Monday, 25 March 2019

In praise of Euphorbias

A few weeks ago I managed to get some latex from a Euphorbia around my eye. The result was a mess which led to a trip to Eye Casualty in Northampton General Hospital. Since them I have regarded Euphorbias, otherwise known as spurges, with misgivings.

Over the last few days I have come to look at them more benignly, not least because there has recently been a steady procession of insect visitors to my plants; I had not appreciated just how much nectar spurges yield.

A Seven-spot Ladybird visits Euphorbia myrsinites.
Our garden at Stefen Hill, Daventry
The ladybird I mentioned in a blog a few days ago,, fuelling up with nectar until aphids become available. Bumble bees are also regular patrons, in this case a Buff-tailed Bumble Bee, Bombus terrestris.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee nectaring on one of our spurge plants.
24 March, 2019

Of course Honey Bees, Apis mellifera (mellifera means 'carrier of honey') are regulars, but where their hive is I don't know.

Often mistaken for bees are hoverflies, many of which mimic bees rather convincingly. The photograph shows a species of Eristalis, perhaps Eristalis pertinax, but in approaching it I carelessly let my shadow fall across it. Result: instant departure.

A female Eristalis is also tucking into the copious nectar.
Our garden at Stefen Hill, Daventry. 24 March, 2019
Another bee-like visitor is the Bee Fly, Bombilius major. It is frequently mistaken for a true bee but it only has two, as opposed to four, wings. This is not always easy to establish since the wings are a blur as it hovers before a flower prior to inserting its needle-like proboscis. The dark leading edges of the wings are generally easier to see.

Not to be confused with a true bee, a Dark-edged Bee Fly probes for
nectar. 24 March, 2019
Today provided a surprise. There was a Sloe Bug, Dolycoris baccarum sitting in the cup-like cyathium. Despite the name these insects are not particularly associated with sloes and visit a range of other plants - but not, as far as I know - for nectar. Perhaps this rather pale specimen was simply enjoying the sun.

This Sloe Bug may just be loafing. 25 March, 2019

Smaller insects need to approach with caution as there are predators ready to pounce. Bumble bees are safe, as are larger hoverflies, but this Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis, will happily accept smaller items.

Ready for an ambush! A Nursery Web spider hopes for a meal.
24 March, 2019

Butterflies, greenbottle flies and many more call in for a top-up. I'll treat spurges with more respect in future.

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