Beauty and the beast

Today brought me two firsts. The main image shows the first Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) I’ve seen this year – a fresh and pristine male, so gorgeous that I let out an audible “Oooh!” of appreciation when I first spotted him on the honeysuckle. I thought he looked a bit leery though, and I expected that he’d take exception to being papped, so I spent a couple of minutes approaching at a snail’s pace to try to get a side-on view. By the time I took this I was leaning at a rakish angle, resting one elbow for support on the back spoiler of my car and slowly subsiding to his level – but at that point, perhaps fortunately for my knees, he lost his nerve and flew.

I doubt that my second first of the day would please many people, on account of being both ugly and destructive, but I do love a weevil, and this one was completely new to me so I was more than happy to find it boring holes in one of my Siberian irises. The Iris Weevil (Mononychus punctumalbum) is only 4-5mm long, but looks bigger because it’s so chunky. The female lays her eggs in the seed pods of various iris species and the larvae consume the seeds; but more obvious damage is done to the plants by the adults, which eat both leaves and flower buds. According to UK Beetles this is a southern coastal species, which given that you can’t get much further from the coast in this country than Worcestershire, makes the Shire a slightly odd place to find it – but I suppose that like many insect species the warming climate may be driving it northward.

R: C1, D19.