Posted by: Ross Gardner | June 24, 2019

Love is sweet

Heath Fritillary - Pound Wood 2 (scaled)

Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia)

Some things you notice by chance.  I was walking in one of my local woods the other week, ostensibly to count that rare little beauty, the Heath Fritillary, to help keep the warden informed of their doings.  The count took half an hour or so, but then followed another hour and half immersing myself in that half-hidden flood of life that can fill a June wood.  That buzz of life which at first seems to exisit just on the edge of your senses, but once you have tuned in reveals itself to fill every nook and cranny of the place; whether or not half-imagined, the effect is the same and no less a wonder.

As I was begining my reluctant and decidedly long-winded way through the wood to home, I noticed a large and very handsome Hornet fly in front of me.  She didn’t carry on her way through the trees and across the nearby clearing, but seemed especially preoccupied with an oak tree standing beside the path.  I look more closely and quickly realised what had drawn her attention.  It was a sap run, or more of a seepage, leaking from a would in the bark.

The sap of an oak tree is clearly irristiably sweet, for she was not the only visitor I would observe there, on that occasion and other visits later.  A Speckled Wood butterfly for one.  The adults usually sup on the aphid-produced honeydew coating the tops of trees, but are evidently not averse to a bit tree sap on the side.  Most other visitor were flies, like gleaming metalic greenbottles and another distinctly orange species.

Flies, I realise, are not everyone’s cup of tea, but one of their number was of particular interest, with perhaps enough of look about it to capture the gaze of any with eye for the wild things.  It was the robust-looking and attractive hoverfly, Volucella inflata.  The adults appear to have a marked liking for the sweet sap, but it also appears that the larvae actually develop there also.  Proof once again, if any were required, that wherever there is an opportunity there will be something willing to take it.

Volucella inflata (plus Lucilia) (Scaled)

The hoverfly Volucella inflata (plus greenbottle – Lucilia species)

Phaonia pallida 2 (scaled)

‘A distinctly orange fly’ – probably Phaonia pallida


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