30th May 2014

I haven’t heard a Cuckoo this year but I have seen a Cuckoo Bee or two and here is a dramatic-looking one, called Nomada Flava. You may’ve seen the Bee Fly (featured on this blog on 14th April) on Springwatch last night with wonderful footage of it flinging its eggs into a Bumble Bee nest while still in flight. The Nomada is another insect which, like it’s `cuckoo name-sake, lays its eggs in Bumble Bee nests, and this one turned up a while ago in our garden. I couldn’t identify it myself so I submitted it to the wonderful http://www.ispotnature.org site, an initiative of the OpenScience Laboratory, supported by the Open University, and an expert identified it for me! Anyone can submit a photo and you can see all the other species people have uploaded, either as a record or, as I did, to get help with identification. Cuckoo Bees (there are several species in Britain) locate a genuine Bumble Bee’s nest, it is thought by scent, and then either kill the Queen and lay their eggs in the nest, or lay their eggs and the larvae hatch and kill the queen, eating the pollen stores and larvae of the host Bees. Though this sort looks a bit sinister, they don’t sting humans.  Continuing the Cuckoo theme, many plants in the garden are hosting Cuckoo Spit at present. This has nothing to do with Cuckoos, except that it turns up during Cuckoo season, but is the protective bubbles excreted by Frog Hopper larvae. Frog Hoppers (more of these when the adults emerge) lay eggs into plant stems in late summer causing little damage to the host plant. The larvae hatch in spring, insert their syringe-like mouth-parts into the plant and excrete the sap, mixed with air bubbles through a special valve in its abdomen which acts like bellows! The ‘Spit’ protects from predation, maintains its temperature and stops the larva from drying out, until the Frog Hopper adult emerges.

'Cuckoo Spit' appears on many plant stems at this time of year.

‘Cuckoo Spit’ appears on many plant stems at this time of year.

 Conditions: A dry day! Cloudy but still, no rain here all day! Temperature: Max 15- Min 11 C

Cuckoo Bee, Nomada Flava, in the garden.

Cuckoo Bee, Nomada Flava, in the garden.

 

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2 thoughts on “30th May 2014

  1. Hi Penny, Cuckoo is alive and well in the North West of Scotland. In the last wee while we have been right up the North West coast and there were cuckoos everywhere we went. Sadly the sea eagle did not put on a performance for us this time. Alison tells me Inverewe Gardens were splendid as always. Cheers, Raymond

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