Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The birds and the bees.

Hello dear readers, I hope you're all happy and well. I have exciting news. Last time I left you with the news that Patty Blue, the resident blue tit, had started laying eggs, 3 in fact. Well I can now inform you that she has laid 9, possibly 10 eggs!

9, possibly 10 eggs all waiting to hatch.
All week long she has left the eggs unattended each and every day only to return at about 7pm each night to sit on them. Yet even then, she seems to get little rest and is waking up every couple of minutes to shuffle about or tend the eggs.

Even more exciting though is the news that as of yesterday, she has actually started to spend long periods during the day to sit on the eggs! This can mean only one thing, the eggs will soon be hatching!

So, watch this space, or subscribe to my YouTube channel and I will hopefully post footage as and when the exciting stuff starts to happen.

In other news

For those of you living in and around Lowestoft, a friend of mine reported yesterday (8th April) of seeing a pod of Porpoises around the end of the pier. So might be worth taking a look if your down that way.

Also reported being sighted was Swallows over Beccles as well as some other parts of the country. Looks like summer is on its way at last.

I recorded my first bat of the year over my garden too, a lonely common pip (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) passing over the garden one night. So it won't be long before everything gets in full swing we hope.

Mini-muncher news

All eggs have now hatched and they are happily consuming apple and pear leaves at an alarming rate. So much so, that since they hatched measuring ~2mm long, they are now ~8mm long in just 1 week and have already gone through their first instar. 

For those who do not know what an instar is, it's a point where an insect sheds it skin to enable it to grow. Some insects such as fleas have only 3 instars, yet some mayflies can have up to 40 instars. Emperors have around 7-8 instars (I think).

Raising these moths over the last year has allowed me to create what I like to think as an educational tool. As you may know, I work as an Education and Events Volunteer for Suffolk Wildlife Trust attend various events around the county. I know from experience kids love to see live creatures, but I also remember the WOW factor I got as a kid seeing all those pinned insects at the Natural History Museum in London many, many years ago. This year at a couple of events I'm attending, I hope to be taking along some of the caterpillars along with this:

The life cycle of the Emperor moth.
Using some of the old egg cases, cocoons, one of the male moths who died without extending his wings and a purchased female Emperor moth I created this display case to show the lifecycle of the moth. Lets hope the kids like it.

As for the min-munchers, there is still a way to go and as usual, I will keep you posted on all the developments.

Not all bees have stripes!

Yes, many of us have always considered bees to be black and yellow striped things that happily buzz along from flower to flower on long sunny days. However, this isn't always the case and whilst out walking on the heath one day, I came across such a bee in its death throws on the sandy soil. At first, I thought it was a mining bee, which are common on the heath and spend their time digging holes in the sand to lay their eggs. But as I was to find out this wasn't the case.

Like I said, the poor thing was in its death throws, unable to fly and just waving it legs in the air doing the dying fly dance. Once home I humanely helped the little (only 8mm long) fellow on its way and then set down to pinning it out for my collection. Whilst it was pinned I thought I would have a go at ID'ing it and wrongly (as I found out) ID'd it as and Andrena species. Thankfully, the wonderful, more experienced people on Facebook and the Hymenoptera recorder on iRecord said it looked more like a species of Sphecodes. These are a parasitic bee known as cuckoo bees because they lay there eggs in other bees nests. This species parasitises mining bees and the specimen I had found was a female, so it's possibly, this female got caught in the nest of a mining bee and was dispatched by the host. 

These Sphecodes are not easy to ID, but thankfully, Stuart Roberts of Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society was kind enough to send me a key on Sphecodes and it turns out my little specimen is a Sphecodes monilicornis. This is a common species that parasitises mining bees of the species Lasioglossum fulvicorne and L fratellum. So it's likely by just finding this one specimen, I now know that one or both of the said mining bee are also present on the site.

S monilicornis a parasitic bee.
Also another first for the year was not one, but two different species of hoverfly. Again, social media came to the rescue when I had trouble ID'ing this little fellow, but Roger Morris, Hoverfly recorder set me straight with this Eristalis pertinax

E pertinax sitting happily on my finger.

Imagine having hairy eyes!
Remember, they may look like bees, they may sound like bees, but they are NOT bees. In fact, as their name suggests, they're flies and will not harm you in anyway whatsoever. Some do have little territories they like to patrol and if you stroll into these they will come up to you and check you out, but they won't harm you.

That's about all this time, got lots to do. But till... hold up. I was just about to sign off when I caught this for the first time on the bird cam. 

This is a REALLY good sign as it shows the male is good at providing for the family.

So, as I was about to say, till next time, keep safe, keep smiling.


  1. Emperor moth Life-Cycle will be great for people to see (not just children!)

    1. Thanks Helen, might take it to Rendlesham this week :)