A Buzz in the Garden

Common Dronefly

Droning on – a common dronefly on my fence

Despite it now being light enough for me to get out before work and for a little time after, my garden has been the focus of most of my attention day to day  in the natural history department. It’s probably the novelty, mixed with being busy and a dash of laziness.

But my garden has been providing me with some interesting natural history fodder in the form of invertebrates. Whether it’s a tree bee (Bombus hypnorum) buzzing past the patio as my girlfriend and I enjoyed a cuppa in the sun, or a tatty looking red admiral drinking from heather or the angle shades moth caterpillar munching on my green beans, the garden is alive with backbone-less beasts waiting for me to identify them.

Angle Shades

A not so hungry angel shades caterpillar

My hoverfly list has expanded from just the marmalade fly to include Eristalis tenax or the common dronefly. Not quite as colourful its life cycle is a bit more interesting – its larvae is aquatic. Its larvae is commonly referred to as rat-tailed maggots; they have a siphon that protrudes to the water’s surface like a snorkel. A third species, Platycherisu albimanus, might have also paid a visit but the id is not 100% – so I’ll have to wait before putting that one on the board (yes, I have a sightings board).

Red Admiral

A tatty looking red admiral drinks in some much needed nectar after a long hibernation.

Slugs and snails are becoming more active – which is a blessing and a curse. From a molluscophile’s perspective the plethora of slugs that seem to abound on the patio is an id challenge to be relished. But I’m concerned about my broad beans and veggies. So far I’ve added six mollusc with my highlight being gridled snail (Hygromia cinctella). Slugs have proved more of a challenge and I really should be boasting more that just the great grey slug (Limax maximus). I’ve identified Ambigolimax but to get that down to confirm which of the two species involves dissection and I just don’t have time for that… yet.

Casual recording has added a modest 14 species of invertebrate to my garden list. Systematic searches will have to begin now that the weather is warming up. With the night’s drawing out I’ll be able to key out some slugs while enjoying a cuppa on the patio rather than in the kitchen. The moth trap will hopefully be built in the next month and well, the woodlice and worms in the veggie patch are definitely in need of scrutiny.

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