With so many people spending so much more time in their gardens, I know that many of you are noticing the little things that might normally pass you by.
For instance, I got a text from a friend this week saying, "What's the funny little bee I've seen in my garden that seems to have a big spike on the front of its face?"
Ah, now that would be this, which I photographed in my garden this week and is probably in many gardens right now:
It is a most curious insect that indeed looks rather like a bee, with its fluffy, gingery body. But look at those strange spindly legs as if it is walking on stilts. And the long wings held out either side. And, yes, that big spike on its face, which as you can see is actually a drinking straw for sucking up nectar from plants such as this forget-me-not.
Look how its wings are half black, half clear. It is the Common Bee-fly, a fly rather than a bee. It is a spring insect, emerging as early as the end of March, which hovers in a dithering like way at spring flowers and then goes and lays its eggs near the nest entrances of mining bees. When the bee-fly larvae hatch, they head underground to feed on the bee larvae.
So if that was a fly minimicking a bee, what is this?
This time, it is a hoverfly mimicking a bee. This is the Furry Drone-fly, a type of hoverfly, here on Marsh Marigold in my pond. There are other hoverflies that minic bees but they don't have lovely pale thighs like this. Drone-flies love being by water because their larvae live under the surface, so they are often found around garden ponds.
Then, over in my Bee Border was this:
A wasp? No! It's actually a bee. It is one of the nomad bees, which are solitary bees that lay their eggs in the nests of other solitary bee species.
So let's head back to my Marsh Marigold to see another visitor. It looks like a bumblebee, but what is it this time?!
At last, an insect that is what it says it is! It is a bumblebee, and a whopper of a queen at that, in this case the Buff-tailed Bumblebee which is a very common garden species.
Don't worry one jot if it can all seem very confusing. In fact, that's what nature intended, because with so many insects pretending to be another they can easily fool birds and other potential predators.
So, as you go around the garden having a proper peer at the smaller members of your garden community. Maybe indeed you'll see some of the rogue's gallery above. Maybe you'll find something totally different. Some you'll be able to put a name to; some you won't - it doesn't matter.
Just enjoy the process of looking, discovering, observing, and becoming acquainted with the amazing natural world on your doorstep.
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