Tag Archives: Honey Bee

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.

 

November Settling In

Every November is different. Some are unseasonably warm and dry. But this year we have a classic example. On Halloween night the temperature was 17 degrees Celsius but it suddenly dropped on November 1 and has been good and cold ever since, with some heavy rain thrown in for good measure. In short, it feels like a real autumn. And now the wildlife is getting in on the act. Three days ago I saw this beautiful sight:

It's not easy to tell here but these are Brent Geese flying inland in formation towards the mountains of Wicklow, possibly making their way to the Blessington Lakes in west Wicklow.
It’s not easy to tell here but these are Brent Geese flying inland in formation towards the mountains of Wicklow, possibly making their way to the Blessington Lakes in west Wicklow.

Geese are, of course, the definitive proof that we are in the darker half of the year as Ireland serves as a wintering-ground for a number of species. One or two geese will stay in parks or on lakes all year, but these are very few in number as Ireland becomes too hot for them in spring and summer. But there are smaller migrations too – in September and October Blackbirds and Robins (and many other birds) seem to disappear from gardens but this is largely because they are migrating. Then new ones appear. Right now birds are arriving in gardens to feed on berries on the shrubs and trees.

A handsome male Blackbird feeding on the few remaining berries in the topmost canopy of a rowan tree, which is also known as the mountian ash.
A handsome male Blackbird which has come to feed on the few remaining berries in the topmost canopy of a rowan tree, which is also known as the mountian ash.

However, wherever there are still flowers blooming there will be a few bees around to collect their nectar on the few sunny afternoon hours.

A Honey Bee collecting nectar from a saucer-sized cosmos, a popular garden flower which is found in meadows in Europe but not in Ireland... yet.
A Honey Bee collecting nectar from a saucer-sized cosmos, a popular garden flower which is found in meadows in Europe but not in Ireland… yet. The pollen sacs on her legs are swollen with pollen, probably because the hover flies have largely disappeared  with the onset of cold weather and aren’t around to compete with the bees. There are also, of course, fewer bees, so more work and pollen for those remaining.