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Nature blog - Jenny Bourne

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Jersey Tiger and other 'not the usual suspects' sightings!

Date posted: Monday 31st July 2017

Jersey Tiger and other 'not the usual suspects' sightings!

Carol spotted and snapped this unusual visitor to our site on 16 July. Yesterday she and Jon gave me the heads up that it had reappeared and I belted over to the SE side of the site, rewarded with a fine view of this spectacular moth resting on the side of a greenhouse. The Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria, resident and ‘suspected immigrant’ has recently begun to be sighted in the London area. ‘The adults can be found flying on warm days and visiting flowers, such as Buddlelia. They also fly at night and come to light. The caterpillars can be seen from September to the following May, overwintering as small larvae. The caterpillars feed on a wide variety of herbaceous plants including Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), Hemp-argimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), White Dead-nettle (Lamium album), Borage (Borago officinalis), plantains (Plantago Spp.), Ground-ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and Bramble (Rubus fruiticosus). Habitats are ‘gardens, rough and disturbed ground, hedgerows, coastal cliffs, under-cliff and the higher parts of beaches’ (butterfly-conservation.org/51-1312/jersey-tiger.htm) and now RPA site! Very exciting, as conservation status here is scarce!

Another sighting of an unusual kind was signalled a few days ago by the crows alarm calls – the unmistakable profile of a red kite gliding effortlessly over high above the trees on the SE side, pausing briefly to hover over our site before disappearing over the park.

It’s been a week of unexpected treats – yesterday I noticed this small, unusual coloured bee head first in the salvia flowers with a thickly haired orange thorax and white tail; fairly sure it’s a tree bumble bee: “The Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) is a recent addition to the UK fauna. Despite this, it will already be familiar to many householders and beekeepers in England and Wales, as it can be the cause of phone calls “Help, there’s a Bee-swarm in my Bird-Box!” B. hypnorum has a natural distribution in Mainland Europe, through Asia and up to the Arctic Circle. It was first found in the UK in 2001, in Wiltshire; but must have arrived from Mainland Europe. It has spread rapidly and is now present in most of England and much of Wales, where it can be very common in late spring to early summer. In 2013 it reached southern Scotland. Much of it’s rapid spread is probably due to it’s habit of setting up home in bird boxes, which abound in the UK. The species is most likely to be seen from March until July, but does sometimes occur later in the year. The bees are highly active, agile, rapid and effective pollinators. Look out for them working flowers that hang downwards, like Raspberry and Comfrey. You might also see them visiting a wide range of other flowers including Winter Heathers, Pussy Willow, Blackcurrant, Gooseberry, Apple, Cotoneaster, Chives, Rose and Snowberry. They may also be seen working Lime Tree, Fuchsia and Blackberry flowers in later summer.

The queens of this species can be very enterprising in where they choose to set up home. Colonies are usually located well above ground level. Bird-boxes, containing old bird nests are commonly used. Nest-searching queens are even capable of evicting Blue Tits from a nest box, then re-using their nest.” (Introducing the ‘Tree Bumblebee’ – Bumblebee Conservation Trust https://bumblebeeconservation.org/images/uploads/Tree_bee_article_2015.pdf)

Our communal flower bed continues to attract a variety of bees, butterflies and insects. This attractive beetle may have been mistaken for a crop predator but is, in fact a Cinnamon bug.

My plot neighbour, Robert told me he thought that goldfish had taken up residence in Flora’s pond – it makes for an attractive ‘Monet’ water lilies composition, crocosmia petals but sans fish!