Sunday, 26 April 2020

Spiders and milkmaids

Predictably it was Stefen Hill Pocket Park again today and yet after visits running into the hundreds to this rather urbanised park, there were still things to be enjoyed.


A small garden at the edge of the park was bounded by a low hedge of Box, Buxus sempervirens - a common enough sight. I was optimistically hoping to find a specimen of the Box Bug, Gonocerus acuteangulatus. Thirty years ago to harbour such a hope would have been absurd. This insect was confined to a few patches of box bushes at the famous Box Hill, in Surrey, where it had been known for something like 150 years. Then, in about 1989, something remarkable happened; suddenly it began to crop up elsewhere, only in Surrey at first but records are now coming in from as far away as Yorkshire and Devon.


Box Bug. Photo courtesy of the British Bugs web site.
I was out of luck but, truth be told, I was as likely, if not more so, to find this insect - like a longer, slimmer Dock Bug, (Coreus marginatus) on hawthorn, since this has become one of its favourite plants. It is more likely to be around in June or July, so I'll keep an eye open.

Of course, the box itself is an interesting bush. Given a chance it will grow into a tree some ten metres high but such specimens are rarely seen. It has been in flower for some weeks now and it curious fruits are developing. The odd form of the flowers and fruits have made the species difficult to place. According to Colin Tudge (Ref 1.) 'It has at times been linked to the rubber tree...although (it does) not have latex, as the euphorbias do'. It has also been placed with the witch hazels although recent research seems to link it to the proteas.

The curious fruits are developing on box bushes. Garden adjacent to
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 26 April, 2020

It is prized for its extremely hard wood and (again quoting Colin Tudge), 'the English artist Thomas Bewick showed that boxwood, cut across the grain, gave results comparable with metal'. It  has been compared with ivory - and it is now extremely expensive.

Strolling through an area of the pocket park where the grass has been allowed to grow, I chanced upon some Cuckoo Flowers, Cardamine pratensis. John Lewis-Stempel argues that 'Any flower that comes with a host of local names is likely to be of human use, either as food or as medicine'. (Ref 2) In fact this delightful, but increasingly uncommon plant has over 30 local names.

Lady's Smock, Cuckoo flower, call it what you will.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 26 April 2020
It is of a very pale mauve colour and is most likely to be found in damp or even distinctly wet, meadows. John Clare spoke of it:

                           And wan-hued Lady's Smocks that love to spring
                           Side the swamp margin of some plashy pond.

                                                                           Village Minstrel, 1821

George Claridge Druce (Ref 3) describes it as 'common and generally distributed'. I wish that were still so, and so too will the Orange Tip Butterfly, for which this is also a food plant. The name 'Lady's Smock' suggests, again according again to John Lewis-Stempel, that the flowers 'bear a passing resemblance to women's undergarments hanging on a washing line'. My imagination isn't that vivid! It was sometimes used, thanks to its peppery taste, as an alternative to watercress.

My umbrella came into play for checking a hawthorn bush. A sharp tap brought various items of detritus tumbling down and I received a surprise. In amongst the dead leaves and twigs was a specimen of the spider, Diaea dorsata.


It was a male, generally of a striking green and brown coloration. My specimen was rather pale but still attractive enough.
Diaea dorsata tumbled into my umbrella. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
26 April, 2020


So handsome is this crab spider that it was chosen by Mike Roberts to illustrate the cover of his magnum opus (Ref 4). And for my part I have used its name as part of my e-mail address. And it was new to the pocket park. (How a busy G.P. found time to write - and paint all the illustrations - for this important book is amazing.)



Another very pleasing visit.


References

1. Tudge, Colin (2006) The Secret Life of Trees  Penguin Books

2. Lewis-Stempel, John (2014) Meadowland  Black Swan Books (A wonderful read)

3. Druce, G.C. (1930)  The Flora of Northamptonshire  T. Buncle and Co

4. Roberts, R (1985) The Spiders of Great Britain and Ireland  Harley Books

Tony White: diaea@yahoo.co.uk





Saturday, 25 April 2020

More pocket park notes

Yesterday I visited Stefen Hill Pocket Park and was greatly impressed by the horse chestnuts. But there were other features, less striking perhaps, but worthy of mention.


