Back from the UK, I was curious to find out how all the rain that has fallen this year has affected the woods around the house. Before I left some of the paths were still very muddy but the soil dries up quickly here.
The wild anemones carpeted the ground under the trees still not fully in leaf. They are more plentiful than last year and present in places I had never noticed them before. They are mainly white and single but I enjoy finding the variants of other colours and the double variant.
They are early this year and I would expect to find them at the end of April (See http://wp.me/p2cvii-6F ).
The violets and lesser celandine stood out on the edge of the paths.
These are not the perfumed violets that I find in some places but they are just as beautiful.
The yellow butterfly (maybe a Brimstone) seemed happy to accept the nectar, perfume or not.
Always on the outlook for bees, I notice other things and I frequently come across the Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus ). It is not a friend of solitary bees as its larvae find their way onto flowers and hitch a lift on the solitary bees that they encounter so that they can enter their nests. The larvae then proceed to consume eggs, nectar and pollen.
I had never seen the beetle mating before and I was surprised that the female could scuttle through the leaves just as quickly while dragging the male behind her. He did his best to stay upright but he often lost balance as it cannot be easy walking backwards with six legs that usually go frontwards.
I also noticed a lot of little flies on the female’s back and I have found out that they could be attracted to fluids that she exudes or they extract from her haemolymph. This is an oily substance called cantharadin which can blister human skin. This substance is produced by other beetles like the more well known Spanish fly (Lytta vesicatoria).
The Pulmonaria is abundant this year, usually with its mix of blue and pink flowerlets. I read some interesting comments on colour change and pollination of flowers (more particularly on fruit trees) in Coloured clues; Mossy Mulch; and Easter Eggs at The Garden Impressionists.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bee flies on the spring flowers. These flies are also parasites of solitary bees laying their eggs on flowers or near the nests of the solitary bees.
It’s not all bad news for the bees as the Asphodel are starting to flower and it has been a mild winter with lots of rain which has suited them well.
The Lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) seems early and is more abundant.
The Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea is everywhere and is attracting the attention of an Andrena bee here, probably Andrena Willkella.
Everything is fresh and pushing through like the fern fronds unfurling.
This is a time of activity and as I walk I hear the bumble bees, not just in the flowers but searching. They are searching for just the right place to build their nest. I often follow them as they explore and vanish into holes but they always return to continue their search, never seeming to find just the right place.