A Leaf Cutter Bee, American research has shown, carries out 20 times the pollination achieved by a honey bee. They are some of the 250 species of solitary bee that use cavities in the ground, wood, hollow stems and bee-nesting boxes to rear their young. They are fairly easy to spot as, having no pollen baskets in which to gather their pollen and nectar, they collect it all on the undersides of their body. They work hard over several weeks, to breed young they never see: finding suitable nesting holes, they cut semi-circular portions of leaves (you’ll have seen the neat holes in
Leafcutter Bee, and a tiny parasitic wasp
Leafcutter Bee, its underside holding collected pollen
Leafcutter Bee gathering pollen and nectar on its underside.
Leafcutter Bee carrying a piece of cut leaf to its nest.
leaves in your garden or park) and carry them, one at a time, under their bodies, (see photo) to line the hole, before laying an egg in each lined tube and stocking each with quantities of pollen and nectar. Finally, they cut a different shaped pice of leaf and seal each cell with it, using saliva as a glue. Conditions: Blue skies and hot sun. Temperature: Max 20- Min 9C..
Grass Snake– this very healthy looking adult Grass Snake, our largest native snake species and the only one to lay eggs, was doing what they tend to do in June- hunting newts in ponds, while newts are active at this time of year. Later they will hunt more in the damp grasslands they favour, searching for Frogs, Toads, mice etc. I was lucky to watch this one in Sussex this week, hunting Great Crested Newts- stealthily swimming through the pondweed, checking for scents with its forked tongue. Conditions: Sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 21 Min 15C.
Grass Snake hunting
Adult Grass Snake
The Yellow Water-lily is one of our native species, but less common than the white. The Yellow has considerably larger leaves, and the flower stands well out of the water, while its flask-shaped seed-pod, which gives it its common name ‘Brandy Flask’ or in past times ‘Can Dock’ (‘can’ in those days meaning a pottery vessel to hold liquids), contains air-bladders, allowing it to float off to colonise new waterways, before the air-pockets collapse and the seeds sink to germinate in the mud- bottome. In medieval France doctors warned patients that it was ‘the destroyer of pleasure and the poison of love’! Conditions: windy and cloudy, following showers. Temperature: Max 16 Min 14c.
Adult Blue Tit after raising young
The shevelled and the dishevelled: it always fascinates me to see the contrast, at this time of year, between the adult and juvenile Blue Tits. Exhausted and with feathers in a bad state of repair, ready for moult-time, the adults look diminished and ‘tatty’ after brooding and feeding a nest full of young, compared to the fluffed up and healthy, larger-looking juveniles, some of which are still demanding feeding. So here are some recent
Juvenile Blue Tit
photos showing the contrasts. Conditions : breezy, with some bright spells. Temperature: Max 21 Min 14C.
Chris Packham has been writing passionately today of the “apocalypse in our countryside”, where we see only a wealth of wildlife in our nature reserves and not in the countryside as a whole, where there is a dearth of insects, flowers, birds etc. We noticed the contrast on our recent two weeks in Ireland, where the wild flowers and insects were so like the density we grew up with in England, but no longer generally see. “Where’s the pink of Ragged Robin, the yellow of Flag Iris?” he asks. Here are samples of both from the beautiful masses in the west of Ireland last week. Conditions: Thunder, short showers and sunshine. Temperature: Max 21 Min 12C.
Yellow Flag Iris
Yellow Flag Iris
Young Blue Tits, paler and fluffier than the adult, are still singing, or more accurately calling for their supper in our garden, though most of the juvenile Tits are now able to feed themselves. May and June are such busy times for the adults that they encourage the young to feed independently as soon as they can. With broods of at least seven young to raise , research shows that, on average, only one adult and one juvenile Blue Tit survives to breed the following year. Conditions: Mist clearing to sunshine. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12 C
Adult feeding young Blue Tits