Tuesday, 2 April 2019

What happened to spring?

I awoke at sparrows to the sound of heavy rain. Fair enough, conditions have been unusually dry and rain will be welcomed by farmers and gardeners. What I wasn't expecting was sleet. True, there wasn't a lot, but it was distinct enough in the rain. Brrrh!

Confined to the house I worked my way through some specimens gathered yesterday in Stefen Hill Pocket Park.

I had swept a patch of Goosegrass, aka Cleavers (Galium aparine) and found I had taken a Cream-spot Ladybird, Calvia 14-guttata (Calvia quatuordecimguttata really, but no one bothers).  I couldn't get a decent picture but the one below will have to suffice.

The Cream-spot Ladybird can crop up almost anywhere.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 1 April, 2019
This is an unpredictable insect for it seems to have no particular habitat. I have caught it in meadows and hedgerows - even in a car park at Sixfields in Northampton. It is moderately common.

Nearby, a patch of young cow-parsley was the hunting ground for a Nursery Web Spider, Pisaura mirabilis. This species does not build a web but is a fierce hunter seemingly making no effort to conceal itself but just waiting motionless, often on the leaves of stinging nettles. A lightning-quick dart and it will have secured its prey.

A Nursery Web spider basks in the sun as it awaits insect prey.
Stefen Hill Pocket park. 1 April, 2019

The 'nursery-web' of the name refers to the ball of silk in which it carries its eggs, rather unusually in its jaws rather than secured to its spinnerets.

There are a few holly bushes in the pocket park and a large percentage of their leaves bear irregular creamy-yellow patches. These are the work of a small fly, the Holly Leaf Miner, Phytomyza ilicis, as its larva tunnels through the leaf. Throughout the length and breadth of Britain this fly is found and I rarely find a holly bush without these tell-tale blemishes.

Holly leaves are frequently mined by Phytomyza ilicis.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 1 April, 2019

For me the most unusual sight was on my way home. For many years I have looked over Forsythia bushes for insect visitors, and I have looked in vain. The flowers of this genus are clearly designed to attract insects but there is clearly a problem. Virtually all the Forsythia shrubs grown in Britain are Forsythia x intermedia, and therein perhaps lies the problem. Colourful though this plant is, being a hybrid (Forsythia suspense x F. viridissima) it may have lost its nectar yield somewhere along the way; there is nothing to tempt insects.

But today - Eureka! There was a bee paying a visit, but I watched it for maybe thirty seconds and it failed to move. I'm still not convinced that Forsythia has anything to offer. Many writers claim that it is visited by insects but these claims seem to refer to the situation in the U.S.A.

A bee visits Forsythia flowers - but what is it up to?
Christchurch Drive, Daventry. 1 April, 2019
As for the microscope work, not much new was discovered although a Cluster Fly, Pollenia angustifolia, turned up. It is quite common though les so than than the ubiquitous Pollenia rudis. Cluster Flies are so called because in the winter they can form clusters, sometimes hundreds strong, in an attic, outhouse or some other convenient spot. They can often be recognised by the crinkly golden hairs on the thorax.

O.K. It has now rained unceasingly for four hours. Joke over. May we have our sun back please?

No comments:

Post a Comment