Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Spring at Forest Farm

We haven't had very many glorious spring so far this year, but yesterday was a cracker and I couldn't resist a lunchtime outing to Forest Farm in Whitchurch. There is a nice woodland clearing just north of the lock, and this was teeming with insect life. As well as Brimstones (3 males), a Comma and a Peacock were my first bee-flies (Bombylius major) of the year, a Hairy Shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum) and numerous hoverflies. The latter included two 'Ramsons hoverflies' Portevinia maculata, whose larvae feed on the roots of Wild Garlic.

I was pleased to see this species as I hadn't seen it locally before, but hadn't appreciated the significance of the date until I posted a photo on the UK Hoverflies Facebook group. Roger Morris of the Hoverfly Recording Scheme commented that this is a very early date for this species, in fact the earliest in the UK for several years.This came as a surprise as most insects do not seem particularly early this spring.

I also spotted this large solitary bee by the visitor centre, which turns out to be Melecta albifrons, a scarce species in Wales.

It is a cuckoo of the commoner Hairy-footed Flower-bee (Anthophora plumipes). The female enters a nest burrow of Anthophora and lays an egg on the pollen supply gathered for its own offspring. When the Melecta egg hatches the larva kills the Anthophora egg/larva and feeds up on the food supply intended for it.

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