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Pantaloon bees & small shaggy bees at Castle Rocks

The pantaloon bee Dasypoda hirtipes and small shaggy bee Panurgus calcaratus are on the wing in numbers at Castle Rocks, Hastings at the moment. Both species specialise in collecting pollen from yellow composites and nest in sandy soil mainly on the top slope of Castle Rocks overlooking the entrance to Hastings Castle.

Dasypoda female excavating nest.

The Panurgus calcaratus nesting aggregation is particularly interesting as it seems to be quite an isolated population in East Sussex. Most populations of this species occur on sandy heaths in Sussex. The aggregation at Castle Rocks is quite large and it is possible to see multiple females using shared nest burrow entrances not only in excavated nest entrances but also small cracks in the sandstone.

Male Panurgus calcaratus (note the orange and black antennae).

Andy Phillips

Photos by Ian Phillips


Great Dixter Long-horned Bees

The stunning garden meadows at Great Dixter are reminiscent of a traditional style of agriculture which is now rarely seen in the High Weald. These flower-rich meadows which include green-winged orchids, dyer's greenweed, adder's-tongue fern and corky-fruited water-dropwort, grown under scattered fruit trees, probably originated from small pockets of old unimproved meadow incorporated into the garden design. 

Scattered throughout the meadows are dense patches of meadow vetchling which are very important for the population of long-horned bees Eucera longicornis at Great Dixter. Today we recorded 7 female long-horned bees within Orchard Meadow (below), mostly foraging from meadow vetchling and one record from bush vetch.

Also out in numbers within the meadows and grassland at Great Dixter is the clover blunt-horn bee Melitta leporina (below photo of male). A new record for the site today was the jewel wasp Chrysis viridula, a cleptoparasite and possible parasitoid of the potter wasp Odynerus spinipes.

Andy Phillips


From the Clifftop

During the current spell of warm weather, daily moth trapping has finally got my Fairlight garden year-list to over 200 species [204 today], markedly fewer than last year when I had reached 250  on this date.

However it's quality that counts and today I was very surprised to find the very distinctive micro. Cynaeda dentalis.  resting on the power lead to the bulb. I suspected I wouldn't be able to pot this one and indeed it made off, so this picture is of the only other one I've seen, at Dungeness.

This is a Viper's Bugloss feeder, we have a few plants in our garden, but this was most likely a wanderer from Rye Harbour


Goat Moth

As I had previously posted, we did a night time moth event at St Helens Wood in order to catch some moths to display for the Summer Fayre. We had a fabulous night with 117 species, and probably could have increased that if we had had time to catch and review every micro moth.  What we did have, and I never thought I would personally see, was the Goat Moth (Cossus cossus) at the MV trap. I can now lay down my jealousy I carried at Alan Parker's record from the HCPNR from 2015.

Update to say it was actually 2012 when Alan had the Goat Moth in HCPNR, even longer to carry that Jealousy!


Marbled White update

On Thursday I posted a piece about a new colony of Marbled Whites near Scotts Float at Playden. This bit of river bank has always been part of Bob Greenhalf's regular WeBS route which I and many others have also walked at least monthly every year, so we know it very well and can confirm we have never found this butterfly there before. Yesterday I revisited the site with Keith Palmer to do a botanical survey, finding at least a dozen, possibly 14, Marbled Whites including a pair definitely mating and perhaps a second female. The larval food plants are usually listed as Red and Sheep's Fescues, Yorkshire Fog, Timothy, Cocksfoot and Tor Grass. We could find neither of the fescues but did find Timothy and Cocksfoot grasses. (Interestingly, we also found a locally scarce Ringlet butterfly which also feeds on Tor Grass, so we might have missed that species among the rank vegetation.) In Sussex, Marbled Whites used to be almost confined to the chalk downs but have spread throughout the western Weald and north into the eastern Low Weald, though they remain very localised in the High Weald; east of Eastbourne they were found in only 14 tetrads in the 2010-14 county atlas. But they are continuing to spread, so worth looking out for anywhere.