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Posts tagged ‘Richard Lewington’

Rutpela maculata

Illustration of Rutpela maculata

Illustration of Rutpela maculata

I was recently commissioned to design a nature board for a meadow in Hampshire. I’d hoped to get Richard Lewington to do the illustrations but unfortunately he was too busy working on other projects. I tried another illustrator but sadly that didn’t work out so ended up doing them myself. There were twelve in total including a couple of beetles. The Black and yellow longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata is pictured above. Previously I’ve always used designer’s gouache but after trying a variety of styles and techniques I finally opted for Faber Castell Polychromous coloured pencils and Pigma Micron archival ink on Strathmore Bristol Smooth paper. Surprising really as I’ve never used coloured pencils before.

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Bombus pascuorum

Common carder bee, bombus pascuorum, male

Bombus pascuorum – Male

My favourite bumblebee at the moment is also our commonest, the Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum. The photo above shows a particularly handsome, well-marked, somewhat foxy-looking male. Male bees can be handled safely in the field, like this, if held very gently, but if you are in any doubt as to the sex, don’t do it.

This is a species that can vary enormously in appearance and size, in all castes, with some female workers being very tiny indeed. For me this is part of the fascination. Pale-haired specimens can be confused with the rarer carders B. humilis or B. muscorum and may need determining (particularly males) using genitalia extraction. To get to species (useful if you are collecting scientific data) its often necessary to key out a specimen under a stereomicroscope.

For a while now I’ve been thinking I really ought to focus on one group of insects. I really love beetles, Coleoptera, but I don’t find as many as I should. It seems of late that the Hymenoptera (Bees, Ants and Wasps) seem to have chosen me, especially the Bees. This is partially due to where I live, right on the edge of Salisbury Plain – a huge open area of ancient flower-rich grassland and the fact that the Plain holds some particularly rare examples like the Shrill Carder Bee Bombus sylvarum, the Armed Nomad Bee, Nomada armata and the Sainfoin Bee Melitta dimidiata.

But it’s a tough group and as indicated earlier a lot of bees aren’t identifiable beyond family in the field.

Yet in many respects identifying bees, at least in the UK, has just got a tiny bit easier with the long-awaited publication of a Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland by Steven Falk and Illustrated by Richard Lewington. This is the first major work on bees since The Hymenoptera Aculeate of the British Islands by Edward Saunders in 1896.

More info about naturalist Steven Falk and his new book here.

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Mint moth, pyrausta aurata

Pyrausta aurata

I used to live in what is now called Royal Wootton Bassett. It was just plain old Wootton Bassett when I lived there. But then that was before we were flying back union jack covered coffins from Iraq and Afghanistan. Thankfully most of our troops are back home now.

On sunny days in July I’d often find this tiny moth in my equally tiny courtyard garden basking in the sun. When I had to move home, there it was again in my new garden near Marlborough. Now much as though it would have cheered me no end to imagine it had followed me, perhaps hidden amongst my many books, there had to be a common connection. After giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that it was either attracted to mint or marjoram, or both. Read more

Searching for the duke

Duke of Burgundy butterfly - Side view

Hamearis lucina – Side view

Last April I saw my first ever Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina, or at least I’m pretty sure I did. To be fair all I saw was a fleeting flash of brown and orange. But then I was in the right place, ancient chalk downland, at roughly the right time, so I was reasonably confident, even for a novice.

Just over a year later, armed with two weeks’ leave and a new macro lens I was determined to do better. I’d read that the adults prefer mornings so I was out of bed and up on Morgans Hill before the dew had evaporated. My only concern was that the very wet April we’d just endured may have proved too much for them. With so few seen last year I was beginning to fear the worst. Read more