Saturday 10 April 2010

Grape Hyacinth visitors

Many nectar-feeding insects prefer to use abundant floral resources. That is, a plant is much more frequently visited when there is a large clump of the species together or it flowers profusely, just because the insect has to travel less to obtain the same amount of energy. I have experienced this first hand in my garden with Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) an early flowering bulb with clusters of deep blue flowers at the top of a spike. This year I have several large drifts of this species, which has been flowering for the last month or so and this has been rewarded by an unusually high diversity in the species visiting the flowers. Here is a selection of photos taken in the last few days on this plant.
Anthophora plumipes female loaded with yellow pollen and feeding on the flowers
Anthophora plumipes male, leaving the flowers with his tongue still extended
A male Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa) sunbathing on a stone next to a Muscari clump. The first males of the year appeared today and I have watched them feeding and patrolling the plants, making sure they weren't missing any of the females. The males kept checking the Anthophoras.
A Peacock visiting the flowers. Grape hyacinths are also visited by Commas and Small Tortoiseshells (see here for photos)
This scruffy-looking dark bee with white tufts of hair is Melecta albifrons, the cleptoparasite bee (cuckoo bee) of Anthophora plumipes.
I have got no photos but a couple of days ago I saw an Andrena fulva and a queen Bombus pascuorum (both first of the year) visiting Muscari in my garden.
UPDATE 11/04/10
Today a queen Bombus terrestris visited the Muscari patch and I managed to get a shot of the first Osmia rufa of the year feeding on it as well.

UPDATE 17/04/10
A Green-Veined butterfly fed on the Muscari patch.


sharp green pencil said...

Great post on the importance of this little plant! I did not know it was such a favourite. Is it because there is not too much else available? I will definitely include one in my bee flower list!

Africa Gomez said...

Thank you sharp green pencil. I cannot say there is not much else flowering at the moment, in my garden now there are primroses, cowslips, cherry blossom, violets pulmonaria and wallflowers in bloom. But maybe a few weeks ago that was the case, when the plant starts flowering, then there is little else!