Of bee-flies, bees, butterflies and hoverflies it is spring at last.
Well, spring has arrived and a few good days have produced some early wonders.
Queen bumble bees are out in abundance of several different species, all feeding on nectar and hunting out places in which to establish nests. Of these, perhaps the most distinctive is the Tree Bumble Bee with its ginger-coloured thorax and white-tipped black abdomen (image 3). First discovered in the UK only in 2001, the tree bee has now spread widely, making its nests in houses, bird boxes and assorted hollows. This particular bee was photographed just outside our kitchen window. Queens of the Common Carder Bee are out and about feeding on ground ivy on the village green. With it’s reddish ginger thorax, white hairy patches and an orange tail, this bee is a delight to see (image 4). The pretty queen Early Bumble Bees are also feeding on ground ivy, having an orange band behind its head, black thorax and reddish and pale orange bands on its abdomen (image 5).
What a feast of butterflies we have had. One of the most splendid is the Peacock but that colouration is quite cryptic, when resting on the ground it is up and away before you spot it; this one landed on the marsh marigolds in our garden pond (image 6). One of the earliest butterflies to appear is the Brimstone (image 6). Brimstones flit fast back and forth across the garden but on one sunny day, this female posed for me on the marsh marigolds (image 7). Perhaps our most colourful butterfly is the Small Tortoiseshell. On the village green, small tortoiseshells rest on the dog-walked paths and fly up in front of you before you see them. They are also aggressive and fight off others in a flurry of wings. We have also seen the occasional Blue butterflies and Red Admirals and the village green is a good place to spot Comma butterflies.
The early hoverflies are about. We sit in the garden and watch the bee-mimic Drone Hoverflies hovering at head height in the sunshine over the lawn (image 9). Down on the primroses and other flowers are the earliest of the wasp-mimicking Marmalade Hoverflies; the only hoverfly to have two black bands on each abdominal segment, this being a particularly dark specimen (image 10). In the summer, our marmalade hoverflies will be joined by migrants from north Africa and central Europe and I understand that some even make the return journey later in the year.