Wildlife Garden Wetheral 2023 by Bob Jones

This year has been different to previous ones with most of the same species being seen but in smaller numbers. Activity in the “bee hotels” have been much reduced as far as mason bees are concerned but there seemed to be greater numbers of parasitic wasps about early in the season so may be the dearth of bees was at the expense of successful hatching of the wasps. I also learned that some mason bees can take 2 years to emerge so may be its not as bad as it appears. I did have blue Mason bee in timber elsewhere in the garden and did manage to get an image which illustrates its name – just!
As far as new species go there was a tiny wasp stocking its nest hole with tiny spiders and a very small bronze furrow bee only 5 mm or so long but with impressive antennae. Also 2 of the 2,578 (!) species of ichneumon wasps in Britain & Ireland and a southern hawker dragonfly warming up one morning possibly from my pond. Most recently was a nomad bee but I am not sure of exact species.

I suppose the most interesting have been the holly blue butterflies – it’s been a good year as many of you will know. A lovely insect with the female having the dark wing markings. I have kept records since 2018 and numbers vary but this year has eclipsed the total of all the other years put together. I had the first brood in the garden using a large flowering holly bush from 25th April through to 17th May – both sexes – with ovipositing on flowers seen on 2 dates; usually seen singly but 2 interacting flying round the holly bush on one occasion. There was a gap till the second brood appeared on 6th July and since then I have seen them active almost daily (when weather permitted) mainly singles but on 29th July, 3 were in the air together (one a certain female) – all feeding on snowberry flowers. On 11th August there was a mating pair which gives hope for next year. Whilst this species is moving its range north, numbers can fluctuate because there is a parasitic wasp that preys on the caterpillars causing a boom/bust cycle – we will have to see what 2024 brings. There is plenty of ivy in the garden and locally as this is the plant used by the second brood .
I have heard of individuals from Silloth and Whitehaven but most have been more local in Stanwix, Hayton, Wetheral village, Raughton Head and Cumwhitton.