Garden News

Nest Boxes - February 2018

Predate Tree Bumblebee nestGrooves in lid made by Bee moth caterpillarsThe nest boxes on Jubilee Hill were cleaned out at the beginning of the month. There was nesting material in three of them, but no obvious signs of an old nest, whereas three had clearly been used in 2016.  As last year, one box contained the remains of a bee moth (Aphomia sociella) nest (see left). When I removed it (with some difficulty - the material clings to the wood as if stuck on with super strong glue), I noticed a pattern of grooves in the lid of the box where i t had been attached. They are made by the caterpillars, which gnaw away at the wood to cover their silken retreats that hide their cocoons, thereby adding some extra camouflage to fool predators.



Bee MothThe Bee Moth is a small olive grey moth (left), with a pinkish area on its forewings, sometimes confused with Wax Moths (a serious pest of beehives). Bee moths often predate nests of Tree Bumblebees, which sometimes use nest boxes. Nest box hole enlarged by squirrelThey lay their eggs in a web and feed on nest material and other detritus. When the larvae have developed fully they feed on the wax cells where the bumblebee's own larvae are developing, but do not usually destroy the entire brood. The bee's wax cells are visible in the photo above.

The hole of box No. 5 (see photo right) had been enlarged by either a squirrel or a woodpecker, probably the former as the indentations around the hole look like chisel marks made by teeth. There was nesting material inside the box, so possibly it had predated some eggs or nestlings. One other box with a lot of droppings, but no moss or grass, was clearly being used as a winter roost.

On the same day I heard a chaffinch singing, the first time this year. Thrushes and blackbirds, great tits and robins are all starting to sing in the mornings, or have been for some time, and nuthatches and the ravens are very vocal. These last two species go silent when nesting begins, so they must still be in the preparatory stages.

‘We recently had some friends from London to visit and were looking for something to entertain our young children for the day. We decided to give Exbury Gardens a try and I thought it was wonderful. We had Sunday lunch in the restaurant and the food was far superior to other local attractions so compliments to the chef. Walking through the gardens was beautiful with lots of little pathways to explore. I have lived in the Romsey area for many years and always thought Exbury was a little out of the way but it only took me 20 minutes from the motorway. We will definitely be a regular visitor from now on.’

Philip Moulds, New Forest

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