Tag Archive: bees

After releasing the Hebrew Character and spending the morning on some very worthwhile physics revision, and after soup, cheese, wheaten and a quarter of a mars bar…

… I went to Glencairn Park.

Those who’ve been following my gallavantings for a while will be somewhat familiar with Glencairn Park by name. I posted a few photos recently that hopefully gave a sense of the place. But I thought I’d do a bit of writing as well.

First, to break up the text, an artistically-messed-up photo of a lesser celandine flower, photographed there.



At the very western edge of Belfast where housing estates abruptly meet steep muddy fields, Glencairn Park is an area of mixed woodland, recreational grassland and grazing meadows which has provided me with some nice wildlife moments over the past few years (since I got the courage to go there alone. Muddy tracks leading to bottlecap-littered areas hint at the nighttime goings-on, and quash any desire I have to go dusking there!)

I squeezed through the overgrown galvanised access gate into the central grazing meadow. “Well, what have you got for me this time?” Last year, the meadow introduced me to such characters as Grapholita jungiella and Glyphipterix thrasonella. Today, nothing much seemed to be happening – just not enough sun yet. I picked out blackcaps and a chiffchaff from the auditory fauna for the first time this year as I descended down into Forth River’s valley, into an area pockmarked with deep hoof-sized holes from far muddier days.

I followed the cattle tracks into an area I hadn’t previously explored – an open bit of ground with swathes of bramble flattened from the winter’s heavy snows.

And there, powerfully fluttering through the air and alighting on a bare bine-stem, was my first butterfly of the year.


Well, there’s a first. And a very nice surprise indeed. For the past three years since I turned into a lepidopterist my first butterfly of the year has always been a Small Tortoiseshell. But a Peacock! Does this tell of a different type of year to come?

Patrick Barkham, in The Butterfly Isles, anticipating his first butterfly of the year in 2009, writes about the characters of the Moomin world of Tove Jansson, discussing the significance of the first butterfly of the year. A black or brown butterfly is sad. A yellow butterfly foretells a happy summer, while a white butterfly heralds a quiet summer. But a golden butterfly is the best of all!

The Small Tort probably goes under “golden”. And, not that I make it my business to read into signs, indeed I’ve had three great summers, even if they left me a bit burnt out.

But a crimson red butterfly? What can that mean? 🙂

It has probably something to do with the gigajassive adventure of going to uni. I just hope its black-brown underside isn’t significant…

The beautifully, cryptically patterned underside of the splendid Peacock.

Turning around and poising its wings, it settled to bask in the intermittent sun.


Up close and beautiful

Then, as I was creeping up with the camera, it was up again – chasing off another Rhopaloceran, smaller and flashing orange as it retreated into the treetops, only to sneak in around the corner a few seconds later to take advantage of some lesser celandine nectar. Well Luke Hewitt Iz, a Small Tortoiseshell.

The smiling butterfly

As the sun went in for the last time, the butterflies disappeared and I explored for a while. The bumblebee population seems to be thriving, which is very encouraging. I spotted Bombus lucorum, terrestris, lapidarius, pratorum and pascuorum, all foraging on a pink-flowering shrub which looked a bit non-native but is certainly welcomed by these members of the ecological community.

Ah, spring.

Sallow catkins, on a tree broken by the winter's snows but still alive

Sallow catkins, on a tree broken down by the winter’s snows but still alive

Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell get the year list off the ground

And the bees get their list too!
2013 BEES: 5



A sunny afternoon brought the bees to my garden in hordes today. They LOVE our cotoneaster. (Incidentally, moths do too, and if it stays calm I might chance my sanity at some moth-hunting tonight.)

A bee that was present today in good numbers, and which I noticed for the first time on Sunday, was the Early Bumblebee, Bombus pratorum.

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) queen, 15 May 2012

The Early Bumblebee catches the nectar-filled cotoneaser flower

The above photo is a queen bee; the next one (which I took on Sunday) is the worker. All workers are female and those of this species, as you can see, often lack the yellow band on the abdomen that is present in queens.

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) worker, 13 May 2012

Note the big cream-coloured pollen baskets on her hind tibiae

A pleasant surprise came in the form of three Honey Bees, Apis mellifera – up to now all I’ve had are hoverflies impersonating honeybees.

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera), 15 May 2012

The honey bees finally arrive

I think my favourite bees have to be the most yellow ones: the Garden (B. hortorum) and Heath (B. jonellus) Bumblebees. I thought I had Garden in the garden today but on closer inspection it had a yellow face and short head, which means Heath – the first I’ve noticed this year. Not only that, but it was a male bee, the first of any species for the year (no female bumblebee in Ireland has a yellow face, wich is how I knew it was a male).

This meant that it had no sting and so I was able to handle it (in order to see its face properly) without fear. I’m afraid I not only annoyed but exhausted it – when I released it it had to sit and drink nectar for a while to get its energy up before it could fly off. Thus immobilised, I was able to get a decent photo of it.

Heath Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) male, 15 May 2012

This one was so nice I’ve uploaded a high-res photo. Click and behold.

Early Bumblebee, Honey Bee and Heath Bumblebee take my 2012 year list to 8