Saturday, 29 June 2013

To bee or not to bee...

...that is the question.

For a few years I have been interested in bumblebees. I guess being a "Bee" myself and being rather small made me identify myself with these lovely insects. To be honest I am still struggling to name the different species but at least I was quite sure when I caught this fellow today that he is just pretending to be a bumblebee.

Volucella bombylans var. plunata

This insect is called Volucella bombylans and is a hover fly. It is an excellent mimic of a bumblebee and is found throughout most of the UK. There are two main varieties which mimic different species of bumblebee, one with an orange-red tail (V. bombylans var. plunata) which mimics the Red-tailed Bumblebee and the other with a white tail (V. bombylans var. bombylans) which looks like the White-tailed Bumblebee.

You can tell them from real bumblebees by looking at their head and feet. The real bumblebee has smaller and glistening eyes and long antennae. The hover fly's antennae are very small, while the eyes are much bigger. The fly flies elegantly like all other hover flies and is able to come to a complete stand still in the air. The bumblebee flies in straight lines, less elegantly and never does a standstill, for it can't. The hover fly larva of Volucella bombylans live in the nests of bumble bees, eating the rubbish produced but they might also prey on bumblebee larvae.

On the bird front we can announce that we have finally finished our all island bird counts. As the Kittiwakes were running really late we circumnavigated Skomer on our little Zodiac once more to count them. The first Kittiwake chicks were observed about 10 days ago.

James and Ed counting birds

All our auks are now busy feeding their chicks. So are the Manx Shearwaters which come in at night with a stomach full of oily fish. Annette Fayet, one of our researchers weighed a one day old chick on Friday which was only 50g. Today it weighed an astonishing 120g, it had more than doubled its body weight in one night!

Annette with a Manx Shearwater chick

One day old and weighing in at 50g

And what else is going on on Skomer? Well, as pictures are often better than words, I will let the photos speak for themselves:

First there is love (P. Reufsteck)

Then there is a chick
And the chick wants some food (P. Reufsteck)

Different species, same story

Razorbill egg

Razorbill chick (P. Reufsteck)

And this is impressive mum (or dad) (P. Reufsteck)

We could have just as well called this blog post 'the birds and the bees', either way Shakespeare would definitely have approved.

Bee (Skomer Warden)

1 comment:

  1. I hope to get over there again later this summer to repeat the bee transect. There aren't many on the mainland this year!