Posted on June 23, 2021
It is undeniable that there are fewer insects around than there used to be even ten or twenty years ago. The change is dramatic when compared with my youth and childhood which is a very long time ago. On a warm summer afternoon like yesterday there was hardly a creature on the wing in the village nature reserve. There are currently swathes of flowering plants and grasses. Nothing really remarkable – most obvious are the tall stands of various umbellifera, like hog weed and cow parsley with their large flattened flowerheads, providing hundreds of thousands of tiny white flowers full of nectar and pollen. A potential feast for insects. The creamy white background of the blooms makes it easy to see any feeding insects. There were only or two noticeable.
The first one I saw was this unusual insect that looked at first like a bee but had markings on the one pair of true wings. The second pair were reduced and these are called halteres – that signalled it as a type of fly (Dipteran, not Hymenopteran). Looking up the identification back home, I found out it was a Pellucid or Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) which is more characteristic on bramble flowers although it is also seen on others like the umbellifers. Pellucid means translucently clear; and you can see that there is a band of segments on the abdomen nearest to the thorax that looks a cream colour – because you can actually see the intestines through the clear integument. Why does it mimic a bee? Well the adult female needs to be in disguise when laying her eggs inside the nests of wasps and bumble bees. The hoverfly larvae feed on waste matter and bee/wasp larvae when they hatch out.