Ecosystems

It was a fantastic start to the morning. I’ve managed to somehow avoid ever seeing a Black Tern on the Exe estuary, despite them being annual and having spent a considerable amount of time looking over the water. For some reason it’s been a bogey-bird for me. So a week or more ago, when my good friend Matt found White Winged Black Tern – only Devon’s 15th record ever – I became one of the few birders to have this rarity on my life list before Black Tern! This morning however the world was restored to normality as two BTs appeared off the seafront and I could confirm my tick. But much better than that, for a good hour all three birds were feeding near each other and on occasions we had all of them together in the same scope view – a truly amazing sight and a once in a life-time opportunity for an inexperienced birder like me to compare these potential confusion species side-by-side and to see how they interact with their environment.

Matt’s notes do more justice to this comparison than I can here and I consider myself lucky, as always, to know someone so expert who can put me on to these birds. Such expertise  is built up over many years and ‘finding’ birds isn’t by chance. Partly it’s time; time spent watching, searching, being there in case. But it’s also about knowing how the world of birds works; what should be where and when; what could be here; how tides and winds and rain might bring in birds, or drive them under cover. It’s about being at home in the natural world and having a feel for things – understanding the ‘jizz’.

All this set me thinking about ‘ecosystems’. The derivative ‘eco’ permeates our culture, as a short-hand for anything ‘good and green’, but this tends to over-simplify the meaning. The word is derived from the Greek oikos meaning home/family. Literally, understanding the system by which home/family is established. This feels just right in describing birding and mothing because it’s more than just knowing about things. Fundamentally it’s about understanding how things come to be ‘at home’ in their environment, and how the environment provides a space to make this home; how species and physical environment fit together, and how we can be part of it all too.

This morning’s activity illustrated the idea perfectly. Both species are ‘marsh terns’ rather than sea terns, meaning that they are more at home feeding on lakes, still waters in estuaries and so on. Rather than diving for fish they surface feed, fluttering and twisting over the water looking for insects and other life at or near the surface. Breeding in Eastern and Southern Europe, they are migratory in the UK (bar a few occasional pairs) and so the fact that they have made their temporary home in Exmouth relies on finding enough food to keep them here for a week or two. The exact diet I can’t say, but perhaps it included these insects, this one found (with a damaged wing) on the coast path  as we scoured Orcombe Point for other migrants.

I’m keen on hoverflies, though still a complete novice, but some ID work at home revealed this is as Scaeva pyrastri (Pied Hoverfly). It’s relatively easy to ID with the key features shown below, namely …

Hairs on the eyes – visible below as a yellow/white blush on the eye surface.

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Protruding space between the eyes, with bulbous antennae:

And of course the characteristic white ‘comma’ marks on the abdomen.

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Ball and Morris (2015) state that it’s a migrant, like the terns, arriving in large numbers in some years in July and August, and occasionally breeding too. I don’t want to draw too strong, or unwarranted, connections between Black Terns and Pied Hoverflies, but in general terms these connections between species are everywhere and crucial to survival – the ‘system’ of being at home.

However, to a casual observer, or even a careful one who only looks at one animal/plant group, they may not be apparent. Earlier this week I came across an article in the Journal of Insect Conservation and Diversity (one of the perks of working in a university is access to all sorts of this weird stuff!). It reports on the manner in which ‘Livestock grazing disrupts plant–insect interactions on salt marshes’. You can see the abstract here, but in essence it describes a study of grazing densities (number of sheep per hectare) on a German saltmarsh and the effect on both plants and insects. In a nutshell it finds that increasing the density of sheep has limited effect on plant species composition – there still plenty of plants of different sorts and though grasses tend to dominate, other species readily survive the grazing impact. If you are only interested in plants then you might think all is ok … but look at the composition of moths (as the study did) which are making use of these plants and you find that increased grazing has a significant effect on decreasing moths species. It turns out that it’s not the number and variety of plants that seems to matter for moth survival, it’s the way insect-plant interactions work, and how they are disrupted by grazing animals. Unless you are a specialist grass moth, like this Chrysoteuchia culmella, say, then grazing stops you interacting with the species of plants you rely on, even though they are still there.

