Showing posts from August, 2012

Wood Small-reed (Calamagrostis epigeious)

Wood Small-reed (Calamagrostis epigeious), a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. Some grasses can be mistaken for reeds because we associate big, fluffy flower heads with the Common Reed, Phragmytes. Phragmytes is actually a grass despite its name and so lovely big flowers like this one are actually grasses.

This particular species of grass, is then, really confusing because, although a grass, it is called a small-reed, that despite the fact it grows quite tall and is not small at all! To add to the confusion, although being the Wood Small-reed it actually prefers rough grassy pasture on heavy soils although I believe it can be found in damp woods. So Its common name is not appropriate at all which makes remembering it that much more difficult.

Despite all this, it is a lovely plant and well worth taking some time to look at and admire.
Find out more about the Wood Small-reed in Dorset here: www.natureofdorset.…

Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus)

Bumblebee (Bombus jonellus), a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. This bumblebee has no common name but if it did it could justifiably be called the heathland bumblebee. It is very similar to other light coloured tailed bumblebees, especially Bombus hortorum (the Small Garden Bumblebee) but it has two buff bands on the thorax. The pollen sacks tend to be orange rather than yellow. It is quite a small bee and very active, rarely settling anywhere for long as it works its way around the heather flowers.

This is an early emerging species and in spring it loves to indulge in the flowers of sallow but can also be found in gardens, especially where there are winter flowering heathers to be raided.
Find out more about Bombus jonellus in Dorset here:

Parasitic Fly (Tachina grossa)

Parasitic Fly (Tachina grossa), a photo by Peter Orchard on Flickr. In general I am pretty positive about nature; I try to find some beauty or wonder in everything but what can I find to like about this? It is ugly, dirty and evil! It is a parasitic fly called Tachina grossa and it is certainly gross. It is quite common on heathland in August and September and in flight it looks like a bumble-bee but when it settles it becomes quite obvious very quickly that it is not a cute little furry insect but a rather disgusting fly.

It parasitises large caterpillars by laying its eggs inside them. The larvae then eat the insides of the caterpillar before pupating and overwintering as a pupae. Given its liking for large caterpillars and heathland I expect the large, woolly caterpillar of the fox moth is a favoured target as they, too, are quite common in late summer.

However unpleasant it still has a role to play in the wider scheme of things and so I guess its 'live and let live'!