Weeding – tricked again

Weeding is not my favourite tasks but it can have its moments.  It can be exciting as long as you have a low stimulation threshold. I find the length of time spent weeding is directly proportional to the size of stimulation required to trigger an interest in a different direction.  In other words, I find myself easily distracted by a newly germinating plant (weed?), a bee, the smell of coffee brewing in the distance but yesterday it was different.

It was exciting.

While clearing a border in the front garden a bright blue creature appeared.

I had never seen anything like it before so I rushed to get my camera, sure that it would have disappeared when I returned.  It was still there.  Definitely more interesting than weeding!

I have very little knowledge about insects but I felt I would have to do my best to record and identify it.

It could be a rare endangered species.

So I set about my self-appointed task of documenting its progress across the front of the house.  This required me lying in strange positions on the grass but luckily I live in a very quiet neighbourhood and I do not think anyone saw me, or else they have not liked to mention it.

I reckoned I had taken enough photographs to identify it or post it on a web site and plead for  an identification.

I managed to identify it myself.  It is not an endangered species and I found out about some of its rather nasty habits.  It is Meloe violaceus.

The females can lay up to 4,000 eggs in a hole in the ground, usually in April and May, and may lay more than one batch of eggs.  What hatches out of these eggs are called triungulins and these are capable of producing a pheromone which mimics the sex attractant of a bee.  They climb up flowers such as dandelions and wait for a passing bee.  The confused male bee will attempt to mate with the triungulins which promptly hitch a ride on the bee’s abdomen and are subsequently passed onto a female bee.  The triungulin now gains access to the bee’s nest by hanging on to the female bee. They then use a similar strategy as the cuckoo.  They enter a nest cell and consume the bee’s egg and mature into a larva using the honey stored inside the nest cell.  The larva can pass the winter in the comfort of the bees nest to appear in its adult form in the spring.

I’ve been fooled again (see my blog “I love thee, I love thee not”).  I try to attract the bees to my garden but I am just finding out what they are up against, it is not just about finding food.  Meloe violaceus parasitizes solitary bees in particular, that means my beloved bumble bees.

Maybe I should have just stood on it and forgotten about the camera.