The ash trees, Fraxinus excelsior, in this vicinity tend to be either male or female, i.e. dioecious. The male flowers have done their bit, the rather mealy pollen having been scattered by the wind, and they are now dry and withering.



On the male ash trees the flowers are beginning to disintegrate,
their job done,
On the other hand the female flowers are developing. The fruit, in the form of capsules, are swelling and will each develop a wing, eventually to hang in familiar bunches - the 'keys'. We tend to underrate the ash, its abundance making it too familiar to exercise wonder, but its foliage is attractive and its timber was greatly valued in the past.

Meanwhile the fruits are developing on the female trees.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, Daventry.
Field Maple, Acer campestris, is very common hereabouts, not least because it is often planted for amenity. It is a neat tree and our only native Acer species (although there is an outside possibility that the Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, is also native). The fruit of the field maple can easily be overlooked but a small number of specimens have their developing fruits suffused in orange or red, and can be very striking. The wood is beautifully marked and can be used to make lovely bowls, or indeed, furniture.
These developing fruits on field maple were certainly eye-catching.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 24 April, 2020

The insects recorded included a nomad bee, Nomada marshamella, and a weevil, Rhynchites aequatus. Both were new to the pocket park. The weevil in question is a hawthorn specialist and very common, but even the most experience entomologist is probably pleased to see it, for it is a lovely little beetle. 

My picture of Rhynchites marshamella, taken as it dashed around in the
sweep net. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 24 April, 2020
I did photograph it in my net before releasing but, as with the Chestnut Leaf Miner, a better picture is merited.


The weevil is widespread across Europe and this picture was
taken in France.
The long 'snout' (the rostrum) is used to drill small holes into the hawthorn fruit, but in recent years it has turned its attention to apples, pears and, occasionally, plums. So although some will be pleased to find it, orchardists will not.



Friday, 24 April 2020

Horse Chestnuts

On a visit to Stefen Hill Pocket Park today the magnificent Horse Chestnuts, Aesculus hippocastanum, were impossible to ignore. Perhaps we take them for granted but, as people are generally aware, all is not well with our 'conker trees'.


Horse Chestnut trees, now fully in bloom, made a fine sight.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 24 April, 2020



The Latin name is of interest: hippocastanum needs no discussion as it simply means 'horse chestnut'; aesculus is a little more of a puzzle, for it was the Latin name for some sort of tree - possibly an oak - which bore edible nuts. In parkland the conkers are sometimes eaten by livestock with no adverse affect but they contain a glycoside, aesculin, which is dangerous if consumed by children in large quantities. However, the taste is bitter and it is hard to imagine children eating enough to cause anything other than a mild stomach upset.


A conker is, of course, the seed; the whole fruit is formed by the conker and its spiny casing. The curious fruit and the oddly shaped flowers led to this species, and its close relative such as the buckeyes of North America, being placed in their own family, the Hippocastanaceae. However, once again work on the DNA of these trees shows that they are better placed in the Soapberry Family, the Sapinadaceae, so they are now recognised as relatives of maples, including the sycamore.


The curious flowers of horse chestnut. The polen is pink.
Stefen Hill Pocket park, 24 April, 2020




Mention of the Soapberry Family reminds us that a soap can be made from the leaves of the Horse Chestnut or the conkers. Many recipes for this are on line but I don't think I'll be bothering



So what are the dangers facing this loveliest of trees? The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) classes it as vulnerable to extinction. For some reason in its home, isolated mountain regions of the Balkans, it has been subjected to logging on a considerable scale. This is odd, for the timber is of limited use, being non-durable and not easy to work. Its principal uses seen to be for boxes and charcoal.


In Britain it can be affected by Bleeding Canker, caused by at least three species of micro-organism and causing the bark to bleed a dark, sticky fluid. However, the most serious threat, and the one with which most people are familiar, is that caused by the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner, Cameraria ohridella. When I visited the pocket park today the foliage was in lovely condition but the moth was already present.


The Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner is already investigating leaves.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 24 April, 2020
It is quite a pretty moth and looks innocuous enough. It is however quite tiny and a challenge for my little camera, so I have included a professional job.



Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner, Cameraria ohridella.



