2013 - June
Chilbolton & Wherwell Wildlife
The north-east wind finally relented at the beginning of May, and we had our first proper taste of spring. A few days of clear blue skies and warm sunshine were very welcome, and many of our early butterflies appeared in hedgerows and gardens. Peacock, Brimstone, and Tortoiseshell awoke from hibernation, and Orange Tip, Holly Blue, and Green-veined White emerged from their wintering chrysalis state. These are all common species that we see every year – usually in early-April, but this year not in any numbers till three weeks later.
However it’s always worth the effort of looking more closely at the common wildlife – even the normal and mundane in our gardens, and that we tend to take for granted. On the hottest day of the year so far, I was sitting in the garden idly watching all the normal birds, butterflies, bees, and anything else that moved. There were bee-flies probing the primrose flowers with their spectacularly long proboscises. And I saw the first newly-emerged Large Red Damselflies of the year fluttering away from my small pond. Then I saw a Hairy-footed Flower Bee (lovely name!) busy visiting the blue and pink Lungwort flowers. Suddenly, I noticed another bee-like insect apparently carrying a piece of straw! What could it be doing?! I watched it land on a bare patch of soil, and leave the straw behind. I rushed over to where it had landed, and almost at the same time the insect, apparently a very small bee, returned with yet another piece of material. It added the new piece to a tiny heap of straw and twigs, each between 4 and 10cms long, and forming a little wigwam. I guessed it was a Solitary Bee of some kind, and that perhaps the construction was some form of nest. But I was puzzled, because I’d always thought that all solitary bees and bumble bees nested in holes in the ground, or in cracks or crevices in walls. What was this creature doing?! Intrigued, I searched the web, but couldn’t easily find anything that matched the behaviour. So I emailed a photo to a renowned hymenoptera expert who lives in Hampshire. Back came the answer: “Your bee is a female Osmia bicolor working on the pile of vegetable detritus that is used to cover its completed nest – which is in a snail shell underneath. No one knows why the female does this, possibly as a camouflage”. And he went on to say “I would appreciate the details for the national bee recording scheme. This is the very first record of the species nesting in a garden!”. How amazing! Just goes to show that there’s much to see all around us if we open our eyes.
A reminder: Friday 21st June, our annual glow-worm hunt – meet 21:30 (sunset) at the top car-park.
Glynne Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org)