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Nest, weather, solitary bees, butterflies and caterpillars

Date posted: Wednesday 2nd May 2018

Nest, weather, solitary bees, butterflies and caterpillars

A few days ago I decided to pull out invasive bluebells taking over in my plot by the wall. What a surprise to pull back leaves and discover this nest hidden under the foliage, with small, pale eggs and one tipped over the side onto the soil. I assumed that whoever had made the rash decision to build their nest on the ground had abandoned it in favour of a more secure location. So imagine my shock yesterday when I pulled back the bluebell leaves again and out shot a small bird with a flurry of wings, too fast to identify what it was. And yesterday when I went up to the plot I caught a bright red flash of breast winging away from the bluebells – a robin! So now the whole area will be cordoned off on the off chance that the mystery bird will return to incubate the eggs.. not sure the June inspection person will appreciate my excuses for not cultivating that patch or keeping the path grass cut! But sadly, there’s not much chance of fledglings getting off the ground with all the rats around..

What a mixed couple of weeks it’s been, from a week of high 20s heat wave, returning to warm April sun last weekend and then Monday’s miserable cold rain and winds, feeling like a return to late winter! The fruit blossom is falling like snow and the birds sing in between showers, and the bees wait for opportunities to get into the flowers! Butterflies also have to wait for a break in the rain to get foraging, as this lovely peacock was doing last week.

Last week, during the warm weather (seems like a long time ago!) small solitary bees were in and out of the original front entrance bee post, presumably the offspring of the bees that had laid eggs in the smaller holes this time last year. ‘Solitary bees in Britain are highly diverse, therefore so are their nesting habits. The majority of British species nest in the ground, excavating their own nest. The female builds the nest by herself. She chooses a suitable piece of ground in which to nest and uses her body to dig out a nesting chamber in the ground. She adds pollen to the chamber, which is often moistened with nectar, and lays an egg. She then seals off that section of the nest before moving onto the next chamber. Although most solitary bees nest solitarily, in suitable nest sites you often find aggregations of nests. There are also a number of species in Britain that nest in the ground but create turrets over their nests, these are often very distinctive. A number of species also nest aerially, usually in old beetle holes often sealing the nests with a saliva like substance, mud, chewed leaves, resin or sections of leaves which they cut with their jaws. These species are the ones most likely to take to artificial nests in gardens. There is also one species of solitary bee in Britain, Ceratina cyanea, that excavates its own aerial nest, usually in bramble stems. This small metallic blue bee excavates out the pith of the bramble stem and nests in there. Unusually both the males and females also overwinter, hibernating in the stems. Finally there are the snail shell nesting bees, of which we have three species in Britain. They use chewed up leaves to seal off the each section in the empty nest shells and often camouflage the shell in some way.’ (Guide to Solitary Bees in Britain | The Wildlife Trusts