Good news? Well, there is a glimmer. For a start a number of tiny wasps - about 18 in all - are parasites (parasitoids to be precise) upon the caterpillars and do a little to keep it in check (Ref. Pocock, et al). Then there is natural regeneration. Beneath just one tree in the pocket park I counted 16 saplings. If people nurture these and similar saplings there should be plenty to replace dead or moribund trees.



If all horse chestnuts are able to regenerate as prolifically as those in
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, the species should survive. 24 April, 2020
For the time being then, we can continue to enjoy the presence of this species, an enjoyment which will be shared by beekeepers, for the tree is a prolific source of pollen and nectar.


Reference


Pocock, M, Evans, D, Strawn N, and Polaszek, A  The Horse-chestnut Leaf miner and its parasitoids  British Wildlife, Vol. 22 No. 5

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Foxhill Farm: late April

With plenty of leisure time available I had a good stroll around Foxhill Farm today, but first made a slight detour, visiting Yeomanry Way to photograph an oak apple I had seen yesterday.


Many people seem to confuse this species with the much smaller Oak Marble Gall. The true Oak Apple is the work of a cynipid wasp, Biorhiza pallida (the oak marble gall is caused by Biorhiza kollari). The real oak apple is pale, soft (when young), spongy and can grow to the size of a golf ball.

Oak Apple. Yeomanry Way, Daventry.
22 April, 2020



Foxhill Farm is not the place to visit for a marvellous display of wild flowers, but there were some attractive species to be seen, and there will be more later on in the year.

Crab apple blossom, Newnham Road, beside Foxhill Farm.
22 April, 2020

Crab apples were in blossom near to the entrance and there were swathes of Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea, and Red Campion where nibbling sheep couldn't reach. 

Stitchwort generally grew behind barbed wire fencing beyond the reach
of sheep. Foxhill Farm, Badby. 22 April, 2020
Bluebells are common in this part of Northamptonshire but I saw none today. Instead the commonest blue flowers were those of Ground Ivy, Glechoma hederacea. This is an excellent bee-plant but again none paid a visit today - very worrying.

The flowers of ground ivy received no visitors whilst I was there today.
Foxhill Farm, 22 April, 2020
Forget-me-nots were frequent too but the glory at the moment are the bushes of Gorse, Ulex europaeus, which formed golden patches on the hillsides. Gorse will carry flowers in all twelve months of the year but currently they are at their best.


Forget-me-nots, like stitchwort, were often behind barbed wire fencing.
Foxhill Farm, Badby, Northants. 22 April, 2020

These gorse bushes are indicative of the slightly acid and well-drained nature of the soil. They are impenetrable by sheep and so the occasional tree seedling can grow up safely in their protective thickets.



The air was heavy with the honeyed smell of gorse.
Foxhill Farm, 22 April, 2020

The gorse merits more attention for the insects and spiders which can be abundant but for today I contented myself with photographing a Gorse Shieldbug, Piezodorus lituratus. There are structural reasons why this bug is placed in a separate genus from, say, Palomena prasina, but it the field the reddish antennae and the distinctive yellow border around the abdomen make it reasonably easy to recognise. The olive green body closely resembles a gorse flower bud. It is not a particularly common visitor to gardens but I have found it on laburnum and broom.


Gorse Shieldbugs are large but can be surprisingly difficult to spot.
Just prior to leaving I examined a decaying tree stump and, child-like, poked a couple of small puff-balls growing there, creating a smoke-like cloud of spores. They were specimens of Lycoperdon pyriforme and, unsurprisingly, this species is known as the Stump Puffball.

Stump Puffballs were found - where else? - on an old stump.
Foxhill Farm, 22 April, 2020


By this time the day had become remarkably hot for April and on returning to the car I found that the temperature was 21 degrees. Among the butterflies had been brimstones, peacocks, orange tips and holly blues. Buzzards had mewed overhead, magpies had cackled and the yaffle of the green woodpecker had mocked me as I went about my business. In terms of recording only one species, the Brassica Bug, had been added to the farm total, bringing it to 516. Nevertheless, a good day!


Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Good Friday Grass

Around mid-April, and therefore often coinciding with Easter, lawns may carry patches of neat little plant sometimes known as Good Friday Grass.


Patches of Good Friday Grass can be frequent in lawns.
Badby Road West, Daventry. 21 April, 2020
Despite its name, it is not a grass at all, but is a member of the Rush Family, Juncaceae. Its name, Luzula campestris, is something of a puzzle: campestris - of the fields - is straightforward enough, but luzula is a name of some antiquity and of obscure origins. Perhaps its name is the most interesting feature of this rather unexciting plant and yet, oddly enough, I am always pleased to see it.



