Sunday, 2 July 2017

Owls in France - List of names

In France there are 9 species of Owl and unlike the UK they have a name prefix that divides owls with visible ear tufts from those without visible ear tufts. 

It seems even most French people are unaware of this as they only learn the name and not the reason why. Most of these owls have other popular names including many of which that are local. 

Full list with names in French - Latin - English can be found here in PDF format you can save.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Spring bees in France - solitary and bumble

Living where we do it's highly unlikely that I will see anything but the most common species of either solitary bees or bumble bees and even those are under increasing pressure as almost all the available land surface is constantly plowed for the production of cereals and crops for the animal feed industry. It's mainly the ground nesting species that are suffering although increasingly people also spray insecticides on the solitary species that nest in the outside walls of their houses or block the tiny holes and spaces they use. Many people also spray ground nesting bees in their gardens but I'm sure in most cases this isn't malicious but simply because people don't know what they are or the important role they play in our environment.

Of course even the common species are a joy to me and I see a reasonably large number at our place. Here are a few I've managed to spot so far this spring which given the rather poor weather it isn't too bad. 

Click on or tap photos to enlarge.

Male Andrena fulva, Tawny mining bee, not managed to get a decent photo of a female yet, perhaps when the rain stops.
Solitary bee - Tawny mining bee France
Female Andrena haemorrhoa, Early or Red tailed mining bee. Females of this species are easily identified by the combination of a foxy brown thorax and foxy brown tip to the tail.
Female red tailed mining bee France solitary species.
Female Andrena nitida, Grey patched mining-bee.
Solitary bee France Andrena nitida female
Andrena gravida, Banded or white bellied mining bee. Probably a female judging by size alone and what a stunningly pretty bee. 
Solitary bee Andrena gravida France
Male Andrena cineraria,  Ashy mining bee. A species that may be benefiting from the extensive cultivation of Oil seed rape in the region, (or in much of France), as only takes pollen from certain Cruciferous plants, (mustards, rapes, charlocks etc).
Solitary bee  Andrena cineraria France
The above Ashy mining bee was found about 20cm, (8 inches), from this Nomada lathburiana, Lathbury's Nomad which is a "cuckoo bee" or cleptoparasite for the Ashy mining bee. The Nomada female detects incomplete host cells which are still open and being provided with food and places her egg in it. When the Nomada hatches it will destroy the egg or the larva of the Andrena species and consume the provisions. 
Solitary cuckoo bee France

Male Anthophora plumipesHairy footed flower bee having a few moments rest from feeding and trying to defend a patch of violets from other males. Haven't seen any females yet this year. 

Male hairy footed flower bee France
Queen Bombus pratorum,  Early bumblebee or early-nesting bumblebee.
Bombus pratorum France
Xylocopa violacea, Carpenter bee. Always plenty of these here, (just let one out of the house that came down the chimney). A docile bee that frightens some people that don't know what they are. 
Xylocopa violacea France

Now when is that rain going to stop so I can go outside and get on with the garden, (and play).


Monday, 30 January 2017

Pine processionary moth and Napoleon 3rd of France

So now it's warmed up a bit following that rather nasty period of cold weather there are the inevitable sightings of Pine processionary moth, Thaumetopoea pityocampa, caterpillars and all the usual corresponding scare comments that we, our children, our dogs, cats and horses will all die if they so much as get near them and that the vets and hospitals all over France will be unable to cope. Let's face it there is nothing like a bit of shock and horror to lighten up our dull winter days.

Of course this is not to say that the caterpillars can't be a problem and that due diligence is required when walking anywhere near Pine trees, equally that logic would normally dictate that if you have a Pine tree in your garden and knowing this potential danger it may make sense to remove it - there are very few parts of France where they belong naturally. 200 years ago in most places you would have been hard pushed to find one in most areas and it is another example of how commercial / economic interests with the demand for softwoods and quick returns have changed both the landscape and the environment dramatically. We see a similar issue with Poplars being used in wetlands.
It was in fact Napoleon 3rd that in effect put in place the possibilities for this species of moth to spread across France with..
"la loi du 19 juin 1857, également appelée loi d'assainissement et de mise en culture des Landes de Gascogne, va encourager le drainage, la plantation de pins, le développement de l'économie sylvicole, tout en condamnant en l'espace d'une génération le système agro-pastoral"

which roughly translates as......

"The law of June 19, 1857, also called the law of sanitation and cultivation of the Landes de Gascogne, which will encourage the drainage, the planting of pine plantations and the development of an economy based on siviculture, while at the same time condemning in the space of a generation the pastoral system, (of small sheep farming that was carried out on the wetlands)."

Since that time Les Landes has become a massive region for the production of pine and there are corresponding plantations all across France all heavily infested with this Pine processionary moth. This combined with garden planting and climate change has made this one of the most successful species we have in France today.

As a footnote, the sheep farmers on the mairais or marshes of that region at that time would spend their days watching their flocks on stilts, now that's something to think about.

Berger landais


Sunday, 1 January 2017

Large creamy white grubs in French gardens - Stag beetle, Rose Chafer & Cock Chafer

People are always asking on Facebook and elsewhere what the large creamy white grubs or larvae are that they find in their gardens and hopefully this page goes some way to answering that without all the complications of seeing how they crawl. 

Go to the link:

Stag beetle, Rose Chafer & Cock Chafer