Chocolate miner

posted in: Bees, Invertebrates, My garden, Worcestershire | 0

“That sounds like a job for me,” said R. “I think I’d enjoy chocolate mining.”

Maybe so, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t enjoy being this Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica), which was one of two I spotted in the secret garden this morning. The first was a male, who flew away as soon as I lifted the camera, but this female was peculiarly passive even as I moved in on her, and that was enough to alert me to the probability that she was stylopised. I haven’t chosen the best angle here to display the stylops, but if you view the image full-screen you might just be able to make out that there’s something orange underneath the furthest fringe of hair, towards the right side of her abdomen. This is the head of a female┬áStrepsiptera, a┬áparasitic insect which is going to govern the rest of of our miner’s life, and will probably prevent her from breeding and nesting.

There’s a better view of a stylops (coincidentally also in a Chocolate Mining Bee) in this post, in which I wrote quite a bit about stylopisation – so to save ┬árepeating myself I’ll just invite you to read that account, if you’re interested. Both the links, to the Royal Entomological Society page and to the emergence film, still work.

This afternoon I drove up to the owl field, more in hope than in expectation, but over two hours saw no owls of any description. I did have quite an enjoyable chat at the wall with several other old lags hands, but it was perishingly cold and the light, though good to start with, deteriorated fast until it was generally agreed to be hopeless. At that point I decided to call it quits, and my parting words to the other owlers: “See you in November!” were meant only partly in jest. This evening I’ve finished processing and culling my photos from last Friday, which turned out better than expected given the conditions under which they were taken, and I’ve posted a selection of them here, if you’d care to take a look.