The cornflowers and corn poppies are coming out. Everyone here is very excited about this, especially those of us with wings who enjoy hovering and like to drink nectar. The cornflower area of the garden is buzzing this morning.
The hoverfly enjoying the poppy is a Marmalade fly, the only one (as far as I know) who has these white lines on the yellow and black bands. As they are widespread across the UK if you live in these islands there is a very good chance you'll be getting them in your garden, so another one to have a look for.
The Golden Skippers are also out - at least, the Small Skipper version is. One of these grass-loving butterflies whizzed through the garden a couple of days ago in a blur of gold which had me leaping off the bench where I was sharing an early evening natter with M to go havering about the garden after it. This led my husband to remark with a smile that I have a particular run I do when excited about an insect. We won't go into details because it isn't very flattering and makes me sound like an excitable two year old.
Yesterday, I found another snoozing up by the pond in the shade on some bird's-foot trefoil. Hard to tell whether it's male or female with the wings closed, as the scent lines that tell the male apart aren't visible. Often, the male insect appears before the female, and I certainly saw all males in the grass lining the fields on our walk first thing this morning. Skippers frequently get confused with moths because most flutters adopt a wings-open posture at rest.
Butterflies are picky about temperature- too cold, and they can't fly, too hot and they don't. The optimum temperature range to see butterflies is 13-18 degrees, any hotter and they either down tools entirely or flit about so fast it's hard to work out what they are.
Small skippers are Very Fond Of Grass, especially Yorkshire Fog, which is pictured below. We have lots of it around the pond, not planted, it was already in the seed bank in the earth so we just let it grow. The first summer we let the grass grow long, the skippers came. They lay their eggs in it and the larvae eat the grass.
There is one other skipper you might confuse this one with, and that's the Essex skipper. You can tell them apart by the glossy black tips of the antennae on the Essex.
I grew some Honeywort from seed this spring and it has just started flowering. The bumblebees can't get enough of it. Listening to a bumble inside a honeywort flower is an instant cure for melancholy- the tubular bloom has a small circumference, so it's a tight squeeze for a plump bee. As a consequence, once nectaring their buzz becomes very concentrated and high-pitched, more of an exasperate squeal than the usual reassuring, low rumble. It reminds me of the memorable giggling fit BBC newsreader Charlotte Green had when trying to read an obit after listening to the earliest recording of Clair da la Lune, which a colleague had likened to a bee trapped inside a glass.
Small piles of sandy soil have appeared in the lawn again this week. They belong to the next batch of mining bees. Sometimes you can see their little faces peering up at you when you peer down. A bee face front-on has the appearance of a frown, possibly because they are quite concentrated, but maybe just expressing annoyance at the way you've blocked out the sun.
The most exciting bit of news here in recent days has been the appearance in the garden of a Tawny Longhorn Beetle. To be honest, I recorded them here last year too. The difference this year is that I now know that they are very rare, listed in the red data book and recorded from only 10 of the 15,000 15km squares in Britain.
M showed a bit more enthusiasm when he got home, asking to see the very flower that the beetle had arrived on. Looking at that written down, I wonder now whether he was taking the pee. Anyway, he dutifully followed me up to the garden and made all the right "how exciting for you, wife" type noises, even though I suspect even he struggles to comprehend my extreme excitement levels at the appearance of a 13mm long, beige-coloured insect for a few seconds on a small, orange-ball buddleia which is swamped by docks, nettles and grasses.
I'll leave you with some pictures of the flowers in the garden, which are so beautiful this year that I frequently find myself outside staring at them without being quite sure how I got there.
Hope you're all well?