Above: Brindled green caterpillar © David Hall

Leader Alvan White

A small group attended this meet under grey skies. Photographs were distributed showing the target, the distinctive female Red tailed mason bee (Osmia bicolor). The female bees camouflage their snail shell nests with stems and twigs and have been observed in flight with them, prompting an unofficial name as the Broomstick bee.The lifecycle is described here: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/invertebrates/bees-and-wasps/red-tailed-mason-bee

Female Red Tailed Mining Bee Osmia bicolour (archive photo) © Alvan White

Snout fly Rhingia campestris © Derek Walker

Disappointingly none of these bees were observed on the day. However, the day before in bright sunshine, I had seen several of them. All seemed to be on a line, virtually at a consistent height, across the slope of the John Presland Reserve. Bumble Bees were few but included the Early bumble bee and the Common carder.

There were plenty of charismatic fly species found and these included the Snout fly AKA the Heineken fly (Rhingia campestris), a Dagger or Dance fly sp (likely Empis tessellata), Narcissus bulb fly (Merodon equestris) and the very hairy black St. Mark’s fly or Hawthorn fly (Bibio marci).

Umbellifer longhorn Phytoecia cylindrica © Derek Walker

St Marks fly Bibio marci © Derek Walker

Beetles included an Umbellifer longhorn (Phytoecia cylindrica). The previous day a striking Cream streaked ladybird (Harmonia quadripunctata ) was found on flowering Hedge Parsley.

It was ironic in that substantially more time was spent on the Avon Park fields (APF) than the John Presland Rerve (JPR). The former produced many invertebrate species. Yet the richness in botanical terms between the Avon Park fields (APF) and the John Presland Rerve (JPR) was noticeable. The former containing a limited number of plant species, yet the latter showing a rich diversity.

APF did produce an interesting Caper spurge AKA as the Mole Plant (Euphorbia lathyris) a poisonous plant originating in Southern Europe. The plant has a reputation for repelling moles (Flora Britannica, Richard Mabey).

Cream streaked ladybird Harmonia quadripunctata © Alvan White

Caper spurge Euphorbia lathyris © Alvan White

Also noticeable was the thick spreads of low growing Rose of Sharon and Winter Heliotrope on the sides of the APK fields.

JPR amongst other species produced Common Grommet, Horse shoe vetch (food plant for both Chalkhill Blue and Adonis Blue), Common Valerian, and Rock Rose (one food plant for Brown Argus).

Eagle eyes on JPR found a Burnet moth caterpiller, and a Brindled green caterpiller on APF. This added to the two day-flying moths I found the day before, an exquisitely marked Silver ground carpet and Common carpet.

Narcissus bulb fly Merodon equestris © Alvan White

Burnet moth caterpillar © David Hall

Birds were not in abundence and it was noticeable that no twittering Swallows were overhead. Additionally Winsley was still awaiting the arrival of their Swifts. However a gliding Red Kite was seen over APK. Mistle thushes were seen and heard on both days.

An enjoyable meeting, with excellent participation by attendees.

Alvan White