Insects, Sketchbook

St Mark’s Fly- Bibio marci

This species of fly is one I look out for each year at the end of April. It is called St Mark’s fly because it first emerges to perform its mating flight around St Mark’s day which is 25th April. Each year I am astonished at how accurate this date is for first observing them. They are slightly menacing black flies, flying repeatedly up and down around hedges and undergrowth in great numbers with their legs dangling almost like ropes from a helicopter. This is the time they mate and once the eggs are fertilised the female will lay them in the ground and then die. When these eggs hatch the larvae will feed on rotting vegetation and roots through the autumn and winter. Around St Mark’s day they emerge as the adult fly ready to breed. They are thought to be important pollinators. For me the St Mark’s fly is as much part of the season as the first Swallow and I love watching them dancing in the air during their short adult life.

St Mark's flies and Oil Seed Rape- watercolour in sketchbook
Male St Mark's Fly, 28th April- photograph by Jonathan Pomroy

Green Hairstreak butterfly

A glorious drive around Bransdale this morning. In the warm sunshine we found a pair of Green Hairstreak butterflies resting on the heather. I haven’t seen a Green Hairstreak for a long time and had forgotten how beautiful they are with iridescent green underwings. This moorland colony probably lay their eggs on Bilberry the food plant the larvae when they hatch. Many butterflies were on the wing today. Back in the garden I saw Orange Tips, Brimstone, Small White, Red Admiral, Peacock and Comma.

Green Hairstreak butterfly- Bransdale
bird behaviour, Insects

Full moon- 19th March

A beautiful perigee full moonrise. I was listening to Lapwings displaying by moonlight at about 11pm when I heard Whooper Swans in the distance. Over several minutes I heard them come closer then fade as the swans migrated roughly north west on their way to Iceland.
In the morning I found an Early Grey moth by the light. This species flies in March and its larvae feed on wild and cultivated honeysuckles.

Full moon rising- 19th March
Full moon- 19th March
Early Grey moth
Butterflies and moths, Insects

Ivy flowers

The ivy flowers along the lane were teaming with insects in the heat of the midday sun- the temperature climbed above 20 celsius in the shade today. Ivy is a very important late source of  nectar for many insect species. There were buzzing swarms of House Flies and some hoverflies. Honey bees dragged around enourmous orange pollen sacks. There were also a few Noon Day Flies. These attractive insects lay their eggs in cow dung- the larvae then eat the larvae of other flies. They are known as Noon Day Flies for their habbit of basking in the the midday sun. Also on the flowers was a Comma, looking stunning against a clear blue October sky. Up to four Commas were feeding on apples today along with one or two Red Admirals.

Comma feeding on ivy flowers
Noon Day Fly

Return of the Harlequins

On the 29th September last year I saw my first Harlequin Ladybird. Eventually about 40 spent the winter hibernating in our door frame, alongside native ladybirds. They woke in the spring and dispersed. This species has expanded its range dramatically in a few years, first reaching Southern England in 2004. It is originally an Asian species which was introduced to North America and later Continental Europe because it eats more crop pest species than any other ladybird, the trouble is that it eats beneficial species too.  The jury is still out on whether it will affect our native species of ladybirds and other insects. The larger Harlequin may displace them.

Harlequin ready to take off


The most exciting sighting today was the appearance of a Hornet on the insect table. A superb insect inches from me as I sketched, I was struck by the rich colours and of course its size. It dwarfed the Common Wasps around it and they kept a respectful distance as it dominated the feeding area.

Hornet and Common Wasp on rotten banana