Chris and I spotted a patch when taking our daily walk. There was not a lot else to be seen. Some Holly Blues, Celastrina argiolus, were flitting about but in a gusty breeze a decent photograph was out of the question.


Holly blue butterflies paused for only the briefest moment
today. Daventry, 21 April, 2020
More straightforward were Green Shieldbugs, Palomena prasina. The pair photographed were mating on the leaf of a field maple and were still there half an hour later when we returned. Copulation is a very sedate event in the world of bugs.

Green Shieldbugs in copula on field maple leaves.
Daventry, 21 April, 2020
Much the same can be said regarding a pair of Brassica Bugs, Eurydema oleracea, but they had chosen Garlic Mustard for their nuptials.
A pair of fuzzy-focused Brassica Bugs on Garlic Mustard. 
Daventry, 21 April, 2020





Galls are beginning to appear. Dysaphis crataegi was showing but this 'species' is really a complex group of aphid species which would require a specialist to sort out. These rolled leaf edges can be more purplish in colour.

Dysaphis crataegi agg These rolls on hawthorn will be very familiar
over the next few weeks. Daventry, 21 April, 2020
Finally home, to do some much-needed watering in this amazing spell of weather.


Monday, 20 April 2020

Another batch of garden goodies

Our gardens, both front and back, are small. This pleases us, as we find the maintenance of these plots easy. It also presents interesting challenges since we are limited in the size of plants we can consider.




Despite our efforts some large aquilegias find a temporary toehold, but are generally rooted out ruthlessly. This is a genus of promiscuous plants which will hybridise readily where possible, and we do not want our tiny Aquilegia canadensis plants to be 'contaminated'.






Our Oxalis 'Ione Hecker' is currently flowering delightfully It is a hybrid between O. enneaphylla and O. laciniata, both species from Patagonia. It revels in full sun and closes at night or in dull weather. The specific name enneaphylla means 'nine-leaved' and this is indeed about the average number of leaflets forming the compound leaves. Laciniate of course means 'cut into narrow lobes'.


Our plant of Ione Hecker is currently in a tub. 20 April, 2020
It is currently confined to a container but is flourishing to the point where I may risk removing one or two of the bulb-like rhizomes and placing them in the main rock garden.

I am not happy about a patch of Phlox douglasii in the front garden. It is of a garish colour but it does attract butterflies. Do I remove it? I'm not sure.
Garish, but attracting a peacock butterfly. 17 April, 2020


Having a small garden means that we must make full use of any walls, and this we are trying to do. Rosa xanthina is spreading nicely to cover a brick wall in the front garden.


Rosa xanthina covers un unattractive wall
Ideally we should allow it to cover the ugly meter box - but we would obviously create problems for ourselves.

 


 


The back wall now supports a number of climbers, but a clematis is currently stealing the show. I have labelled it twice - and twice the label has disappeared! However, I'm pretty sure it is Clematis macrophylla. I was pleased to see a bumblebee paying a visit yesterday. As far as I am aware no clematis species produce nectar, so it was purely a pollen-collecting visit.

Clematis macrophylla in a pendulous form is gradually spreading across a
back wall. 20 April, 2020
So, with restrictions of movement likely to be in place for some weeks yet, the garden will remain a focal point for blogs. So live with it!










Sunday, 19 April 2020

Stefen Hill yet again







Stefen Hill again today, with a visit to the pocket park. Like many of us I am not exactly spoilt for choice. To be fair the park is currently looking lovely with the trees gradually putting on their foliage.


Trees in Stefen Hill Pocket Park are extremely attractive at the moment.
19 April, 2020

The photograph shows that the horse chestnut is now in full leaf, the taller tree behind it, an ash, still has some way to go. The smaller, silver-leaved tree to the left, is an aspen, and it also has some way to go. Over the next weeks and months the leaves will be nibbled, tunnelled and galled by a variety of creatures, all of which I will try (unsuccessfully in many cases) to identify. Most under threat is the horse chestnut, whose leaves will be rendered hideous by the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner, Cameraria ohridella.

