Autumn is a good time to look for plant galls in Wyre. The ball-shaped Cherry Galls are induced by the gall wasp Cynips quercusfolii and those of the Common Spangle Galls by another gall wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The adult gall wasps that emerge early the following spring are all females and go on to lay their eggs on the developing oak leaf buds. The galls that result are quite different, and from these the sexual generation of males and females emerge in late spring and early summer.
Common Spangle Galls and Cherry Galls on oak, Postensplain, 6 September 2017 Rosemary Winnall
We were surprised and delighted when Carol Taylor found 2 Bilberry Bumblebees in a meadow near Button Oak recently during a Study Group field meeting. This is the first record for Wyre, the nearest known bees being at Stiperstones in Shropshire. One of the bees was carrying pollen which proves nesting in the locality. The bees are known to feed on Bilberry early in the season, and favour Bird’s-foot Trefoil in June and July, later feeding from Bell Heather. If anyone spots this species elsewhere in the Wyre Forest area, we’d be pleased to hear! Our 2 bees were released to continue their foraging where they’d been found nectaring on Bird’s-foot Trefoil.
Bombus monticola, Button Oak, 7 June 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall
Bombus monticola, Button oak, 7 June 2017 ©Rosemary Winnall
This summer a group of these sawfly larvae have defoliated the top of a small ornamental pine tree in my garden in Bliss Gate. They have been recorded here since 2014. There are still a few larvae present in the middle of September, but they will soon all have moved down into the soil where they spin overwintering cocoons in which to pupate. They will emerge as adults during next May or June.
Common Pine Sawfly (Diprion pini), Bliss Gate, 24 August 2016 ©Rosemary Winnall
Southern Wood Ants are commonly found in the Wyre Forest and in sunny places their large nests can be large and conspicuous. There may be up to 400,000 individual ants in one nest, almost all of which are worker ants. Winged males and new queens emerge between April and August and Kevin McGee has sent this excellent photograph of one of the queens he found in Wyre recently.
Formica rufa queen ant, Wimperhill, 5 June 2016 ©Kevin McGee
Despite its name, this is not an ant but an ant-like wasp in the family Mutillidae (Hymenoptera) in which there are 3 British species. These are parasites of halictine bees and crabronid wasps. The females have no wings, but are transported by the male whilst in cop. This female was found on bare sandy ground at Bliss Gate. This one looked like a queen ant, although had conspicuous waving antennae. They can sting if provoked and apparently stridulate when handled.
Black-headed Velvet Ant, Myrmosa atra, Bliss Gate ©Rosemary Winnall
The Wood Ants (Formica rufa) that are commonly found in most of Wyre’s woodland have begun to emerge from their winter period of dormancy and when weather conditions are suitable they are out massing on top of their nests – quite a spectacle!
Wood Ants, Ribbesford Wood, 27 March 2015 ©Nicola Winnall
Wood Ants, Ribbesford Wood, 27 March 2015, ©Nicola Winnall
These berry-like galls are commonly seen on oak male catkins. A tiny chalcid gall wasp, Neuroterus quercusbaccarum, lays her eggs on the developing oak buds in early spring. From these galls males and females hatch out and these females lay their eggs on oak leaves in the summer giving rise to Common Spangle Galls later in the year which produce the asexual generation. Two generations in one year!
Currant Galls on male oak catkins housing developing Neuroterus quercusbaccarum gall wasps, 7th June 2013