I have a real soft spot for hoverflies and this one, Volucella pellucens, has a particular place in my heart. When I first got the 'bug' for nature watching my interest was, as it is with many people, in birds but one day in the summer of 1986 I was walking along a country lane with brambles in the hedgerow and I saw one of these on a bramble flower. I guess it was love at first sight! I had no idea what it was but I was mesmerised and took a series of snaps of it and then I had to find someone to identify it for me; thanks to the Southampton Natural History Society I soon found out exactly what it was.
With my eyes opened I started looking for insects as well as birds; flowers and everything else soon followed. That encounter with this insect that day changed my whole perspective and opened up a new fascinating world for me. So it is, perhaps, not surprising that this little creature is one of my favourite insects!
Volucella pellucens is a striking black and white insect and is sometimes known as the great pied hoverfly. It is a devotee of brambles and is most often found around bramble bushes, often those in clearings in woodlands and copses. The males are very territorial and hover in the middle of their established piece of air space, often several metres above the ground.
Whilst bladder wrack is the best known of the wrack seaweeds the one most often seen is actually the channelled wrack (Pelvetia canaliculata). Growing freely near the high water line it is adapted to withstand long periods of exposure to the air without drying out. The weed that is out of the water the longest is usually blacker than the paler colour of that which is covered for longer. It does not have bladders for flotation as it rarely needs to float. It may appear to have bladders at the ends of its fronds but the swellings are not full of air, they contain a jelly substance and are the fruiting body of the seaweed. Channelled wrack grows in large masses and can be seen on sea walls, quays and piers as well as the upper reaches of rocky shorelines but each plant only grows to about 18 inches long due to the amount of time it is our of water. It is common around British shores and Dorset is no exception to that. In Scotland it has been used as cattle fodder but I was surprised to r…
The centre of the web is a funnel in which the spider waits. Around the entrance are lots of single strands, a bit like trip wires, that stop insects from an easy escape and gradually bring them nearer to the central funnel from where Agelena can strike!
I have heard people refer to these as Funnel Web Spiders which, of course they are not. Funnel Web Spiders are renowned for being very poisonous where as this spider is quite harmless (to humans).
The are extremely nervous creatures and quickly retreat in to their funnels which makes photographing them very difficult.