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It’s an ecosystem in action – a network of ways in which species can, or cannot, be ‘at home’ – and anyone interested in birds should take note since lots of reserves are based around marshland and grazed: think Exminster, Topsham, Slimbridge etc. Lots of cattle or sheep and the plants are fine … but the interactions between plants and moths (and hoverflies) are reduced … and terns feed on moths and hoverflies …

One thing I take from all this is the importance of being interested in different animals/plant groups – pan-interest, if you like – but also the difficulty of seeing ecosystems in action. It’s always easier to see ‘things’ than connections between things, and even harder to see the absence of things! I can see the terns (finally!), I can see the hoverflies and I can see the plants, but seeing a decline in interactions between them is challenging. So after a great start to the day it also ended well as I noted on Twitter that  the National Moth Recording Scheme, made up of data from amateur recorders like me, has just today had its 24 millionth macro moth entry logged. Big data sets make for good analysis and absence is always easier to see on the grand scale. I like to think my 2000+records to date are making a difference.

 

Reference:

Ball S and Morris R. (2015) Britain’s Hoverflies: A Field Guide: Princeton University Press.

Hoverfly

One of the things I’ve found since getting into moths and other insects is that my office at home tends to be littered with specimens, some alive and well awaiting identification and release, others that have perished and been collected since. One or two live moths find their way into the fridge too, a means of calming them down, but slightly alarming for the family. I try not to harm anything that I catch but I can’t claim that I haven’t had the odd accident and one such tragedy resulted in this Hoverfly becoming amenable for ID.



Fortunately, if my ID is correct, it’s Myathropa florea, one of the Eristalini family and a common species meaning that one accident won’t harm the population! I’ll take you through the ID process using the excellent guide by Ball and Morris that I’ve talked about in previous posts.

First, as you can see in the second of the photos above, the head sits proud of the thorax, as it does with most hoverfly tribes but crucially eliminating the big Syphini tribe.

Second, examining the wing veins shows two important features. The R4+5 vein shows a strong loop (the blue circle below) indicating it’s a member of the Eristalini (though one just needs to eliminate Merodon equestris, which is a bee mimic and quite different). I’ll return to the second feature in the yellow circle below.  


Eristalini is also a biggish tribe but fortunately splits into two groups – bee mimics and others. Of the latter M. florea has particular characteristics which allowed me to pick it out (I think!). First, the general colouring is of a wasp mimic, albeit not a convincing one.


More characteristically the thorax is described as being split by a yellow line with the rear portion of black making a ‘Batman’ shape.


It’s indistinct here – as Ball and Morris say it can be – and the poor photo doesn’t help, but I think one can pick it out, marked up here in the same photo.


Second, the guide notes that veins R1 and R2+3 reach the wing margin separately and this is clearly the case here – see the yellow circle in the photo of wing detail above.

I hope this gives you a sense of the ID journey. As they note in their book, hoverflies are hard to do but rewarding. I love their details – shown by the face here and the eyes which meet at the top, indicating it is a male.


A challenge for sure, but a good one.

 

Coda: thanks to Matt for holding onto this Bloxworth Snout which he trapped yesterday morning. Always great to see a new moth – my 366th species since I starting trapping on October 10th 2015.

Bloxworth Snout

Recent Micros

Even though the weather has been wetter and cooler than in the early summer I’ve had a good number of interesting micros in the trap – in addition to the usual macros too.

Perhaps the best of the bunch was this Cosmopterix pulchrimella. 

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I’m pleased to trap this as it was only first recorded in the UK in 2001, in Dorset, and is still reasonably uncommon – just 10 records in Devon last year, all from the southern vice-county where it seems to like the coastal locations. It appears to be spreading north from continental Europe along with four other similar species from the same genus – C. scribaiella, C. orichalcea, C. zieglerella and C. lienigiella.

At just 5mm (FL) it didn’t stand out too readily, but alongside it was an even smaller micro: Cameraria ohridella – Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner.

 

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Cameraria ohridella

This one is much more common than C. pulchrimella but still new to my garden. At no more than 4mm it was easy to miss despite the colouration.

Third came this new (for garden) species of Gracillariidae.  I always find these harder to ID than I think I should, but I’m confident that this one is Gracillaria syringella.

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Gracillaria syringella

I love this group, not least because of the way they stand which always make me think they are sitting up and taking notice somehow. It’s common, but new to me.

Next comes this Synaphe punctalis – with the rather lovely English name, Long-legged Tabby.

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It’s a moth restricted to the southern coast of the UK according to Waring et al, and favours chalky, sandy coastal areas. We are very much founded on clay in this area, but there is plenty of shingle on the nearby coast, so not a surprise to trap one.

