Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Two steps forward, one step back.

After the lovely sunny weather of the weekend we had a sharpish frost on Sunday night and we were left with a day of cool, grey, showery weather.

In fact I hardly ventured out at all, suspecting that there wouldn't be many insects about. I could perhaps have found a few of those neglected orders of creepy-crawlies which rather intrigue me - and probably bore most other people, and I'd have been content with that. 

                      With coarse rice to eat, with only water to drink,
                      and my bended arm for a pillow, I am happy.


So instead I 'bended' my back around the garden, planting a honeysuckle, a rose and a passion flower.

Tuesday, 10th March was far better and I grabbed the chance to visit Stefen Leys Pocket Park. Quite a few insects were around; all were diptera and all were basking on foliage or sunny tree trunks.

Eudasyphora cyanella basks on a sunny tree trunk.
Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry. 10 March, 2015

This female Eudasyphora cyanella was one of many taking advantage of warm, south-facing tree trunks. The eyes are hairy but in the case of this specimen, only slightly so. The concept of hairy eyes perhaps seems odd to the non-entomologist but it should be remembered that these eyes are compound, and the hairs grow in between the hexagonal facets. Though very common this insect has no common name.

Signs of spring were gradually becoming apparent with a solitary flower of Celandine, Ranunculus ficaria, making a splash of gold beneath a hawthorn bush.

The male catkins of alder were now fully open and, just above them, the reddish, ellipsoid female flowers which will eventually form the 'cones' by which alder is so easily recognised. Do any insects take the pollen? I watched carefully for a few minutes and no insects appeared, but that proves nothing.

I have a penchant for turning over stones or logs. (A penchant is a grubby stick found nearby, useful for turning over equally grubby stones [Not funny, Tony]). Woodlice, centipedes, millipedes and ground beetles are frequently to be found, but today I mostly revealed slugs.

The slug to the right, with dark bands running along the side is Arion distinctus, a common species frequently found in gardens.  On the left is a Budapest Slug, Tandonia budapestensis, an equally abundant species. In the bottom left-hand corner is a cluster of translucent slug eggs, perhaps belonging to the Budapest Slug. 

This picture is so blurred that I am displaying it only because it is rather interesting. When I got home I was sorting through a few flies when I found that I had unknowingly secured a tiny spider, an immature and unidentifiable member of the Araneidae family. In approximately the middle of the spider is a yellow structure like a tiny sausage. 

My first thought was that it is the larva (grub) of a fly called Ogcodes gibbosus, but the grub of that species tends to be pear-shaped. It is more likely to be the grub of an ichneumonid wasp, but as to the species, I haven't a clue. These are not uncommon and I have taken many over the years. The grub positions itself so that the host, i.e. the spider, is unable to dislodge it so it will feed unhindered until its unfortunate host has died. It will then probably pupate within the corpse.

I suspect people rarely feel sorry for spiders but this is a rather grisly death.

For the record, the only other flies recorded were:

Pollenia rudis - a very common 'cluster fly'. Pollenia species have distinctive golden hairs on the thorax.

Calliphora vicina -  A blowfly important in forensic work because of its arrival on a corpse
within a fairly precise time frame. 

So, only three species, but it's early days yet.

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