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Bees, cinnabar moths, more bees and Squirrel Nutkin

Date posted: Tuesday 16th June 2020

Bees, cinnabar moths, more bees and Squirrel Nutkin

Lockdown week 12 and the social distancing guidelines between bees, other insects and flowers continue to be ignored – flagrant rule breakers! June has brought a mix of warm sun, humid overcast days and a few heavy, thundery showers. The rain gauge was up to 13mm on Sunday, along with a struggling bumblebee who was very relieved to be taken out and placed on a veronica flower, soggy but unbowed. A few minutes after a reviving boost of nectar it was grooming, combing and drying itself down ready for take off.

Our plot is looking particularly good and I can only take credit for the flowers this year – Jem has been digging, raking, planting and watering the veg since lockdown and enforced ‘retirement’ and consequently all the veg beds are looking excellent, unlike the usual ‘relaxed’ style I specialise in. But the flowers around the border edges and in the beds are also looking lovely and visited by many pollinators. The self-seeded poppies have been popular for foraging and I’ve been loathe to pull them out to make way for more beetroot and carrot!

The communal flower bed at the entrance is also looking good and the bee posts are busy with a range of solitary bees coming and going, particularly the smaller ones who’ve quickly found the new post and holes, wasting no time in egg laying and sealing up the entrances. I’ve left a self-seeded ragwort plant for the cinnabar moths and I’ve seen them around the plant, so hopefully there will be egg laying, caterpillars and more of these attractive moths around:

“If you’re out and about on a nice sunny day and notice what you think is a pretty red and black butterfly it is actually the Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae). The Cinnabar moth was originally named after the bright red mineral ‘cinnabar’ once used by artists as a red pigment for painting.
The adult moth has two bright red spots and red stripes on its forewings and scarlet hind wings with charcoal edging. Moths are split into 2 broad groups – the macro moths (large) and the micro moths (small). The Cinnabar is a macro moth and has a body length of 20mm and a wingspan of between 32mm – 42mm. Although this is a predominantly nocturnal moth it can also be seen during the day.
Life cycle Females can lay up to 300 eggs, usually in batches of 30 or 60 on the underside of ragwort leaves. When the caterpillars (larvae) hatch they feed on the around the area of the hatched eggs but as they get bigger and moult (instars) they mainly feed on the leaves and flowers of the plant, and can be seen out in the open during the day. Caterpillars are feeding from July – early September and are initially pale yellow but soon develop bright yellow and black stripes to deter predators. The caterpillars feed on poisonous ragwort leaves. The poison from the leaves is stored in the caterpillar’s body (and even remains when they are an adult moth). Any birds or other predators that ignore the caterpillar’s bright warning sign will be repulsed by how foul they taste. Numerous caterpillars on one ragwort plant can reduced it to a bare stem very quickly. They are also known to be cannibalistic. The caterpillars overwinter as pupa in a cocoon under the ground. The adult moths emerge around mid May and are on the wing up until early August, during which time males and females will mate and eggs are laid.” (adapted from: www.buglife.org.uk)

Jem’s now taken ownership of a second hive and reports that both hives are now settled and active, with apparently well mannered, benign bees and not the aggressive sort!

Some of us can tend to become a tad aggressive when we discover bulbs pulled out of pots and the bird feeder being raided by various intruders, but I suppose we have to resign ourselves to our shared spaces and resources!

Matt suggested this would make a good ‘whodunnit’ picture – a dead giveaway for another site resident!