Over the last few months I’ve trapped a number of the Yponomeuta (Ermine) moths, often associated with fruit. The commonest here has been Y. evonymella (Bird-cherry Ermine) but I’ve also had what I think is the greyer toned Y. padella (Orchard ermine). This one, below, I think might be Yponomeuta malinellus (Apple Ermine) because of the density of spots and the white/grey, two-toned nature of it … but I’m really not sure and textbooks say genitalia ID is necessary. It will have to go down as ‘Yponomeuta sp.’ …. but I would welcome thoughts on it.

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Finally, a few others that I’ve had before, but which are still of interest in some way.

I get a number of these Swammerdamia species. I think this is S. casiella, but again, I’m not sure at all.

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S. pyrella has a reddish/coppery tinge to the tips of the wings, more so than in this one I think, and Paraswammerdamia nebulella is darker.

Meanwhile, though I’ve not counted back, my sense is that I’ve had a lot less of the Eudonia/Scoparia species this year, meaning that I’ve not really got my eye in of them. This one is Scoparia ambigualis, I believe. [Edit: having looked again, I’m not sure about the size and think this is more likely to be S. pyralella.]

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I only trapped this once last year, on Bystock Common and not in the garden, so it’s a nice record, with several turning up over the last few days.

Finally, a regular visitor to the garden, but shown here because the two examples are so contrasting in the intensity of their patterning. It is Blastobasis adjustella and most of the ones I catch are like the example on the left – silvery grey with a weak pattern. When I caught the specimen on the right I didn’t recognise it because it was so freshly patterned.

The micros seem particularly sensitive to the temperature and with the cooler air of late they’ve not been coming in great numbers. Nonetheless, for someone still getting to grips with them this has provided the opportunity to spend time working them out – it’s a process that is challenging and satisfying in equal measure. All comments and corrections welcome of course!

 

Bee Safari

After a tip-off from Matt about some interesting bees on the Maer – an area of sandy grassland behind the shoreline on Exmouth beach – and seeing his blog, I popped down at lunchtime today to see what I could find. The bees were, literally, under your feet; or, more accurately, they were in nest burrows under your feet. The Maer has a series of sandy depressions – small sandpits dug out by weather and rabbits – and in every face were the holes of solitary bees.

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Once you see them they are everywhere, though I’ve been down there often enough and not noticed. I suspect that for an expert they hold a number of different bees, but the ones I picked out were these …

They are (I think) Silvery Leafcutter Bees (Megachile leachella) – females, judging by the double white hair patches on tergite 6 (below) and the silvery, white pollen brush under the abdomen.

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Alongside these Leafcutters, two others were burrowing. First, this bee with a red abdomen which I can’t identify – but perhaps one of the Blood Bees, Sphecodes pellucidus (Sandpit Blood Bee) maybe?

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Second, was the main thing I’d come down to try to find … though as I saw this head poking out of its burrow I didn’t know I’d found it.

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Each time I approached with the camera the head retreated, and then came out again once all was quiet. I assumed it was another bee, however it wasn’t long before a colleague appeared in full view sporting the same yellow pattern on her face …

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This is the Beewolf –Philanthus triangulum – here a female with the reddish colour at the top of each leg and at the back of the head. It’s a wasp and preys on honey bees, stinging them in such a way that they are paralysed, though not immediately killed. Though the wasp itself feeds on nectar, the larvae are carnivorous, requiring the it to provide other insects to feed on. Its solution is to stock each of the nest holes it makes – side alleys off its main burrow and up to 30 of them – with a paralysed honeybee in which it has laid eggs. As these hatch the larvae eat the bee; a gruesome, but effective solution. Once I’d seen one so others appeared and in fact despite being nationally pretty uncommon, the Maer is clearly holding a reasonable number of them.

At the other side of the Maer, a different species of bee was also busy. Rather than horizontal holes in a sand wall, here there were a set of 30-40 little mounds of sand, like a lunar landscape. Around them, buzzing low over the ground, were these Pantaloon Bees – Dasypoda hirtipes.

It’s not hard to see the origin of the name, the females sporting ‘Pantaloons’ composed of exaggerated pollen brushes on the hind legs. It was quite a sight, with bees everywhere, heading into their holes laden with pollen and then reversing out, using their pollen brushes to sweep sand away. Though they are solitary, there is clearly some sort of social arrangement going on here too, with the holes neatly spaced out creating the sense of a well organised colony.

