Thursday, 17 August 2017

Oh I do like to be beside the...canal

I sallied forth yesterday intending to do some recording at the northern part of Kentle Wood. At this end the woodland meets the A45 so the plan was to drive along the road and stop at a convenient point. There was none. I drove on and on without finding anywhere to park and soon found myself in Braunston. I capitulated - I know when I'm beaten - and settled for a stroll along the Grand Union canal near to the very busy Braunston marina.
The scene was colourful as I made my war between craft of various sizes, styles and colours (yes, I should have taken a few pictures) and the day had steadily improved from a showery morning to a lovely afternoon.
It is clear why gardens are so important to many insects and why we are encouraged to grow plenty of nectar- or pollen-yielding plants because the canal banks did not have a lot to offer.
There was a small clump of Orange Balsam, Impatiens capensis, a garden escape from North America. This relative of 'Busy Lizzies' is a very attractive plant to look at but although I observed it on and off for an hour or so it received no visitors.
Orange Balsam, frequent along canals. Braunston, Northamptonshire.
17 August, 2017

Fortunately there were several plants of Wild Angelica, Angelica sylvestris, to provide a re-fuelling point for insects. (It is not to be confused with Garden Angelica, Angelica archangelica, which is native to some parts of northern Europe but is an escape in Great Britain. and not found in Northamptonshire.) Wild Angelica is common throughout our county in damp pastures and beside watercourses. G.Claridge Druce, in his 1930 Flora of Northamptonshire, seems to have referred to this species as 'Keck' although I have only ever heard the name applied to Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris. This latter plant will attract small insects but Wild Angelica is visited by a good range of larger flies and bees. 
Wild Angelica saved my day by attracting insects. Braunston, Northants.
17 August, 2017
Today these included a handsome female hoverfly Myathropa florea, a rather convincing wasp-mimic. It is common but nevertheless pleasing to see. I am surprised that it has not acquired a common name.
Myathropa florea on Wild Angelica. Braunston, Northants.
17 August, 2017
Several other hoverflies were present although nothing other than common species. The photograph shows a relative of Myathropa, Eristalis arbustorum, also a female and probably a mimic of the hive bee.
Eristalis arbustorum on Angelica. Braaunston, Northants.
17 August, 2017
One butterfly - a Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina - called in but couldn't be persuaded to open its wings for a photograph. It made use of the one tiny bit of Yarrow, Achillea millefolium.
A rather pale Meadow Brown on Yarrow.
Braunston, Northants. 17 August, 2017
Only one other plant appeared to be attracting insects and that was Hedge Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica. It had ceased flowering but a Woundwort Bug, Eysarcoris venustissima, was delving into a group of calyces. Shieldbugs pass through a number of stages (instars) and this was a last-instar specimen, in other words it was in its fifth stage and the last one before adulthood.
Woundwort Shieldbug on its foodplant, Stachys sylvatica.
Braunston, Northants. 17 August, 2017
In terms of variety not many insects were recorded but most if not all will be the first records for the area, helping us to more fully understand the distribution and needs of our insect species. And I secured a specimen of a curious little orange-red beetle to be identified later under the microscope*. Not a bad day.

* It turned out to be Neocrepidodera transversa, one of the flea beetles. (I know you were desperate to find out!)

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