The Great British Bee Count is underway again between now and the end of June. It is easy to download the free app from Friends of the Earth and you can record as often as you like and from wherever you like- garden, park, walk, work or school grounds etc. Here are a couple of the easier Bumble Bees to identify, but there is a guide to help you on the app: The Red-tailed Bumblebee and the Tree Bumblebee in our garden in Sheffield. I won’t be near wi-
Red Tailed Bumblebee
fi much over the next couple of weeks so there won’t be much blog activity, but then it should resume as usual. Conditions: Continuing the recent days of blue sky. Temperature: Max 18 Min 7 C.
Shield Bugs- one of the easier insects to identify because the name fits their armoured body and shape
. This is a common Shield Bug of woodland edges and hedgerows, and gardens: the Sloe Bug, one of 6,500 Shield Bugs world-wide. The adults hibernate and emerge from undergrowth in spring, grazing on leaves and plant sap, flowers and fruit, not just Sloes. The damage isn’t extensive and I find them easy to tolerate in the garden, and interesting to watch. This is a good time of year to see them, as they are out feeding and at their brightest colouring. Conditions: Another beautiful, blue-skied day. Temperature: Max 21 Min 11 C.
The Dunnock: Previously the Hedge Sparrow, it is an Accentor, not a Sparrow. The Dunnock is often inconspicuous, feeding on insects, worms etc on the ground and
flying low, so now is a good time to get to know it, as it sings it’s attractive song from posts or shrubs. Whilst some male Dunnocks are monogamous, others behave unusually in their bid to fertilise as many females in their territory as possible and can even be seen pecking the sperm of other males from the cloaca of a female. Young in the same nest have been found to have been fertilised by different males. Conditions: Cool, sunshine and showers. Temperature: Max 10 Min 3c.
Some colonies of Lichen are over 8,000 years old and we have at least 1,700 species in the UK, so the British Lichen Society’s ‘Next Steps Project’ which aims at helping the non-plussed like me to identify common species is really worth logging onto. I think these, from Coed Lletywalter, are from the Peltigera (leafy) and Parmelia family. A symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae, Lichens extract water and nutrients from the air, which is why they are a good indicator of air quality– in this NW Wales ancient wood they proliferate on bark, stone and ground. Conditions: Plenty of sun with a cool breeze. Temperature: Max 14 Min 9C.
Peltigera (leafy) type Lichen
Peltigera (leafy) type lichen
Parmelia type Lichen
Buff-tailed Bumblebees are pretty widespread and common and one of the first Queen Bees (only Queen Bumblebees survive winter) to be out, foraging and searching for new nests. Here in Wales they are feeding on Bilberry flowers, and Heather. The photo’s on Heather show Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees carrying many mites. Although Verroa mites damage Honey Bees, the mites on Bumblebees rarely cause any harm or spread disease, and they often hitch a ride on Queen Bees as they search for new nest-sites, after feeding over winter on old wax in last years nest. Conditions: Deep mist all day in Harlech. Temperature: Max 9 Min 6C.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee, Bilberry
Buff-tailed Bumblebee with harmless mites hitching a lift
Buff-tailed Bumblebee, with mites hitching a lift
Wood Sorrel- the first of the season for me, a favourite plant of damp woods, like Coed Lletywalter where we walked this morning. Its bright green trefoil leaves open in bright light and the white flowers have beautiful mauve veins. Out from around Easter, giving it its common name ‘Alleluia’,( among other common names, including Laverocks) the bruised, fresh leaves were once applied to cuts and bruises but I always loved, as a child, eating them as I played in our local woods. The oxalic acid, tasting like lemon juice, quenched my thirst. I read that Native Americans used it the same way! Conditions: Sun before high cloud. Temperature: Max 11 Min 7C.
I can’t leave March without featuring the wonderful harbinger of spring, the Primrose, several plants of which I have recently transplanted from my garden to mum’s grave, as it was her favourite too. Shakespeare refers to the Primrose in Macbeth and here, in Hamlet with Ophelia responds pointedly to her brother Laertes lectures thus: “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, Whiles, liked a puffed up libertine, Himself the primrose path to dalliance treads, And recks not his own rede”. In those days the ‘primrose path’ was seen as a path to destruction. Conditions: Sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 9 Min 4.