Well, It’s Not All Bad….


Dear Readers, I have never grown teasel before and so I was delighted to see that it looks for all the world like a group of happily cheering people, rather like the ones below. The meme is 100% me πŸ™‚

But what I wanted to say was that although a stem of my angelica plant has tumbled over, it has been instantly colonised. First of all the aphids came – I think this really backs up the argument of many organic gardeners, who say that plants that are weakened are much more likely to support masses of pests. The main, living part of my plant appears to be completely aphid-free.

And then these spiny predators turned up.

This is a harlequin ladybird larva. It’s true that harlequins are rather less picky about what they eat than other ladybirds, and that they are outcompeting our native species, but it’s much too late to worry about that now. This one was positively shovelling his way through the greenfly, leaving nothing behind but their poor, parched corpses. See, I told you this was a cheerful post.

And the head of the plant was alive with bugs – I am hoping that this chap was, joy of joys, a Trivial Plant Bug (Closterotomus trivialis), just for the sheer happiness of having a trivial insect in the garden. However, bugs are extraordinarily difficult to identify, so I’m prepared a) to be wrong and b) to be told that these two insects were different species. Hopefully one of them also likes aphids.

And then I spotted this fly. It seems to be a tachinid fly – this is a group of parasitic flies who lay their eggs on the larvae of other insects. My insect book mentions that some species can be ‘abundant on hogweed and angelica’. Who knew? I just thought that they were houseflies, and had no idea that they had such interesting lives. Apparently they find their host caterpillars, lay their eggs in the vicinity or actually on the larvae, and when the eggs hatch the flylets (a new word that I just made up) burrow their way in and eat away. One species, Phasia hemiptera, eats shieldbugs, so I am just wondering if this is what was going on.

In other news, the magpie fledglings have hatched, and very demanding they are too. My neighbours are a bit unhappy about the noise, and it’s true that these birds don’t have the sweetest of singing voices, and also that they get up very very early (the birds, not the neighbours). Here is one of the adults and a youngster on the television aerial opposite. I rather like that late evening light.

And finally, here is a rare find. My lavender is just coming into flower, and I noticed a most unusual bee feeding from it. Look how furry it is!

This is a wool carder bee (Anthidium manicatum) – if you have lambs-ears (Stachys) in your garden, you might see these bees gathering the hairs in order to form a nest ball – only the females do this, while the males (unusually for insects these are larger than the females) may establish a territory above a patch of flowers, and will do battle with any other bees, hoverflies or other flying invertebrates that appear. Fighting might involve head-butting, wrestling or using their abdominal spines to crush an intruder into submission. This individual hasn’t reappeared (yet) – they have a great liking for woundworts of various kinds and black horehound, along with other dead nettles, so maybe they are hanging out somewhere else. I actually gave away several lots of stachys earlier in the year, so maybe my neighbours will be reaping the benefits. Do watch out for these bees, they are a real treat, and with those hairy legs they’re (relatively) easy to tell from your average bumblebee.

3 thoughts on “Well, It’s Not All Bad….

  1. Anne

    What an exciting peep into the wildlife in your garden: colonisation, parched corpses, laying eggs in larvae, munching through, as well as fighting involving “head-butting, wrestling or using their abdominal spines to crush an intruder into submission”. What a wonderful world under our noses that you have conjured up through your careful observations!

  2. thetinypotager

    I love your wool carder bee … I have never seen this one before πŸ™‚ Beautiful pics … I love the movement the bees (and other insects) give to a garden in summertimes.

  3. Daniel Greenwood

    Great post. I absolutely recognise your description of the territorial wool carder behaviour. Saw it for the first time in my pollinator corner this year, it was brutal! Particularly towards the red masons. I planted stachys for them and they had a great showing last year, not so much this, so far.


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