Horse chestnut leaves are at present unblemished and their flowers are
beginning to open. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 19 April, 2020





Currently the loveliest of all is a very ornamental crab apple. I suspect it is the variety known as Golden Hornet, a hybrid of uncertain parentage.


Malus 'Golden Hornet' (probably). Stefen Hill Pocket park.
19 April, 2020


I was very surprised to find an unfamiliar insect in my net after sweeping some unpromising-looking grass. It looked like a stonefly but beyond that I had no idea. These insects, members of the order Plecoptera, are water-dwellers in their nymphal stage and, as we only have one small pool in the pocket park I was not convinced that it was a stonefly at all. There are no modern identification keys on line but eventually I managed to download on old monograph published by the Royal Entomological Society way back in 1950. It came up with an answer - Nemoura cinerea. Beside a river or large lake this would have not been a surprise, but here...! Anyway, it brought the pocket park total up to 294 species. Should be 300 by the end of the month.
A stonefly, Nemoura cinerea, was a surprise. Photograph via
Wikipedia

To achieve this target I may employ my umbrella. Last year I used it from time to time but I ought to make more use of it. One sharp tap is all it needs. The method is of little use for flies but can be very productive for bugs and beetles.





Here is me using my umbrella to catch insects in the
pocket park last year





Woad

Where to start! Having recently (13th April) completed a blog about Green Alkanet, another dye plant of almost mythical status calls for attention. I refer to Woad, Isatis tinctoria. We have one precious plant, bought for us by our friends Lynda and Damien Moran.


Our woad plant, just coming into flower. 13 April, 2020


Although infrequently seen it was once widely grown as a crop, with small-scale cultivation continuing into the 20th Century, the last recorded crop apparently being in Lincolnshire in 1932. It was grown, of course, as a dye-plant, until indigo became readily available and replaced it. Robin Hood famously wore Lincoln Green clothes, with the colour being derived from woad and Dyer's Mignonette, Reseda luteola, providing the blue and the yellow respectively to create the green. (Dyer's Mignonette is not uncommon in the Daventry area and grows plentifully around Boddington Reservoir.)
 
The Roman name for woad was isatica but another interesting old name was glastrum. Both woad and glastrum are components of English place-names, indicating where the crop was grown, thus we have Odell in Bedfordshire (originally woad-hill) and Woodhill in Wiltshire (originally wad-hill or woad hill). Glastonbury in Somerset was 'the place where woad (glastrum) grows'. It is native to arid regions from the Caucasus across to Eastern Siberia but has been cultivated since ancient times. In Northamptonshire a colony seems to have become established near Oundle during the 1970-1980's but has apparently died out.




For people of my generation we learned at school that pre-Roman Britons used the blue  dye from woad to paint their bodies. The Pictish people too appear to have used various pigments including woad for body painting. In 1984 Givenchy introduced a perfume which they called Ysatis. Their website is rather coy about the word's derivation but I suspect that Isatis tinctoria was involved somewhere!
This 16th century painting of a Pict, now in the British Museum may be famous,
but the artist could have had no idea of the true nature of body paint.



Woad is related to the cabbage, and the petals on the yellow flowers have the familiar cruciform arrangement of the family. 
Woad is certainly not grown for its less-than-impressive flowers.
Our garden, 19 April, 2020

I confess it is not the prettiest of plants, its yellow flowers being only small, but I hope to obtain enough seed later in the year to create a small patch.






Thursday, 16 April 2020

Covid limitations

For a month now I have restricted myself to visiting just two locations, Stefen Hill Pocket Park and Foxhill Farm. The total number of invertebrate species recorded for these sites currently stands at 292 for the pocket park and 510 for Foxhill Farm. Stefen Hill Pocket Park is only a few hundred yards away but the farm is a longer walk, not a pleasant walk in anything but fine weather.


Some of the figures obtained have been interesting. I have recorded (number of species):


                                                    'Money spiders'   Beetles  Ladybirds    Hoverflies
      
            Stefen Hill Pocket Park                4                32           7                  23
            
            Foxhill Farm                               26              110          12                 33




Anyway, I yet again visited our pocket park earlier today. Once more there were many true bugs about, including the year's first Cinnamon Bug, Corizus hyoscyami. I failed to secure a decent photograph - annoying because it was by far the most colourful insect I saw all day.


