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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

The RPA Nature blog with Jenny Bourne.

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Spiders from Mars, a stroll through the plot, beeflies and butterflies!

Date posted: Friday 24th March 2017

Spiders from Mars, a stroll through the plot, beeflies and butterflies!

Haven’t been able to identify this large (almost 2cm) spider that appeared in one of the hollow panels of the shed window – it stayed in one place, almost immobile for 2/3 days before disappearing off! I hadn’t noticed it there previously so it can’t have been hatching out, or I would have seen it. Pale buff coloured, slightly translucent head and legs.. any ideas on identification, please let me know!

A mild week before last with temperatures rising to almost 20oC brought out this small tortoiseshell, briefly resting in my plot before flittering off:

Small tortoiseshell 15 March

Another visitor to the plot that day was strolling along at the back, nonchalantly picking her way past the bird feeder and camouflaging among the soft fruit bushes:

There’s been a lot of bee flies around in the past couple of weeks, impossible to get a good snap as they whizz about at top speed, hovering very briefly in the early spring flowers and much faster than bumbles.

Harmless to us but parasitical to solitary bees: “On a sunny day in March or April, you may see what looks like a furry ginger bee hovering almost motionless over a flower or a patch of bare soil. Look more closely and you will notice its needle-like proboscis sticking out in front of it. This is no bee, but a bee-fly, the teddy-bear of the fly world and an insect with a fascinating lifecycle. There are several species of bee-fly in the British Isles, but the commonest is the dark-bordered, or greater bee-fly (Bombylius major), which is easily identified by its larger size and the dark brown edges to its wings.

Unlike bees, which have four wings, bee-flies have only two that they hold out at an acute angle when they settle, like a tiny delta-wing aircraft. They sip nectar from flowers such as primroses with the long proboscis, which is held rigid in flight.
Bee-flies need bare soil in which to lay their eggs in spring, preferring sunny, sheltered spots in woods, old quarries, gardens and hedgerows.

Bee-flies are aptly named because not only do they resemble bees, but they parasitise them. The young bee-fly grub lives in the burrows of solitary bees, which often nest on sunny banks.” (

My little spring garden under the apple tree has been scenting the whole area on warm days with the fragrance of the hyacinths – gorgeous!