Just 30 mins wandering the Maer brought lots of things to see – at least five species of bee/wasp as well as plenty of butterflies on the wing. It was a beautiful day … and in the sunshine love was in the air in the form of these Gatekeepers which flew together, locked in a mating embrace.

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Gatekeepers

Happy days …

Bird-dropping Mimics

Every morning is like Christmas when I’m trapping moths; lifting and turning the egg boxes that line the trap, my heart quickening when something unfamiliar turns up – as it so often does. Nonetheless, as I catch more and more the regular visitors become increasingly familiar so that, whilst it’s still got a Yuletide feel to it, I’m beginning to feel like a teenager, not a six year-old!

As I get the hang of the macros, the micros have started to come into focus more. A few weeks ago I bought Clifton and Wheeler’s (2016) book on ‘Bird-dropping Tortrix Moths of the British Isles’, a short, but fantastic guide to this interesting group that live life in the camouflaged safety of a bird dropping! It’s obviously a strategy that nature has made work for them, for there are a good number of species that adopt the strategy – the book dealing with 65 of the most common ones. In this post I summarise where I’ve got to and revisit the species that I’ve managed to identify.

First, one of the more readily identifiable species, Acleris variegana – Garden Rose Tortrix. It’s identifiable by the ‘variegated’ colouring; white basal patch with brown-ish outer wings. There is a variable dark patch on some moths in the white area, such as the one on the right below:

As the name suggests, it’s a moth that like roses, but also other regular flowering plants in the average garden, including bramble etc.

If this first moth has made me sound confident, that’s about where it ends. From here on in I may sound like I am convinced (convincing?), but all IDs carry a ‘probably’ in front of them and, as ever, I’d be pleased to get corrections or alternative ideas.

Of the classic white/grey/dark moths, perhaps the next easiest I’ve found to be Pammene fasciana because of its diagonal pale cross line, starting at half-way on the dorsum and running down towards the apex. Here are two examples that I’m fairly confident on, showing differing mixtures of light and dark.

Also with a similar diagonal pale cross-line is Cydia splendana, but this is made less obvious by the paler basal colours – and the beautiful dark striped patterning on the ocellus (the patch in the middle of end of the wing). it can also have a dark form though, so my description here is somewhat limited. Thanks to Matt for trapping this one and letting me photograph it.

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Cydia splendana

The next moth, Spilonota ocellana, shows similar lined patterns in the ocellus, but the shape of the darker area at the basal end of the wing means that the pale area is almost triangular.

Spilonota ocellana

Lobesia abscisana shows a double cross-line, with a small dark dot on the inner edge of the outer line:

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Alongside these, I’ve trapped a number of other moths with the same sort of patterning of darker colours at the basal end and lighter at the outer end. Here are:

Hedya prunania (Plum Tortrix) …

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Hedya prunania

 and Gypsonoma dealbana … with a characteristic small black streak at about 2/3 wing length.

Gypsonoma dealbana

This example of G. dealbana (above) is separated from its close relative G. sociana by a creamy/off-white face (pure white in G. sociana) shown here, below, in one I caught today.

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There are a number of other sub-species/groups which the same kind of angled streaking on the costa. One such is the Notoceliae. Two species are shown here…

… Notocelia rosaecolana (I think … N. trimaculana is very similar, but with fewer, less angled streaks on the costa; and the costa on rosaecolana is evenly arched as shown in the specimen below).

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… and Notocelia cynosbatella, unmistakable because of the orangey-yellow palps which show clearly on the specimens I’ve caught.

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Notocelia cynosbatella

The next pair – and when I say pair, I’m talking about visual features, not species pairings – show warm, brown/orange tones:

These are, I believe, Eupoecilia angustana (left) and Eucosma campoliliana (right – and credit to Matt for trapping this), each showing a good deal of warm brown in a predominantly white base-colour. Similarly pale is this very characteristic Epinotia bilunana:

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Finally, as an addendum, a couple that are not in Clifton and Wheeler (2016) as a bird-dropping mimics, but to me fits the bill. I’m really not sure about the ID here, but I think that this first one is Pammene argyrana – two different specimens.

 

… and second, though not perhaps a classic bird-droppping moth, Zeiraphera isertana, not least because it’s such a beauty.

