Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust: Getting back to nature this June with 30 Days Wild
This month, Rachel Shaw, of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, talks about the winged creatures that have visited her garden, and being in tune with nature throughout June.
During the period of lockdown and whilst working from home, I've spent more time in my garden than ever before.
Even though it is a small urban garden, there is always activity and something to see.
As I write, the tree bumblebees are buzzing as they collect pollen. These black bumblebees have a tawny back and white bottom. They look weighed down by the full pollen baskets on their legs.
There's also a different pitched buzz in the garden today. A large hoverfly. Superficially it looks like a bumblebee; black with a yellow stripe near the head and a reddish bottom. It is eating pollen and will pollinate the flowers but won't collect pollen like the bees do. The hoverfly also has larger eyes and shorter antennae than the bumblebees.
Lots of hoverfly species have black and yellow stripes to pretend to be bees or wasps. It's a great strategy. If you are harmless but you look like an insect with a sting, you’re less likely to get stung yourself.
Hoverflies aren't the only ones that have evolved to look like something they're not. Anyone who has handled a ladybird may have discovered that they secrete a foul-smelling liquid when they think they are in danger. This liquid actually comes from their knees! It's a chemical defence that makes ladybirds taste revolting. Their bright red or yellow colour is a warning to birds and other predators not to eat them.
A week or two ago, I came across a ladybird imposter in my garden. The same bright red colouring with black spots but not quite the rounded shape and with long rather than short antennae. This little beetle wanted me to think he was a ladybird but clearly things weren't quite right. I looked him up and found his true identity.
He was Endomychus coccineus, also known as the false ladybird beetle. These beetles feed on fungi. They are probably not distasteful to birds but are likely to be avoided because of their colours.
This June, I'll be taking part in 30 Days Wild, the Wildlife Trust's annual challenge to spend time in nature every day in June.
I'm excited about what else I might discover in my garden. Everyone can take part: sign up at www.lincstrust.org.uk/30-days-wild and receive a digital pack of ideas and support.