Beetles, Birds and Bees

Sunday, August 2nd 2015

It was wet and cool early this morning and nothing was stirring.  When rain and drizzle stopped and the temperature rose so there was some movement of the invertebrates.  Soldier Beetles are carnivorous and use the flat flower heads of Angelica (white) and Pepper Saxifrage (yellow) to await their favoured prey of soft bodied insects.

Soldier Beetles on Angelica

Soldier Beetles on Pepper Saxifrage

The flat velvety larvae have large jaws which are used to eat small insects and other invertebrates found in the surface layers of soil.  They feed from early summer through to spring, when they pupate.  May through to July is usually the best time to see these beetles. Their colouring acts as a warning to birds that they taste unpleasant.

Another insect that has warning colours is the Cinnabar Moth caterpillar.  During August the Ragwort around the reserve is normally covered with the black and yellow caterpillars.  Only one was recorded today.

Cinnabar Moth caterpillar on Ragwort

It is noticeable that the insect numbers are well down.  Unfortunately many birds did not rear young due to lack of suitable food.  Some of the Great Tits brought to the ringing room today showed that they had had some time in the nest when they had not been fed or were well under stress.  This was clearly shown by different coloured markings across their tails. The ringers call these fault bars.

Five new Garden Warblers were ringed today, which was good news as not many had been heard around the reserve.  There are still new Bullfinches in abundance and another 13 were ringed.  It is also lovely to see the Coal Tits returning after spending the spring and early summer breeding in the plantations.

As there was a glimmer of sunshine and another rise in temperature the bees were feeding.  You can see the white pollen sacs as the bee has been collecting pollen from Knapweed.

Bee on Knapweed

Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped carry out a variety of work today, including bird ringing, tea making and cutting back the evergrowing vegetation.


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