16 Aug 2013

Tree Bumblebees

Ardd Fotaneg · Botanic Garden

The original intention last week had been to collect wild flower seeds from the Trawscoed meadow.  However, after much discussion, consultation with the manual and advice from our curator, Simon Goodenough, this idea was abandoned.  But not before we had kitted Bruce out as can be seen from the photo below.  The problems with the kit were that the recent rain meant the seed would be too wet so that the time spent drying it out, and winnowing out the seed from the chaff, would simply not be worth the time and effort.

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So on the meadow and to see how the summer was progressing in terms of flowers and fungi.  First stop was the recently cleared bracken where we did indeed find an interesting fungus.  But what was it?  Much discussion.  Was it a waxcap? Probably not, but certainly a  pretty yellowish green. Verdict – unknown fungus.  We also found a few other interesting fungi during our wanderings which we also couldn’t name!

This time of year sees the flowering of Black Knapweed, much loved by pollinating insects an, when they seed by birds such as Goldfinches.  It is also known as Common or Lesser Knapweed – see photo below with Green-Veined White Butterfly  But of greater interest was the presence of a small patch of Devil’s Bit Scabious and a solitary Dragonfly.  The latter was probably a Golden-Ringed Hawker, a large, black and yellow dragonfly which frequents acidic streams and rivers – it was near the stream at the start of the Welsh country walk. The Devil’s Bit Scabious is a good source of nectar and is the foodplant of Marsh fritillary, whose eggs are laid in groups on the underside of the plant, and Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk-moth Hemaris tityus. As both plant and invertebrates are rare, their survival relies on careful management of sites containing these species.  And one of the topics of discussion as a result of these walks has been the possibility of reintroducing Butterflies.  The habitat is certainly there so it could be done.

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Further on, emerging from the depths of the old oak log which lies in the middle of the meadow, was a beautiful Peacock butterfly, which kindly posed for John to photograph.  Other butterflies that we saw included Gatekeepers, lots of Small and Large Whites, Meadow Browns, Ringlets and the occasional Common Blue.  Anyone visiting the Garden should keep an eye out for these lovely little Butterflies as you walk up the Broadwalk.

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Crop circles are usually in the news at this time of year and we couldn’t help noticing the flattened grassy areas in various places.  Were they caused by aliens, or maybe deer and other animals sleeping overnight?  A better explanation is probably the effects of the recent wind and rain, the eddying effect of the former and the power of the latter.  But if you will see trails in the meadow and we came across a couple towards the far of end, almost certainly caused by Badgers.  Indeed, the lie of the grass indicated that they were travelling down the hill into the woods.

As we were near the old Hornets nest Bruce wanted to see whether there were any signs of them this year.  None at all, but another chance to admire their beautifully designed nest.  But nearby, feeding on the Bramble blossom what we did find were two Tree Bumblebees.  These were first found here in the slate beds of the Garden three years ago, the furthest west they had been recorded in the UK but we hadn’t seen them since – until now.

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Finally, after the usual lunch and chat, we went off towards the Double-Walled Garden searching for a place to set the footprint tunnel that John had made.  These are designed to entice in small mammals such as mice, voles and, we hoped, hedgehogs.  The bait was cat food and we placed it outside the back entrance to the bee corner.  However, so far nothing has eaten anything, apart from the odd slug and the bait has been replaced by raisins and peanut butter.

Thanks to John for his photos and if any volunteer or member is interested in joining us please  send an email to Colin Miles  – you DON’T have to be an expert in anything, just interested.   If you click on any of the images in these blogs, or anywhere else you will see a larger picture. And if you click on the Wildlife Walks heading on the left-hand side under News you will see a list of the last 10 Wildlife Walk blogs.