Monday, December 1, 2014

Nature Notes: Scorpionfly

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These are photos from February, but I never got round to posting them. We discovered that huge maggots were living in Mr Ook's ficus tree pot and we left them there to see what would hatch. We had all but forgotten about them when one day, this gangly fellow popped up in out kitchen.

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It's a female scorpionfly (Mecoptera) and I believe she belongs to the Bittacidae family, also called Hangingflys or Hanging Scorpionflys. In any case, she will live on other insects and maybe pollen. Males will offer choice insects as a gift during mating to be accepted. I believe she is female because most male Scorpionflies have more or less elaborate appendages on their abdomen to grasp females during mating.

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They are not very elegant animals and fly just as badly as craneflies do (that body shape is probably not the most aerodynamic), but they sure look cool.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nature Notes: Bees in Autumn

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This is a photo from September. The hive was busy getting rid of all their drones, which is why there are so many dead bees lying at the bottom. The workers were grabbing drones and throwing them out, when I opened up the hive, they used the chance to just tip the drones over the rim instead of carrying them through the flight holes.

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And here's the hive in late October. They have quite a lot of honey now and I stopped feeding them. I think they should make it through the winter. It has been fairly warm, but I am going to close the bottom of the hive tomorrow anyway. And then I'll leave them alone, except for a treatment against Varroa mites when it's cold enough that they have no more brood.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Nature Notes: Fallow Land part 2

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European dewberry - looks a lot like blackberries, but tastes gross

ladybird

ladybird

pilze

I think a snail snacked on one of those mushrooms

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puffball

rosa blüte

I don't know what that is, but it's fairly common

schlehe

blackthorn/sloe berry

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Nature Notes: Fallow Land

biene
johanniskraut
Aaron's beard / St John's Wort

These photos were taken on a piece of fallow land near my workplace. I go there often during my break and it's a great place to watch birds. I didn't catch any birds on film, but a couple of other animals and a variety of plants that grow there.

rabbit warren
the excavation mound in front of a rabbit warren
bunny
and one of the inhabitants

earthworm pile
earthworm droppings

eicheln
acorns

feenkreis
half a fairy ring

green beetle
some kind of beetle

bunte früchte
no idea what those are

hagebutte 2
rosehips

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nature Notes: My Bees

My bees live in a top bar hive I built myself and I'm practising natural beekeeping, interfering as little as possible with the hive, letting them swarm should they do so (if that happenen next year, I am going to keep the swarm) and letting the bees build combs on their own, without frames. The hive is covered by the top bars, each wide enough for a single comb, it's open at the bottom during most of the year and it allows me to work with the hive while disturbing the bees as little as possible. The stilts keep it at a very comfortable height.

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and here's the whole swarm, two days after moving in - when I got them, I could handle them with bare hands. Bees in a swarm are amazingly docile and it was a great experience, although I was really nervous that they would fly off or sting. I need not have worried.
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The next photos were taken three weeks ago when I wanted to harvest honey and found out that they didn’t have nearly enough to get them over the winter, let alone any to spare. The year was a bad one for honey all around and many beekeepers had the same problem. You can see how nicely they built the combs along the top bars if you look closely and how the small crack between each bar is sealed of with propolis, bee glue.

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I don’t mind about getting no honey, I just hope they will make it. They are getting sugar water now so they can build up their reserves. The comb lying on the bottom, that was my fault. It still has brood in it, so I leave it there until its empty, then I’ll take it out. You can see in the next photo that the honey combs are empty and really light in colour, compared to the reddish yellow of the brood comb.

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In the three weeks since I took those photos, they have built more honey combs and have started filling them with honey made from the sugar water I give them. The swarm is named Ygramul. I am amazed every time I look at the hive, all those tiny animals working together, neatly building their home. Just look at those honeycombs, it’s just so perfect.

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