Monday, 12 October 2015

Odds and ends around Byfield

Chris and I popped over to Byfield today to 'sit' for Jane. Her daughter Harriet is a delightful child but needs lots of care and support; that is where Chris comes in. On arrival at Byfield Chris dropped me off at the village centre and continued on to Jane's and I made my way by foot.

As I strolled through the village a pleasant, honeyed fragrance wafted towards me at intervals; the ivy was in full bloom. Insects of many kinds were taking advantage: a comma butterfly flitted past; a hornet buzzed away as I approached a little too closely and bluebottles were feasting at the flowers.
Palomena prasina, a final-stage instar.  Byfield, Northants.
12 October, 2015

A little less likely was a Green Shieldbug, Palomena prasina. Common certainly but not always to be seen at flowers. It was at the final instar stage; its final moult will see it emerge as an adult, with fully-formed wings.

A female Eristalis tenax on ivy. Byfield,
Northants, 12 October, 2015
And of course there were hoverflies, dozens of them, all bee mimics of some sort. The one shown is Eristalis tenax. Known as the Drone Fly it does have some resemblance to a Honey Bee drone. It is a hardy insect and will sometime emerge in the depths of winter, prompting newspaper reports of 'honeybees' in January. The presenters of BBC's 'Gardeners World' are caught out too, where this insect is often filmed as the presenters chatter on about 'bees'. 

Ribes odoratum. Bell Lane, Byfield. 12 October, 2015

Down Bell Lane a Buffalo Currant, Ribes odoratum, was an arresting sight. In the U.S.A. it is sometimes called the 'Spice Bush', helping to explain the specific Latin name, but the fragrance escapes me (or perhaps it is reduced in Britain). It has pretty yellow flowers but I have never heard anyone refer to its amazing autumn colour. Perhaps it should be grown more often.

Steatoda nobilis (female). The Twistle, Byfield,
Northants. 12 October, 2015
At Jane's a common but nonetheless quite interesting spider was scuttling across a window ledge. Much is heard about the False Widow Spider, Steatoda nobilis, (and I had an encounter with one recently on the Isle of Wight). It has a unpleasant, but not dangerous, bite

This is its smaller, harmless and very common relative, Steatoda bipunctata. With a glossy, dark brown abdomen and a variable white streak down its back, it is easily recognised.

The species seems to have a penchant for door jambs on rarely-used garden sheds and, as in this case, windows, where its retreat is often beneath the sill. It is probably one of the first species with which an arachnologist becomes familiar. The four 'dorsal punctures' which give the species its name are points of muscle attachment.

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