Peacock.

The first Peacock of the year, sunning itself on some boards.
The first Peacock of the year, sunning itself on some boards.

And this truly is the ‘Spring of the Ladybirds’ as they are absolutely everywhere. The Seven-spot Ladybirds are the most numerous but also look for the tiny orangish-coloured 14-spot Ladybirds.

A load of Seven-spot Ladybirds sunning themselves on a box tree. Two of them are having a bit more fun than the rest, and a small wolf spider is sharing the basking spot.
A load of Seven-spot Ladybirds sunning themselves on a box tree. Two of them are having a bit more fun than the rest, and a small wolf spider is sharing the basking spot.

Slightly less commonly noticed, but probably just as widespread are the Tawny Mining Bees. These lovely bees make volcano-like mounds at the tops of burrows in which they lay their eggs. They are solitary bees, not living in large nests, although it is possible to see numbers of them sharing areas of the garden.These bees only show up for a few weeks in spring, usually in April, and they then fill in their burrows and the adults die while the young spend almost a year of their lives underground in the tunnels. The mounds disappear too, as the bees use the soil to seal the nests shut. When the grubs reach adulthood they will dig themselves free next spring and build their own nests.

A female Tawny Mining Bee on the mound at the mouth of her mine.
A female Tawny Mining Bee on the mound at the mouth of her mine.