Monday, 11 June 2018

Derwent Inktense Pencils

Don't know why but watercolour pan paints always go mouldy on me. I bought myself some Derwent Inktense Pencils that are water soluble to see if they might be a substitute. I did a quick painting of a Tree Peony Flower today and I am reasonably happy with the result although I found it hard to mix enough colour at a time and with watercolour you need to work quickly so some hard edges have occurred and lifting the colour was starting to damage the paper.


Sunday, 10 June 2018

This is the time of year when often quite expansive areas of webs appear in some of our hedgerows. They are produced by species of small ermine moths who are seeking safety in numbers and also trying to disguise their prescence from anything that might like to eat them. I also imagine any bird trying to peck at them would get cobwebs stuck all over its plumage and beak.  The webs slowly disintegrate over the summer and usually the hedgerows recover. The adults can be found on the wing  later on and all are white or greyish with many small black dots, hence the ermine name.



The dry spell we have been having has suited the climbing and shrub roses in the garden, most were inherited with the garden or bought from the "sick plant" sections at garden centres cheap ( usually just bone dry) so no labels. The peachy poppies papery petals (phew- glad I'm not saying that) look lovely in the sun against the fat pink spikes of the Bistort.




Thursday, 17 May 2018

Flies and Bees

Went for a walk around Whitewell. There were lots of black flies on nettles and flying clumsily around with long legs dangling - these were the St Mark's flies. There were also lots of Noon flies sunning themselves on leaves.They mate on cow pats and the female lays one egg in a different cow pat which hatches out quickly and feeds voraciously on any other larvae in the pat. The adults  feed on flower pollen. There were plenty of Green Bottles and depending on the direction the light hit them they could appear almost bright copper in the sunshine.


Female St Mark's Fly

Male St Mark's Fly

Crane Fly mating.

Noon Fly Mesembrina meridiana

Orange Tailed Mining Bee, Andrena haemorrhoa (?)

Soldier Fly

Green Bottle

Soldier Beetle

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Newton Ramble

Had a spring walk around Newton, following the river, lots of flowers in bloom and plenty of bees and the occasional peacock and small tortoiseshell butterfly.






Tawny Mining Bees

Saturday was really warm and sunny and we had a gentle walk along the riverbank in Newton. Wood anemone , primrose, celandine, marsh marigolds all in flower and lots of Bumble bees, Red Tailed, Buff and Early flying around. Also noticed some really rich red insects flying around and finally managed to photograph one. It was a female Tawny Mining Bee, its dense, rich ginger coloured coat glowing in the sunlight, very glam. The males are usually smaller and not so densley haired and duller but they make up for it with a patch of white hair on their faces, that looks like a moustache.


This is one of the species that can be parasitized by beeflies. If you see a small hole in the ground with a little volcano of soil around it , then you may have found a Tawny Mining bee nest.

Bee-flies and spring

As soon as the "Lollipop Primroses" (Primula Denticulata) start to flower and we get some warm sunny days, I start listening out for a high pitched whine in the garden and looking out for quickly darting and hovering golden furry flies. For me it means spring is definitely underway when the Bee Flies are back in the garden. For a start they apparently don't feel inclined to fly if the temperature is below 17 degrees c. so sunny days are a must for them. All that hovering and zooming about must require a lot of energy. It also means that the solitary bees whose nests and larvae they parasitize have had time to get their breeding cycles underway. The adult beeflies have a really long proboscis that sticks out from their face to reach deep into flowers for nectar. It looks like it could do you an injury if it decided to, but beeflies are totally harmless, to us at least.



Female beeflies look out for solitary bee nests and when they find one they hover outside the entrance and flick their egg in. Sometimes they collect dust or sand on the tip of their abdomens and coat the eggs with this perhaps to disguise them or add a bit of weight to get them deeper into the nests.When her larva hatches, its a skinny little thing that crawls in and feeds on the provisions the solitary bee has laid in for her own offspring. Eventually it changes into a larger, fatter grub that attaches itself to the solitary bees larva and sucks it dry - and then moves on to the next one as there are usually several to be had in one burrow. Sounds awful but beeflies don't seem to make a dent in the solitary bee populations and to be honest they are one of many insects that prey on them. Lifes rich tapestry I guess, and I love them all.