Zeiraphera isertana

To me, this is a fascinating group of species and another example of the way in which natural selection helps moths find a niche in their ecological surroundings. Finding camouflage as the faeces of one of your main enemies is pretty clever really.

 

Reference:

Clifton, J., & Wheeler, J. (2016). Bird-dropping Moths of the British Isles (2nd ed.). Dorchester: Dorset Press.

Recent trappings 

After various forays into bees and other insects, I’m coming back to moths and particularly on species that are new to the garden (NFG) or uncommon here in some way. The weather has been perfect for them – hot and still – bringing literally hundreds of moths to the trap. Certainly the families of sparrows and great tits in my garden are enjoying the pickings and have made me get up early if I want to find moths outside the trap.

Without anything earth-shattering there have been some lovely moths about. The night of 21st June brought two moths NFG: Obscure Wainscot and Beautiful Brocade.

 

Both are beautiful in their own way, the Brocade stunningly marbled and identifiable by the pale bars that run from leading edge almost to dorsum. Obscure Wainscot is equally beautiful, but in a more subtle way, the veins edged in black. I was delighted to get this because Matt had trapped it a mile away across Exmouth the night before, in perhaps a more promising place, his house backing onto the estuary and wilder ground. To find it here shows how mobile moths are.

The warm weather has coincided with an increase in the ‘Waves’. Riband Wave is numerous as ever, but this Mullein Wave was new on the 14th June.

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In the Noctuidae I love the arrival of the ‘Minors’. Marbled Minor, Rufous Minor and Tawny Marbled Minor are all hard to separate (though last year I dissected one to look at the genitalia), but Middle-barred Minor is clearer because of the ‘middle-bar’ clearly edged in white. Though I think I’ve had them before, this one was the first where I’ve been confident enough to move it out of the Minor Agg. category.

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It’s worth comparing it to some others from the aggregated category, such as these two, neither of which I feel confident about.

 

Immigrants have been few and far between, despite the promise of new arrivals on winds blowing up from the south. A few Silver Ys and the odd Rusty-dot Pearl have been around, but this Palpita Vitrealis arrived in the night of 23rd June – always welcome and a beautiful, ghost-like moth.

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Although it’s the size of a largish wave, such as Riband, it’s classified under the micros moths – though my understanding is that this is an arbitrary separation for the sake of convenience. In terms of the smaller micros, ever day brings new species, though not all are identifiable. Nonetheless, with the help of several recently purchased field guides, I managed to work out the following, all of which were new to me.

 

Clockwise, from top left, I reckon these are as follows:

  1. Pammene fasciana – the diagonal cream stripe making this bird-dropping mimic quite recognisable, I think.
  2. Epinotia bilunana
  3. Epinotia immundana
  4. Homoeosoma sinuella

The micros continue to fascinate me, not least because the challenge of id is so great. Last year I did a post of a favourite family of mine – the Scoparia/Eudonia. last year, I had five of the family, but a recent catch brought that to six with this lovely example of Scoparia basistrigalis:

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The weather has cooled a little, but is still set fair, so I’m hoping that the great mothing of the last week or two will continue. Trap set …

Bumbling along

I’ve been mulling over a post on bees for some time now. The Summer is finally here and with it more and more flowers are appearing, bringing out bees in force. Moths are tricky enough, but bees are harder to catch and photograph … and potentially have a sting in the tail. Steven Falk’s fabulous fieldguide (illustrations by Richard Lewington) points out that the male bees can be handled safely because they don’t sting, but I’m not yet confident enough to know the girls from the boys. Trial and error doesn’t appeal too much here!

The easiest group to start with have been the Bumblebees (Bombus). Large and visible, they make for relatively easy targets and I’m finding that, with a relatively limited number of species, I can use the visible markings to work them out in most cases – though I have purchased a transparent pot with a plunger to hold them for close inspection. In this post I’m concentrating exclusively on them, illustrating the ones I’ve found.

As with everything, understanding the cycle and rhythm of the year and how it links to behaviour helps enormously. As I understand it, the Queen appears first, waking from their hibernation and looking for good nesting sites. She has been fertiled the previous year by male bees, carrying the sperm in her abdomen, and once she’s developed a nest she lays fertilised eggs which become workers (females, but not royalty). These emerge to start work on foraging to continue to  support the nest, building nesting cells, stocking them with nectar and pollen and generally getting on with the housework. This is why they carry ‘pollen baskets’ – structures on their hind legs – often with lumps of pollen, mushed with moisture to stick the leg, and clearly visible on this female Hairy-footed Flower Bee (the only non-Bombus in this post), which was conveniently nesting in my in-laws Exmouth garden.

