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More insects!

We are being bombarded with more insects! Check out this week’s post!

White-tailed bumblebee on Japanese Spindle
White-tailed bumblebee on Japanese Spindle

Firstly, this variegated Japanese Spindle bush in the garden had a visitor by a pollinator or two. We think this is a white-tailed bumblebee worker. This bumblebee is common in gardens and nests might sometimes be about 200 workers. In a longer, warm summer they can have two generations in a year. You can see the tail is clean white, with no orange hair just above the white. It has a band of yellow just below its “waist”. (It looks like a waist but this is just called the top of the abdomen). It has another top collar band of yellow, on its thorax. It was moving too fast to see its face and antenna, or even for a good photo – but that would have also helped to identify it!

White-tailed bumblebee
White-tailed bumblebee

Recent DNA work has found that bees that used to be known as the white-tailed bumblebee are in fact three separate species! These three are 1) the Northern White-tailed bumblebee 2) the Cryptic bumblebee and 3) the true White-tailed bumblebee. But all so similar in the field, so we now record sightings of them as a group of “white-tailed bumblebee aggregate”.

Compared to honey bee colonies, which could be up to 50,000 bees, bumble bee colonies are very small, often only around 200 workers in each. Their nests are often old rodent burrows. They only have short tongues but if they find a deeper flower they can cut a little hole near the base of the flower to get the nectar out. This is called “nectar robbing” as the flower then gets no pollination in return for the nectar effort!

Ian found this bee sheltering in the rain on the fields. Although it looks similar, careful studying of a bumblebee bee book from the excellent Bumblebee Conservation Trust shows it might possibly be a female cuckoo bumblebee. These bees seek out the nests of their hosts, the White-tailed bumblebee! Males and females emerge from June onwards until the end of August. Cuckoo bumblebees will, just like the bird, go into the nest of a social bumblebee and take over it. Each species has a preferred host. The female fools workers into letting her go in. Then she can either kill or drive out the original queen. She can then lay her own eggs and the nest’s workers cary for them. So, cuckoo bumblebees don’t have to produce workers – only males and females.

Turnip Sawfly
Turnip Sawfly

Ian also managed to get a photo of this fly on the fields. We think this is a sawfly. Sawflies are a group of insects closely related to bees, wasps and ants – but they don’t sting. They have a larval stage like a caterpillar and each one likes certain species of plant. We think this is the turnip sawfly. It almost appears to have “shoulder pads” – like the fashions in the 1980s! The whole family of sawflies get their name because the females have egg-laying parts that can cut slits in bark and twigs. This turnip sawfly over-winters below ground and then as an adult will drink nectar (all the while pollinating flowers). Look really closely and it has stripey black and orange “socks” on its legs.

insect on buttercup
ID to follow!
micro moths on buttercups
Micro moths on buttercups

Look at these amazing insects all grouped together inside a buttercup! We think the bigger group in the flower are micro moths. There are more than 1,500 species of micro moth in the UK and we think these are sometimes called the marsh marigold moth. The adults feed on pollen. The smaller group we are still trying to identify – do you know it? We will try to get a better photo!

Turnip Sawfly

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