© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
I was surprised when I looked at the March weather records that we had double the average rainfall in that month as it had seemed quite dry. However all of it fell in the first half of the month. There was no rain for the rest of the month and only three days in April with any significant rain, all three of which were less than 10mm. The rain at the start of May was certainly needed. The fine weather has seen an increase in the number of insects that have been on the wing. Early butterflies were a Peacock (28th March), holly blue (31st March), male orange tip (6th April) and speckled wood (5th May). The first female orange tip was seen on the 19th April. I was intrigued by several round holes about 0.5cm across and surrounded by a mound of soil like a miniature volcano . They were obviously not worm holes (the ones made by worms not those in space) as the soil was very granular. I covered one over with a little of the soil and by the next day it was open again. I kept an eye on whilst working in the garden and was lucky enough to spot the culprit. It was a tawny mining bee , Andrena fulva. These insects have an interesting life cycle. The adults hibernate and emerge in spring, after mating the male dies and the female starts digging a nest. They do not form colonies and, although there may be more in the same area, each female has her own nest. She digs a shaft up to a foot deep in the ground and makes several pockets branching off it. These are filled with nectar and pollen and one egg is laid in each. The larva hatch, grow quickly and pupate within a few weeks. They will emerge the following spring. They are completely harmless, do not sting and do no damage to the lawn. Another insect that I have been trying to get a photograph of is a bee-fly. I have seen them but never managed to get a photograph. However a friend of mine, who lives in Melton, took a picture of one that came into her conservatory. I don't normally include photographs not taken in Langham but I have put this one on the website version of this article so that you know what to out for. Let me know if you see one. The picture is of a dark-edged bee-fly Bombylius major. There are other species but none so far recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland. Despite their somewhat fearsome appearance they are perfectly harmless. The long proboscis is used for drinking nectar, they do not bite or sting. Although they mimic a bumble bee they are actually a fly. Their life cycle is even more interesting as their larvae parasitise ground nesting bees such as the tawny mining bee. Female bee-flies hover above nesting sites and flick eggs onto the ground. The eggs are first coated with dust collected by the female. Once the eggs hatch the larvae crawl into the nest and feed on the larvae of the host bee. This is why the two insects are often found in the same place. The heavy rain at the beginning of March left standing water in the field behind the house. A pair of mallard took advantage of it along with a black headed gull and a crow that enjoyed a good bath. A sparrow hawk has made a regular appearance along with buzzards and kites. By April many birds had paired up and were seen regularly together. The most common pairs were robins, dunnock, magpies, wood pigeons, mistle thrushes and crows. The three young crows from last year have left leaving just the parents. I think they must be nesting as by late April it was rare to see them both together and just one them would be present. On the 12th April I managed to take a photograph of two little egrets perched close together in a tree. I wonder if they are nesting somewhere near. Birds seem to have very different ways of dealing with a likely threat. One day a light ginger cat decided to stroll across the field. At the there were three pheasants, two pigeons and a crow feeding on the ground. As the cat progressed across the field the crow followed a few yards behind. The pigeons squatted down ready to fly off if the cat got too near. The pheasants stuck their necks straight up in the air and stood as still as a statue. The cat passed within a couple of feet of one of the pheasants and it never moved an inch. I can't think that standing still and pretending you're not there is a very good defence mechanism. However the cat soon passed through and everybody got back to feeding. The bananas I put on the bird table have been disappearing within a few hours. This is not only due to the birds as I saw three grey squirrels on the table all helping themselves. In the greenhouse the seeds are germinating well. The only problem is that there is no space to prick them out. Some of the hardier plants have gone into the cold frame but that is now full as well. I don't like to put things outside until at least the second week in May. I looked back at my weather records and saw that for the last eight years there had been an air frost during the first week in May. (I am writing this on May 5th and this year may be the exception as so far in May the lowest temperature had been 10C. I think it best not to take any chances though. Three plants blooming well now are cymbidium orchids , bush lily clivia miniata and veltheimia . The orchids will go outside in June, the clivias and veltheimias will stay in the greenhouse. Clivias also make good houseplants if kept pot bound, well watered when flowering and kept drier in winter. Just to confuse things clivias are often called the kaffir lily which is also the common name for the river lily Hesperantha coccinea, which used to be called Schizostylis coccinea ! The veltheimias are bulbous plants but I grew mine from seeds said to be V. capensis but now they have flowered they look more like V. bracteata, a similar species. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

