Tag Archives: naturalist Sam Connolly

Beautiful blossoms = beautiful insects

This year we have had a very cold April. In the last few days, including today, there have been bright sunny periods marred by a cold wind from the north bringing hailstones, and even some goose-feather snow briefly. However, the trees have still managed to blossom albeit many are later than usual. Pear trees are especially handsome this year:

26419561356_3a0e32fa20Bees have been the first beneficiaries of this bounty of pollen, but ladybirds also depend on it.

The Chocolate Mining Bee, Andrena scotica. Sadly the 'chocolate' refers to its colour. A bee that mined chocolate would already be a household name.
The Chocolate Mining Bee, Andrena scotica. Sadly the ‘chocolate’ refers to its colour. A bee that mined actuall chocolate would already be a household name.

The beautiful Tawny Mining Bees are already disappearing, their time is up for the year and we will have to wait until next spring to see them again, such is life in the natural world. However, there are many, many species of bee, and some have yet to appear. For anyone with an interest in bees I have to bring to your attention a completely fantastic and ground-breaking book published shortly before last Christmas:

26640477732_1dffc7010cThe author, Steven Falk, is the ‘go-to-guy’ when it comes to the identification of many insect species in Europe, and in the past he has painstakingly illustrated his own books, but in this case has collaborated with the distinguised artist Richard Lewington and many photographers to produce a massive tome about every known bee species in the British Isles (the British Isles is the geographical term for the islands of Great Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man, and the tens of thousands of smaller islands found in their archipelago and should not be confused with the political term United Kingdom, which refers to the lands of England, Wales and Scotland on the island of Great Britain, and six north-eastern counties of the 32 counties found on the island of Ireland which comprise Northern Ireland).

Steven Falk is a very nice guy and he has worked for years on his studies, producing this fantastic book. The illustration by Richard Lewington are incredibly detailed, and whether you are a novice or expert you will want to own this book. I have only had it a short time and have already expanded my knowledge to a huge degree.

Anyhow, butterflies have now also begun to appear and here is one of my favourites looking its best, the Peacock, Nymphalis io, which is the butterfly species Americans want to see when they visit Europe, and who could blame them:

The Peacock can be easily identified by the bright and bold eye-spots on its wings.
The Peacock can be easily identified by the bright and bold eye-spots on its wings.

And I am glad to say the lovely Green-veined White butterflies are also flying about the Wicklow countryside in the last few weeks. The ‘green veins’ in the undersides of their wings are perfect camouflage when they are at rest. If you don’t believe me then tell me if you can see the Green-veined White in this photo:

26041389844_fc60e9c63eAnd here is another photo, just to make it easier to spot:

26043613843_dcf6b5429dAnd finally a nice surprise for me, a remarkable rare species of bug spotted by my brother. This one has no common name, as yet, and is known by its scientific name of Corizus hyoscyami:

26277313750_91ce7af3bf_zFinally, and perhaps unusually, I would like to dedicate this post to my uncle, Larry Lynch, who passed away unexpectedly after a short illness on Thursday afternoon. He knew how to live well and how to take each day as he found it, and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

Spider Season Draws To A Close

I know a great many people will be glad to know large spider numbers will be returning to normal at last this autumn season. The mating season for House Spiders, Garden (Cross) Spiders and Steatoda nobilis False Widows is almost up. What this means is that the females won’t be releasing pheremones into the air to attract mates, so long-legged males won’t be running about the place and entering houses looking for love. For anyone afraid of those big spiders, then maybe you need to make friends with the thin, daddy-long-legs like Rafter Spiders (Pholcus phalangioides), aka Long-bodied Cellar Spiders, which live in houses and specialise in eating spiders:

A Long-bodied Cellar Spider eating a much larger House Spider which it has caught in a web. They will also happily eat False Widows... and anything else.
A Rafter Spider eating a much larger House Spider which it has caught in a web. They will also happily eat False Widows… and anything else.

Rafter Spiders seem to be a relatively recent arrival in Europe. In the Middle East they live in caves and produce the curtain-like webs normally seen in adventure movies. They are harmless to humans but their haphazard barely noticeable webs are considered a nuisance by housekeepers as they collect dust and easily collapse.

The method used by the spider to kill bigger spiders is amazing to watch. The Rafter Spider spots its prey at the other end of a room and carefully stalks towards it, usually walking upside down along the ceiling. It then gets into a pouncing position, pulling its body back against the tension of its long legs and then suddenly shooting forward to strike at a leg. The victim is paralysed almost immediately and falls, but is snatched by the predator before it can strike the ground.

A Rafter Spider with a Tripwire Spider, Segestria senoculata it has killed.
A Rafter Spider with a Tripwire Spider, Segestria senoculata it has killed.