Thursday, 2 May 2013

A fly pretending to be a bee

Thanks to David Shenton (see Comments on last post but one), I now know that my first Oxford mystery moth is a Nut Tree Tussock, which gives me that schoolboy kick which comes from discovering something new. They're not much found in the north and I never saw one in Leeds. Hooray!

Here's another picture of it; and also a short series of another novelty for me which Penny spotted on a windowsill yesterday and neither of us recognised in spite of its distinctive and somewhat menacing appearance.


Menacing is an appropriate word because this is a a Bee Fly, rejoicing in the fine Linnaean name of Bombylius major, which uses its mimicry to act as a parasite on the larvae of genuine bees. Poor embattled creatures, as if the current concern about disease and pesticides wasn't enough. The Natural History Museum's excellent website says dramatically: "The female has been seen to flick her eggs mid-air into ground bees’ and wasps’ nests."

Finally, on a lovely sunny day, we saw a couple of fine Brimstone butterflies on a classic English countryside walk which took in the deserted village and numinous, ruined manor house of Hampton Gay. The Brimstone's colouring as a 'butter-coloured fly' is one of the most commonly-cited reasons for the curious word 'butterfly', although without conclusive evidence.

I didn't get a picture of them, nor of the many Peacocks and a few Small Tortoiseshells which were enjoying the sunshine. But I managed to snap this lovely female Holly Blue, whose white wing-trim suggests very recent hatching. Sorry she's a bit blurred and a bit coy about opening her wings to their full, lovely extent.

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