June 2019

Langham in Rutland
© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
I was surprised when I looked at the March weather records that we had double the average rainfall in that month as it had seemed quite dry. However all of it fell in the first half of the month. There was no rain for the rest of the month and only three days in April with any significant rain, all three of which were less than 10mm. The rain at the start of May was certainly needed. The fine weather has seen an increase in the number of insects that have been on the wing. Early butterflies were a Peacock (28th March), holly blue (31st March), male orange tip (6th April) and speckled wood (5th May). The first female orange tip was seen on the 19th April. I was intrigued by several round holes about 0.5cm across and surrounded by a mound of soil like a miniature volcano . They were obviously not worm holes (the ones made by worms not those in space) as the soil was very granular. I covered one over with a little of the soil and by the next day it was open again. I kept an eye on whilst working in the garden and was lucky enough to spot the culprit. It was a tawny mining bee , Andrena fulva. These insects have an interesting life cycle. The adults hibernate and emerge in spring, after mating the male dies and the female starts digging a nest. They do not form colonies and, although there may be more in the same area, each female has her own nest. She digs a shaft up to a foot deep in the ground and makes several pockets branching off it. These are filled with nectar and pollen and one egg is laid in each. The larva hatch, grow quickly and pupate within a few weeks. They will emerge the following spring. They are completely harmless, do not sting and do no damage to the lawn. Another insect that I have been trying to get a photograph of is a bee-fly. I have seen them but never managed to get a photograph. However a friend of mine, who lives in Melton, took a picture of one that came into her conservatory. I don't normally include photographs not taken in Langham but I have put this one on the website version of this article so that you know what to out for. Let me know if you see one. The picture is of a dark-edged bee-fly Bombylius major. There are other species but none so far recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland. Despite their somewhat fearsome appearance they are perfectly harmless. The long proboscis is used for drinking nectar, they do not bite or sting. Although they mimic a bumble bee they are actually a fly. Their life cycle is even more interesting as their larvae parasitise ground nesting bees such as the tawny mining bee. Female bee-flies hover above nesting sites and flick eggs onto the ground. The eggs are first coated with dust collected by the female. Once the eggs hatch the larvae crawl into the nest and feed on the larvae of the host bee. This is why the two insects are often found in the same place. The heavy rain at the beginning of March left standing water in the field behind the house. A pair of mallard took advantage of it along with a black headed gull and a crow that enjoyed a good bath. A sparrow hawk has made a regular appearance along with buzzards and kites. By April many birds had paired up and were seen regularly together. The most common pairs were robins, dunnock, magpies, wood pigeons, mistle thrushes and crows. The three young crows from last year have left leaving just the parents. I think they must be nesting as by late April it was rare to see them both together and just one them would be present. On the 12th April I managed to take a photograph of two little egrets perched close together in a tree. I wonder if they are nesting somewhere near. Birds seem to have very different ways of dealing with a likely threat. One day a light ginger cat decided to stroll across the field. At the there were three pheasants, two pigeons and a crow feeding on the ground. As the cat progressed across the field the crow followed a few yards behind. The pigeons squatted down ready to fly off if the cat got too near. The pheasants stuck their necks straight up in the air and stood as still as a statue. The cat passed within a couple of feet of one of the pheasants and it never moved an inch. I can't think that standing still and pretending you're not there is a very good defence mechanism. However the cat soon passed through and everybody got back to feeding. The bananas I put on the bird table have been disappearing within a few hours. This is not only due to the birds as I saw three grey squirrels on the table all helping themselves. In the greenhouse the seeds are germinating well. The only problem is that there is no space to prick them out. Some of the hardier plants have gone into the cold frame but that is now full as well. I don't like to put things outside until at least the second week in May. I looked back at my weather records and saw that for the last eight years there had been an air frost during the first week in May. (I am writing this on May 5th and this year may be the exception as so far in May the lowest temperature had been 10C. I think it best not to take any chances though. Three plants blooming well now are cymbidium orchids , bush lily clivia miniata and veltheimia . The orchids will go outside in June, the clivias and veltheimias will stay in the greenhouse. Clivias also make good houseplants if kept pot bound, well watered when flowering and kept drier in winter. Just to confuse things clivias are often called the kaffir lily which is also the common name for the river lily Hesperantha coccinea, which used to be called Schizostylis coccinea ! The veltheimias are bulbous plants but I grew mine from seeds said to be V. capensis but now they have flowered they look more like V. bracteata, a similar species. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

June 2019

Langham in Rutland