Yesterday at Parke in the wet meadows by the River Bovey I found this hoverfly Chrysotoxum bicinctum. I have never see this species before and it is new for Parke. It is characterised by the two distinct yellow bands on its abdomen.
It is a pretty fly with long antennae – they are usually found in grassy places near to trees and scrub – textbook!
It has a distribution which is rather misleading – this is the map from the National Biodiversity Network which makes it look rather common – it is better described as having a good geographic southern distribution but nowhere is it common i.e. it is very thin on the ground
The larvae of this species of hoverfly lives in the ground and feeds on aphids – so it is a predatory maggot. The aphids feed on the roots of various meadow plants. The aphids are ‘tended’ by a colony of ants who help protect and build the aphid nesting structures. In return for their work the ants feed on the honey dew produced by the aphids. Who would have thought that all of this was going on in a little water meadow on the edge of Dartmoor!
I had an all day meeting at Killerton yesterday and after the meeting finished and as the sun was shining I popped into Ashclyst Forest again to look for white admirals. What a success – never seen so many butterflies in one place before. Counted them all up and then submitted them to Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count. 123 individuals in 15 minutes!
In the parkland at Parke there is a large fenced meadow which has been under grazed for a number of years. It is a species rich grassland and contains a number of wet meadow species such as marsh thistle, meadowsweet, sneezewort and the corky fruited water dropwort. The aim is to graze the meadow next year with cattle to improve the wildlife in it.
I was doing a survey in the meadow yesterday in advance of the new grazing project and found a large population of the wasp spider Argiope bruennichi. I found another population of wasp spiders at Parke last year in the water meadows – see here.
Wasp spiders flourish in places where there is no grazing so they won’t be a permanent feature of these meadows but there are other places at Parke where they will survive
Sunday was a pretty bad day weather wise – it poured with rain all morning but finally the skies cleared at 2 o clock – I ventured out to Ashclyst Forest on the Killerton Estate in search of some white admiral butterflies – I failed but I did see a few other insects before the rain came back in again at 4.30pm.
The tiny hoverfly Meliscaeva cinctella – you can see the halteres – the pale white blobs just below where the wings join the body – all insects have two pairs of wings – in flies the second pair are modified and are called halteres. These act as mini gyroscopes to help flies buzz around!
So no white admirals …. I will try again during August if and when the promised heatwave returns!
I photographed this little wasp at Parke last week. A quick email conversation with John Walters confirmed it as one of the ‘potter wasps’ probably an Ancistrocerus species – these make mud nests in cavities in walls and fences. There are several species of Ancistrocerus and they are rather hard to tell apart …
We have recently installed some new interpretation for our visitors at Lydford Gorge – I really like it.