THE QUESTION that I’m asking is does this hoverfly have a black stripe down the yellow
on its face? I’m field testing my new copy of Collins Complete Guide to British Insects.
Obligingly, the hoverfly immediately perches on some kingcup seeds, facing towards
me and, yes, the stripe is clearly visible.
That makes this Helophilus pendulus (or hybridus: to tell the difference between
those guys I’d need to see its hind tibia!). Helophilus sounds as if it means that
it loves the sun and, sure enough, another book dubs it the ‘Sunfly’.
They seem to be territorial, four or more are perching around the pond, chasing each
Its young, known as rat-tailed maggots, live in muddy waters, perhaps at the edges
of our pond.
According the the Guide, we’ve got backswimmer waterboatmen, Notonecta glauca, in
our pond, but ours come in a range of sizes, so perhaps the smaller one, which sticks
to the weedier patches, is another species.
Here’s another sun-lover; this spider has her white egg-sac attached to her abdomen
as she scurries over the surface film of the water. She’s brown so, when I first
spot her, it looks as if a bobble of expanded polystyrene is zipping about in unseen
eddies over the surface.
She pauses on a floating leaf and holds her silken parcel in the sun, moving around
as if to incubate the eggs more evenly.
I’m trying to focus on insects this afternoon but a female woodpecker flies into
next door’s sumac six yards from me, so I have to draw her. We’ve been hearing a
woodpecker drumming on and off all afternoon.
It’s good to see so many smooth newts in the pond. Females are plump with eggs, the
males in bright breeding colours, curling their tails like pennants in their courtship
Trying to clear a shady spot for a garden chair this morning I disturbed 3 young
newts - efts - about the size of matchsticks, under a pile of twigs. I replaced the
twigs carefully. Newts need ponds but they also need undisturbed habitat piles nearby.