I had more luck with a Brassica Bug, Eurydema oleracea. It comes with red, yellow or white markings and all three forms were seen today on Garlic Mustard but they do dash about and securing a decent picture was difficult.


Brassica bugs were common on Garlic Mustard. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
16 April, 2020 
Dock Bugs enjoy the sunshine and were noted in several places today, but oddly enough none was seen on dock even though plenty of plants were about.

This dock bug was nowhere near a dock plant.. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
16 April, 2020


But the commonest of all were Sloe Bugs. They were on plants ranging from garlic mustard to grasses and I have never found them so abundant. Their black and white banded antennae makes these pretty bugs easy to identify.

Sloe bug on garlic mustard. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
16 April, 2020

Ash trees are at the stage where their fruits are just beginning to develop. They will eventually form the familiar bunches of 'keys'.

The 'keys' on ash trees were just beginning to develop.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 16 April, 2020
Hawthorns were also developing but were at an even earlier stage. The flower buds of Common Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna, were looking like tiny white spheres.

The flowers of common hawthorn were yet to open...

A short distance away Midland Hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata, was growing, its flowers slightly more advanced. I leaned forwards for a sniff and yes, a rank smell of stale fish assaulted my nostrils. When the Common Hawthorn flowers it will be altogether more pleasantly fragrant.

...but those of midland hawthorn were more advanced, releasing a smell of
stale fish. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 16 April, 2020
I got home to find, yes, more sloe bugs, this time on a dwarf conifer in our front garden.










Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Stefen Hill on a lazy day

Today has been fine, sunny and windless. I ought to have walked to Foxhill Farm but, lazily, I only went as far as our nearby pocket park.


The warm sun had brought out further butterflies and today tortoiseshells, peacocks and orange tips were joined by a Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria.


Speckled Wood in Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
14April, 2020
Stefen Hill Pocket Park is not the place to visit if you are seeking spectacular flowers or bizarre insects (although some of the insects have remarkable life-styles) so a visitor must be content with common, often mundane, species. Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum, is to be found in parks, gardens, hedgerows and waste ground everywhere, and is generally ignored. And yet the flowers, even as shown in this disappointing photograph, are very attractive. However, not only are they small but the glandular leaves and stems give off a disagreeable smell when brushed against. The plant has been rubbed on the body to repel mosquitoes. (M. Harley, Ref 1)

Herb Robert. Worth a closer look.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park,  Daventry. 14 April, 2020
Keck or Cow Parsley, is now coming into flower. Like Herb Robert it does not often receive attention, and yet the flowers are interesting. They are borne in umbels and it is an ultra-urbanised person who is not familiar with them.

Most people must be familiar with the umbels of Cow Parsley.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park. 14 April, 2020
Examined more closely it will be seen that the tiny white flowers are zygomorphic, with four smaller petals and a larger petal facing the edge of the umbel. The flowers are fragile and, as my second photograph shows, some petals are easily lost. It is no surprise that such a widespread plant should have a variety of vernacular names. Keck is probably the commonest of these, with Queen Anne's Lace close behind. Apparently Mother Die is also a widespread name, children being warned, 'If you dig that up your mother will die'. (Quoted by Richard Mabey, Ref 2)

But not everyone takes a closer look.
A considerable number of insects were on the wing, with Dark-edged Bee Flies, Bombylius major, being as abundant as ever I can recall. Despite their appearance they are not bees, although their larvae are parasites of certain bees, mainly mining bees. (Stubbs and Drake, Ref 3)


Dark-edged Bee Flies have been abundant this year.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 14 April, 2020
Also very common were species of Eristalis, and these are true bee mimics. By far the commonest of the genus today was Eristalis pertinax, easily recognised by the yellow ends to the front legs. They frequently hover motionless at about head-height, in woodland clearings, over footpaths, etc.



Eristalis pertinax is among the commonest of the Eristalis species. This is
a female. Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 14 April, 2020
As I was saying, no spectacular flowers or bizarre insects, but in these difficult days we must take what is on offer.


References

1. Harley, Madelaine (2016)  Wonderful Weeds  Papadakis Publisher

2. Mabey, Richard (1997)  Flora Britannica  Chatto and Windus

3.  Stubbs, Alan and Drake, Martin (2001) British Soldierflies and their Allies  British Entomological and Natural History Society