Archive | July 2014

Cooden Beach

Recent walks along Cooden Beach finding that the banked-up shingle from last winter remains and there is a renewed shingle pioneer plant community with Sea Rocket Cakile maritima in one place, a good patch of Rock Samphire Crithmum maritimum and widespread plants of Sea Kale Crambe maritima070714 002

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Further along the beach and Silver Ragwort Senecio cineraria flowering beside Red Valarian Centranthus ruber. Two colonising and colourful summer species I associate with hot summer days here and along the Seven Sisters.

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Tachinidae for two

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Two more parasitic flies in the Tachinidae. Below, Eurithia consobrina on Hogweed at Summerfields last August. This fly has appeared in numbers locally this year.

Above, the sometimes numerous summer flying Eriothrix rufomaculatapictured at Ragwort this weekend.

Nomada fucata

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Pictured on Ragwort at West Hill Hastings, this Nomad bee is a cleptoparasite of the Mining bee Andrena flavipes.

The Andrena is a successful species with a large and widespread population in Sussex. However, the Nomad bee was formerly considered a scarce and local species in England and in recent decades only has spread through the range of its’ host.

Umbel Insects 4

Tachina grossa (L.1758), the largest British Tachinid fly, pictured today at South Saxons as it flew from Hogweed to Hogweed 230714 008on a hot late morning.

This parasitic fly has two main hosts in Britain, the moths Oak Eggar Lasiocampa quercus and the Fox Moth Macrothylacia rubi.

Eggs are inserted into the caterpillars and the adult fly emerges from the pupa.

Hoverfly arrival

Hoverflies began to come in from the east and south east on Sunday morning but the movement ceased, probably due to heavy rain developing over the Continental coast. However, with hot weather on Monday there was a large immigration that lasted much of the day and again today, insects pouring inland. A number of Japanese Spindle bushes at coastal West St Leonards were thronged with hundreds of the Marmalade Fly, Episyrphus balteatus.
220714 005 220714 008 220714 014 220714 019 220714 010 Along with the Marmalades were smaller numbers of other species feeding avidly on nectar. The individuals looked at were in fresh condition indicating they had recently emerged.

Lying in wait

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Can you see the hunter in the grass?

The Robberfly Machimus cingulatus pictured at Hastings on a hot sunny late morning.

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Umbel party pooper

The nectaries on umbels can be very exposed to rain and after a hot day on the 18th a humid Low pressure system brought up storms from the south. Constant lightning preceded the first rain in the evening. Picture taken from St Leonards.

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Umbel insects 3

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Above, a small bee in the Genus Hylaeus and, below, a fly – one of the Anthomyiidae, join the Hogweed throng at South Saxons.

Umbel insects 2

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Above, a male Graphomya maculata (Muscidae) perches on the outer umbel, the hairs of the fly carrying many pollen grains.

Below, a male of the Blowfly Calliphora vicina feeds on Hogweed nectar.

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Hogweed Heracleum sphondyleum has come into its’ own with the fullness of summer. Broad plates of umbels comprising many flowers host a range of insects attracted to the nectar.

When the flower opens the anthers are clotted with pollen but this is soon harvested by insects, often unintentionally gathered on body and leg hairs as they clamber about to feed on the sugary secretion at the sides of the ovaries where the developing stigmas are supported.

Hogweed flowers have zygomorphic flowers on the edges of the umbel, the outer petals being larger and deeply cleft. 

Using the camera I can see the way that the mouthparts of the flies grasp the ovaries. Also, the very small size of the individual pollen grains attached to some of the insect hairs.

The Soldierfly Microchrysia polita here, pictured at South Saxons, St Leonards on July 13th.