Thursday, 20 July 2017

Allotment insects

The morning has been wet and rather miserable, but it brightened up after lunch and I resolved to visit our allotment. By the time I got there the clouds had rolled away and it was getting distinctly hot and I was already working up a sweat even as I approached our plot.
A blackbird flew off with a chattering alarm call and I was a little surprised as it is a confiding cock bird that often works quite near to my feet. I then saw a cat slinking through the grass and all became clear. It glared at me for a moment and I was reminded of a passage by Lewis Carroll:

                                        'We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
                                        'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

                                        'You must be,' said the cat,  'or you wouldn't have come here."

I had come to gather runner beans, mange-tout peas and a lettuce but I also intended to try and identify some of the insects on the plot, and maybe take a few photographs.
A Red-tailed Bumblebee investigates a dork form of Cornflower.
Drayton Allotments, Daventry. 20 July, 2017
Bees were busy on the scarlet flowers of the runner beans, including the Red-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, and the Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Bombus terrestris.
Also present, although only a singleton, was a very large bee I suspect was the Large Garden Bumblebee, Bombus ruderatus. It just seemed too large for anything else, being quite as big as the Buff-tailed Bumblebee and with an elongate form.
Bombus lapidarius on raspberry foliage. Drayton Allotments, Daventry.
20 July, 2017

A hoverfly sat motionless for some minutes on the leaf of a squash and seemed unperturbed when I leaned over for a photograph. It was Volucella pellucens, technically a  bumblebee mimic but not to me resembling any obvious species except possibly the Garden Bumblebee, Bombus hortorum.
A hoverfly, Volucella pellucens, on a squash leaf. Drayton Allotments,
Daventry. 20 July, 2017
A Common Wasp, Vespula vulgaris, was zig-zagging around in a sinister manner, doubtless looking for a juicy grub to take away but I suspect it would ignore the Cinnabar caterpillars on a neighbouring plot. They were feeding on Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris, and their bodies would be laced with toxic alkaloids to an extent that few creatures will attempt to eat them. In fact the bold warning stripes resembled those of the wasp.
Cinnabar caterpillar on groundsel at Drayton Allotments, Daventry.
20 July, 2017
Hoverflies cheat. They too wear the yellow and black stripes but they would surely be perfectly palatable to any bird prepared to take a gamble. As it is, this male Syrphus ribesii can feel reasonably safe in its mimicry. 
Syrphus ribesii loafing on foliage. Drayton Allotments, Daventry.
20 July, 2017

The quantity of invertebrate life was mildly encouraging and diptera - two-winged flies - were present in large numbers. I suspect that nowadays few allotment holders use pesticides except as a very last resort. Netting is now the answer to a wide range of problems and wildlife generally is the beneficiary. The message is getting across!



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