On Bank Holiday Monday I had been in the garden most of the day, weeding and pruning and planting and potting-on and all the million other things that need doing at this time of year. It was overcast and cool all day, which was great because there were very few insects to distract me (altough the baby Dunnocks and House Sparrows now visiting the garden and nagging their parents did take up some of my attention!).
Then, at about 4pm, the sun finally came out. A wave of warmth spread through the garden, and hoverflies and bumblebees and solitary bees and Hairy-footed Bee-flies and flies all emerged out of nowhere. The gardening got ditched, and instead I wandered around the garden just enjoying a garden sprung to life.
And it was as I was watching some hoverflies visiting the Jack-by-the-Hedge flowers that I noticed this little fella.
Pretty cool, no?
He's only just over 5mm long (a quarter of an inch), but he had plenty of charisma to make up for it. He'd scurry around the leaf purposely, waving those stained-glass wings around, first one wing and then the other. I assume that he was trying to attract a mate, who would be wowed by his bold semaphore.
But no female came so he'd hop onto another leaf and do the same.
At one point he encountered a large hoverfly sunbathing, probably 20 times his size. But that didn't stop him - he just rammed it out of the way.
It turns out that he is one of the picture-winged flies, of which there are many different kinds. I think that he is Philophylla caesio, but you really need to be an expert on these things to say with certainty.
The picture-winged flies lay their eggs on plants, and the larvae cause galls in the leaves. There is a very common picture-winged fly called Urophora cardui, which looks rather similar to this one, which causes big inflated galls in the stems of creeping thistle.
But isn't it amazing what you can find in your garden when you stop and look?
I think he's beautiful, I spotted a lily beetle today, so in a bag he went and down the road to the field, my friends laugh and say he will fly back to the lillies, but I can't kill them! Any may beetles out yet, or is it too cold. I'm not keen when they come in the house, but again can't kill them, and anyway they are food for the tawny owls I hear.
Beetles are one of the biggest groups of wildlife in Britain, with all sorts of species with all sorts of life strategies and life cycles, so some are out, some are still larvae, and some are going over already. I saw my first Thick-kneed Flower Beetle of the year only today. And yes, you're right, even if you don't like them they're food for all sorts of wildlife - many beetles are a real key part of the food chain.
Hope I see one, I love the "stained glass" wings. Never knew insects could look so good!