Sunday, 30 July 2017

Love and Death on the Peninsula

For my birthday last week, I decided to treat myself by taking the afternoon off and going to the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park. Last year a species of bee was spotted in the park for the first time in Britain, and I've wanted to go there ever since.

I could not definitely identify the viper's bugloss mason bee even if I saw one – there are nearly 250 species of solitary bees in the UK and I can recognise only a few common ones – but I did see some other cool insects. What's more, I was able to identify most of them using the field guides in the park library.

Exhibit A: the common red soldier beetle. This insect is often seen copulating on hogweed, hence its amusing nickname, the hogweed bonking beetle. Here is a nonconformist pair, mating not on hogweed but on hemp agrimony.

Exhibit B: common blue damselflies. Before mating, the male (blue) uses claspers at the tip of his abdomen to grasp the female behind her head to prevent other males from dislodging him. My friend Lalanti taught me how to tell apart damselflies and dragonflies: when resting, damselflies hold their wings parallel to their abdomen, while dragonflies hold them at right angles.

Exhibit C: a thick jawed orb weaver spider which has ensnared a solitary bee slightly larger than itself.