Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Tree bees and campions

5th April 2016  First spring trip was on 31st March.  As what I consider to be an omen (for what, I am not sure) as I turned the corner into Emthree, a fine male brimstone butterfly flew up from Troy Track and spiralled upwards and over the hedge – an uplifting splash of lemon yellow.  There were also some as yet unidentified Lasioglossum sweat bees sunning themselves on the white trunk of the birch tree.  Distinctive from their very long antennae.
The following day I found a fine queen of the tree bee, Bombus hortorum, nestling, almost burrowing, into the grass also on Troy Track.  It nests in trees and under eaves and has been quite common in the garden in recent years. Having been first recorded in the British Isles in 2001 it has now spread to mid-Scotland.

Today was the warmest of the year, though not exactly boiling.  Some tree buds are expanding rapidly.  Hazel followed by birch, then hornbeam.  Oak and ash are holding back.  The dark shagged fiddle heads on the broad buckler fern are well visible now.  There are many plants of red campion, (first noted in Emthree in 2008) in the absence of rabbits and they are more advanced than the other herbaceous plants.  And, of course, they do flower earlier.  They tend to grow in woods and other shady places so I suspect this faster growth helps them to get into flower by mid-May when there are still plenty of insects about before the before the canopy closes completely.  Is the Square Metre now woodland I wonder.

Apart from the usual snake oil remedies, the red campion has little attraction for the human (but not rabbit) forager.  This is understable as the plant contains the toxin saponin that can have a nasty effect on the digestion.