Friday, 7 March 2014

Things are hotting up!

Hello dear readers, hope all is good in your world. Well the blossom is coming out on the trees, crocus' are springing up on lawns everywhere and it would seem spring is beginning to spring. It seems quite weird though considering that we really haven't had a winter full of ice and snow.

Some sad news

Alas dear readers, queen Helen is no more. She started to behave rather oddly and in the end died. I would fathom a guess that she had been parasitised, which sometimes happens with all insects. In the case of bumbles, there's a type of worm that grows inside them and it gets to the point where all of a sudden the bee can't fly or do anything. Sad I know, but fear not..

Some good news

I have not one, but two new queens that I caught over the local park and they have settled down nicely to start (I hope) building a nest. Again, they are both Buff-tail's (Bombus terrestris) and I have observed them sitting tight on the little cups of pollen filled wax that I have provided them.

Last years collected pollen being transferred to beeswax cups.
Unfortunately, I don't have much of them on video except for this little bit here which shows one of the queens paying much interest in the pollen cups.


Of course, it isn't only pollen they need, they also need nectar which comes in the form of a sugar syrup mixed 2 part water:1 part sugar (by weight) and placed in the box. I've also added a couple of drops of lemoingrass oil in the box, which is supposed to help them adopt the box as a nesting site. This along with an old blue tit nest I had all helps.

Lets hope so anyway, because if this fails, I don't think I'll be trying again this year. I don't really want to harm anymore queens than I have to, bees have it pretty hard enough as it is, without me killing them off on failed experiments.

I will keep you posted as to their developments.

New toy!

Yes, I got a new toy in the shape of a Bushnell HD Trophy Cam. A trail camera used for recording the wildlife that's loitering about when you're not loitering about. Not only does it take photos day and night, but it also captures video footage too. I'm still in the trying it out mode at the moment and I placed it out where I recently had the footprint trap sited. I sprinkled some peanuts about and set the camera to do it's thing, this is just one piece of footage it captured:


Like I said, I'm still playing with the various settings and in the above video, I had set the infra-red flash to high, leading to over exposure during the night shots. Still, over the images collected, I have found that there are 3 adults and 2 juveniles nesting in the vicinity. Maybe I should catch a couple and tag them with a GPS tracker like the cuckoo's the BTO have tagged. But that's another project.

All night long the mice came back to the nuts until this last shot in the morning that caught this little fellow looking for more:


It surprises me really, because the camera also filmed 5 different cats using this area as a cut through, yet not one of the cats was my cat, who was caught later on in the week doing this:

video

Maybe one of the reasons we have mice at the bottom of our garden, as our cat is more interested in a bit of sun worshipping than pesky mice. However, I'm not complaining.

Things are hotting up!

Yes, you can't fail to have noticed how glorious and spring like the weather in the east of the country has been of late. In the past week, I've managed to record at least 7 bumblebees to the iRecord site. This really is a great site to record all the things you see whilst you're out and about. It also keeps a tally of what you record and where, with lots of graphs and info too. All the info submitted is forwarded on to your local Biological Recording Centres so there's no need to do that at the end of the year. 

Here's just a couple of queens I found in my front patch by the drive when I came home this week. I also saw what I thought was a mining bee, but it was far too quick for me and was off before I could nab a photo.
Bombus hypnorum The Tree Bumblebee

Bombus terrestris The Buff-tail Bumblebee
I even saw my first Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) of the year in my garden and as it's been so nice, I thought I'd fire up the MK2 moth trap to see what she would catch. I placed her in the middle of the garden and plugged her in and left her to it. A couple of hours later, I thought I'd just pop outside to check what was happening moth wise. The evening was lovely with a slight chill in the air, a clear sky with no wind and a subtle hint of burning plastic. A couple of moths fluttered.... BURNING PLASTIC!!!! I looked down at the moth trap electric ballast box and sure enough, appearing on the lid of the box was a brown square which was very hot to the touch! I run to the plug and pulled it out, everything went dark and with a lingering smell of burning plastic filling my nostrils, I grabbed my tools and opened the electric ballast box.

Hot, too hot.
So all I could do was leave the box to cool down, remove what moths it had captured and then come back to it later to cover it up .

In those couple of hours though, it managed to capture 5 moths.

Yellow Horned (Achlya flavicornis)

Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)

Common Quaker (O cerasi)
It also caught a Chestnut and a Hebrew Character which I've already shown on  here before.

The next day saw me examining the box to see what had gone wrong and it seems to have been a design fault by the maker of the lighting system. The ballast gets quite hot whilst in operation and this heat had transferred to the plate which was screwed to the casing of the box. This in turn heated up the screw which melted the plastic it was screwed in to, which caused the unit to come loose and fall against the casing of the box. I have emailed the maker to let them know of this flaw and have also replaced the box and made some minor modifications to help stop this from happening again. Needless to say, I ran the trap again last night and everything performed as it should, so much so, that trapped 23 moths last night of 5 species, including this little beauty:

Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea)
Well that's about it for now, but lets hope the weather continues on its glorious warming trend and brings on the insects.

Till next time dear readers, keep safe, keep smiling.

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