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  • Peppered moths and their curious means of camouflage

    Miranda Hodgson on 06 Nov 2013 at 01:05 PM

    There is an interesting caterpillar to look out for at this time of year, the caterpillar of the Peppered moth (Biston betularia). It’s very easy to miss, because it has such good camouflage and looks almost exactly like a rose stem, being just the right shade of green, the head seemingly the start of die-back on a broken stem and the legs looking like rose thorns. Other protrusions mimic leaf scars and stem buds. The caterpillars are just starting to appear now and I saw the first one this week, cleverly hidden during its daytime resting period.

     

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  • Planning ahead for hairy-footed flower bees and bidding farewell to a bird

    Miranda Hodgson on 03 Nov 2013 at 01:27 PM

    Here we are in autumn and I’m already thinking about spring. I’m thinking about it because I’d like to encourage more hairy-footed flower bees, also known as spring bees (Anthophora plumipes). They’re easy to miss because they move so fast, zipping from one flower to the next, emitting a shrill hum as they fly. In trying to get a reasonably clear photograph of a female, I ended up with several pictures of fuzzy black blobs that could have been anything.



    One of the interesting things about these little bees is that the male and female are so unalike; the male has gingery hair and a buff tail while the female is almost entirely black, except for the yellowish hairs that cover her back legs and can easily be mistaken for pollen sacs. You can see them in the image above.

    The reason that I’ve been noticing hairy-footed flower bees is that we have Pulmonaria officinalis growing in the garden, which is a great plant for attracting them. It is very easy to grow and I’ve divided and moved existing clumps so that we have more flowers in spring, and hopefully more bees, but am now considering adding some other varieties and seeing what the bees make of those. Pulmonaria ‘Moonshine’ with its green-edged, silvery-white foliage is tempting and I am also lured by the glorious blue flowers of Pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’. Eye candy for us humans and food for the bees – can’t be bad.

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