Flies and flowers

Bees get a lot of good press these days, especially for their role as pollinators. And let’s face it, they deserve it! Hard working, unassuming, attractive and useful! They are almost supplanting those poster boys and girls of the insect world: butterflies! But what about flies? Their press is a mixed bag. To some people…

Seaweed flies

The equinoctial gales washed up lots of nice kelp onto the beaches of Scarborough this year (below). The piles of seaweed were gradually pushed up the beach by the incoming tides, eventually accumulating beyond the strand-line, where it slowly decays and eventually dries out. This gift from the sea is a wonderful bounty which is…

Iridescence in insects

Iridescence is when surfaces – such as the wings of butterflies – appear to change brightness and colour as the angle of view, or the angle of illumination, changes. The iridescent wings of Morpho butterflies are some of the best examples. The spectral reflectance changes with the angle of incidence – i.e. the viewing angle…

Flies blowing bubbles

The first time I saw a fly with a droplet of water protruding from it’s mouth (or the tip of the proboscis) I was quite surprised. Why would a fly be blowing bubbles like this? It turns out that flies do this to cool down!  They move a droplet of fluid in and out and…

Black and red and poisonous! Burnet moths

What does this strikingly black and red coloured moth say to you? Eat me? Or, don’t touch me because I am poisonous? It should say the latter! Because bright, contrasting colours like this are aposematic. They are universal warning colours which apply throughout the animal kingdom; and if you don’t know them, you will soon…

Kittiwakes learning to fly

We are coming to end of the Kittiwake nesting season here in Scarborough. There are still some chicks on the nests with their parents, but most have fledged and are learning the joys of flying! Kittiwake chicks spend about 41-42 days (average fledging period) sitting on their nests, being fed by their dutiful parents. They…

Silver-washed fritillary courtship behaviour

The courtship behaviour of the silver-washed fritillary, Argynnis paphia (Heliconiinae, Argynnini), is described in most books or websites about butterflies. Here’s how I described it in my book on Courtship and mating in butterflies. The male …. performs a unique pursuit flight, swooping down beneath the female, then darting up in front of her, until…