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Saturday, 9 April 2016

Alternative Signs of Spring 1 & 2

Traditionally there are the wild daffodils at Dunsford, ramsons and bluebells starting to send up leaves at Stoke Woods, and the first sand martins arriving in Exeter to look out for.

But what about some other quirkier seasonal indicators?

Alternative Sign of Spring no. 1 

Hairy-footed flower bee Anthophora plumipes males 

circling the garden on a sunny day, visiting a range of flowers, but especially lungwort. As solitary bees go, this one is relatively identifiable, brown with light facial hair, and long hair tufts on its middle pair of legs. There are several flying around, seemingly patrolling the same areas as if staking out territories, waiting for the emergence of the females (which are completely black with yellow pollen brushes on the hind legs).
Spotting which regular places they stop to bask, the same particular stone, leaf, slat on the picnic table, is fascinating. Some of the garden insects seem interested in yellow objects at the moment - or at least flies and bees are landing regularly on a large yellow coloured garden sack, and also on the yellow parts of variegated leaves of shrubs. Is this because the paler areas are more reflective for basking, or because the colour is being confused for flowers? 

Alternative Sign of Spring no. 2

Green shieldbugs turn green Palomena prasina

... as opposed to being brown, its colour through the winter as an overwintering adult. One of our commonest and most widespread shieldbugs (look for the 'broad shoulders', the widened pronotum / upper section of the thorax, and the reddy segments towards the end of the antennae), the green coloration returns as it feeds on plant matter available again in the spring. This one found its way into the hall last week. 

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