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Males don’t tend to appear until later in the year. These are from eggs that the queen did not fertilise with the sperm stored in her body. Once they have grown they leave the nest and await their task in life, which is to mate with new queens leaving old nests so that the cycle can start again. Because they don’t live in the nest they can apparently be found sheltering under flowers at night – though I’ve not yet seen this.

Whilst interesting, it also means that bees seen up until this time of year are very likely to be workers, the queens being in the nest and the males only just beginning to emerge. The default bee in the early part of the year is B. terrestris (Buff-tailed Bumblebee). They are the only species that can survive all year. Indeed, this queen – and they are enormous – pitched up in our bedroom on Dec 4th, 2015 having climbed in from the wisteria that hangs outside.

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You can clearly see the ‘buff’ tail and also the clean yellow bands which look neat and tidy. The workers, though patterned the same way, tend have a cleaner white tail, only tinged with buff at the point where it joins the black on the rest of the abdomen. I think this is an example … but I have to say at this point that I’m really on the edge of what I know here and so if I’ve got it wrong, someone can help me out.

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These Buff-tailed Bumbles are one of several that have the classic black body with yellow stripes. This also includes the Garden BB (B. hortorum) shown below.

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Note the yellow round the ‘middle’ of the bee is on both thorax and abdomen though, unlike the neat stripe of the Buff-tailed on abdomen only and also the white tail. This is where things get tricky though because despite their name the tails on the Buff-tailed workers are also white. What’s more there are melanic forms which lack the yellow stripes. My wife thinks I’m a changed man because I’ve suddenly become fond of visiting garden centres, but they harbour plenty of bees of course, including this melanic form of B. hortorum which you can compare with the worker above. (Worth noting that it could also be hypnorum, below, which can look similar.)

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After B. hortorum, the next ‘black and yellow’ Bombus is this one:

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It’s like a stocky, furrier version of B. terrestris and is B. pratorum – Early BB. Though is has the yellow stripes, they are less neat than B. Terrestris and, as the next photo shows, it has a lovely orangey tail.

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Early Bumblebee

As the name suggests, they are one of the first to appear and seem to love flowering fruit bushes, such as this raspberry, but also bramble. They are busy little things, hurriedly passing from flower to flower to find pollen and nectar. I spent a lovely hour or so with the camera trying to catch shots of them and spent long enough at a single bush to notice the way they pass over flowers that have been recently visited by other bees – chemical signals having been left behind which decay at the same rate as the flower refills its nectar vessel.

In addition to the ones above that I’ve had so far this year, I’ve had four other Bumblebees. Firstly, B. hypnorum – Tree BB.

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This is interesting because of its rate of spread. Falk and Lewington (2015: 388) report that it was:

added to the Bristish list in 2001 from a site in Wiltshire following a well-documented expansion in Europe. It has shown a remarkable rate of spread since then, appearing in almost every county of England and Wales and becoming fairly common in many suburban areas. It was discovered in Scotland in 2013 and had reached Mull by 2014.

Certainly, it’s appeared regularly in my garden and the surrounding area and is one of the regular visitors. Whilst distinctive, Falk notes that it can be confused with the other set of Bumbles with ginger thorax, the Carder bees. Below, I think, is Common Carder – B. pascuorum – and it shows the similarities.

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Also maintaining the ginger/red theme is the very distinctive Red-tailed Bumblebee – B. lapidarius. Most people will know this one because of the very distinctive jet black body and bright red tail of the queen/worker. Today, Matt and I saw two enormous Queens/workers on Bicton Common and they are quite a sight, but despite their size I couldn’t get a good photo with my iPhone so this one is a photo from 2015, of a male (note the yellow haired face).

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My final Bombus is B. vestalis – Vestal Cuckoo Bumblebee.

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I’ve posted about this before, so will not repeat it here, but it’s a parasitic, cuckoo to B. terrestris, penetrating the nest and laying its eggs in place of the host. It’s a cunning trick, and one that is obviously successful.

So, that’s my current gallery of Bombus bees. There are others that I stand a chance of getting locally I think – Brown-banded Carder (B. humilis) and Heath Bumblebee (B. jonellus) are possible. For most of the others I think I’ll need to travel further afield because they are local. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the search.