I love the peculiar habit Small coppers have of walking head first down the stems of grasses.
I wanted a relatively short walk between rain showers so headed to a small local green belt where Oak saplings were planted a few years ago, and my wander turned into a challenge to see how many different types of gall I could find in just this one small copse of young Oaks. The answer? Six!
First up, Knopper galls, caused by the wasp Andriscus quercuscalicis. For more on that gall, see my August 2017 post Oak galls: knoppers and artichokes.
Next, Marbles, which I covered in Oak galls: marbles and apples, August 2017.
Then, I found some Common spangles (below left), caused by the wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. More on that mouthful in Oak galls: currants and spangles, August 2017.
You may have noticed my photo of Marble galls also had something else on the leaves. These were Smooth spangles (above right), a product of the wasp Neuroterus albipes.
I covered both Smooth spangles and this next gall, the Oyster, in the same blog: Oak galls: spangles and oysters, September 2017. The photo on the left above shows Oysters just beginning to form on the spine of the leaf; the one on the right shows two more developed examples, both on the same tree.
And, last but most certainly not least, as there were thousands of these on all the Oak trees I looked at, Silk button galls, caused by the wasp Neuroterus numismalis. I wrote about those in Oak galls: ram’s-horns and silk buttons, September 2017.
Not a bad haul for an hour turning over leaves and peering amongst branches. I didn’t find examples of all the Oak galls I’ve found before but I was very happy with this sampling.
When I got home from today’s walk, I discovered I had a hitchhiker, tucked up snugly in the hood of my jacket. I presume this Hawthorn shieldbug got brushed off its bush and on to me as I pushed through the snagging branches of some young Hawthorns earlier in the day. After a couple of quick photos, I placed it on the window ledge and off it flew in search of the nearest Hawthorn.
As I sat enjoying the coastal view, sipping my water, eating my apple, this wasp came a’visiting, buzzing annoyingly around the hand holding the apple, seeking sweet food, as they do on the fine days of late summer and early autumn. And, until I read this article on The Conversation website, I had no idea why. Take a look – it’s really interesting and well written. Oh, and my solution? I broke off a small piece of the apple and put it on the bench arm rest, so the wasp could help itself. As you can see, that worked a treat.
If you happen to see a Comma butterfly on one of our fine autumnal days, have a good look at the colour of its wings. You may notice that both the upper and the undersides of its wings are quite dark, particularly when compared to some of the Commas you saw in the summer months. Why is that?
It may be that your paler summertime Comma was a hutchinsoni. The splendid Life Cycles of British & Irish Butterflies explains:
The Comma is known for a particular form named hutchinsoni that is much paler in appearance on both upperside and underside that the nominate form. This form is found throughout the butterfly’s range and is normally attributed to individuals that go on to produce a second brood in the same year. Its name is a tribute to Emma Hutchinson, a renowned Victorian entomologist … who ultimately discovered its double-brooded nature and the corresponding variation between broods. The name was announced by J.E. Robson in 1881 in The Young Naturalist: ‘The Summer form is so different, and so constant in its appearance, that it ought to have a distinctive name, and we suggest it be called var. Hutchinsoni, in compliment to the lady … whose knowledge of the species is not exceeded by that of any one living.’
In my photos, the Comma on the left, Polygonia c-album var. hutchinsoni, was photographed on 24 June, the Comma on the right on 17 September, both in the same location and on fine, sunny days. I think you can see how marked the difference in their colouring is.
One of the side benefits of searching the scabious for rare bees (see yesterday’s piece, Searching the scabious, 1) is that my search also revealed how many other insects were enjoying the essential late summer-early autumn food supply provided by the beautiful wildflower, Devil’s-bit scabious. Amongst them were these five butterflies and a moth: Large white, Red admiral, Small copper, Small tortoiseshell, Small white and a Silver Y.
And also these five hoverflies: Eristalis intricarius, Helophilus trivittatus, Sericomyia silentis, Volucella pellucens and Volucella zonaria.
bees on scabious, Bombus pascuorum, Bombus terrestris, British bees, British wildflowers, Buff-tailed bumblebee, Bull-headed furrow bee, Common carder bee, Devil's-bit scabious, Lasioglossum leucozonium, Lasioglossum zonulum, Megachile ligniseca, White-zoned furrow bee, Wood-carving leafcutter bee
In recent weeks, when the weather has been fine and the air relatively still, I’ve been spending time searching the Devil’s-bit scabious for bees. Not just any bees, but four scarce and endangered bees. This is part of Buglife’s ‘Searching for Scabious’ project, which
aims to improve our understanding of the distribution and conservation status of some of Wales’ rarest and most threatened solitary bees – the Large Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena hattorfiana) and its associated cuckoo, the Armed nomad bee (Nomada armata), and Small Scabious Mining Bee (Andrena marginata) and its cuckoo, the Silver-sided nomad bee (Nomada argentata).
I wasn’t familiar with these bees and am not very good at bee identification in general but Liam Olds, Buglife’s local conservation officer, has put together an excellent explainer video, which can be accessed on YouTube, so I thought I’d join the search.
Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to find any of the scarce bees at the two local sites where Devil’s-bit scabious grows in abundance (and neither has Liam, which was reassuring for me re my search skills but bad news for the bees). The bees I did find most commonly were the appropriately named Common carder (Bombus pascuorum) (below, left) and the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) (below, right).
Liam very kindly helped to identify the other small bees I found. These lovely little furrow bees are either the White-zoned furrow bee (Lasioglossum leucozonium) or the Bull-headed furrow bee (Lasioglossum zonulum) – the two species are too similar to tell them apart without closer examination.
I also found several of these more distinctive individuals, the Wood-carving leafcutter bee (Megachile ligniseca). You can find out more about them, and watch a little video of their nest-building skills, on the BWARS website. Meantime, I’m heading back to the scabious for another look.