Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Thistle Insects

The croft field below our house is blooming with thistles, possibly the creeping thistle, Cirsium arvense. While walking through it, I noticed an abundance of this metallic green fly, about the size of a house fly which, unlike normal flies, seemed in no hurry to escape when the camera was poked closer and closer.

It wasn't the only species to be soporific, either from the warmth of the sun or from the nectar that they were sipping from the thistle flowers. There was a slightly larger and fatter brown fly, just as comatose, and....

....an even larger, steely blue character which, miraculously, was photographed with some sort of wasp flying past.

Once I started looking there were insects everywhere, all of them so oblivious to my approach that I could even move the flower around to get the insect into the best position for a picture. This looks like another sort of wasp, while....

....this, rather larger one has the fanciest of red legs.

 By comparison, this little wasp was rather dull, nothing like as interesting as....

....this tiny little wasp which had the most amazingly long and aerodynamically unlikely antennae.

Identifying this incredible collection of insect life is far beyond an amateur like me, though I do think this one is a soldier beetle, but....

....my favourite was this little bee which, like all the other insects, was intent on sipping as much nectar as it could.

This is a side view of the same bee, with its head buried in the flower.

Of course, wherever anyone is enjoying a nice picnic, a wasp has to come along and join in.

Later, these same thistle heads will be attacked by families of goldfinches, which love its seeds.


  1. What a treat this post is. Thank you, Jon, for taking the time to explore the life on the thistles and knapweed. The insects are as follows: 1) Lucillia caesar, the common Greenbottle. 2) Difficult, possibly a male Phaonia valida. 3) Calliphora vomitoria, Bluebottle with passing sawfly of the Tenthredo genera. 4) Don't know and have never seen anything like it before. 5) Bibio pomonae, heather fly, female. 6) Another Tenthredo sawfly, possibly notha. 7) Yes, a wasp but unknown from this photograph. 8) Rhagonycha fulva, soldier beetle. 9&10) Uncertain. With the black abdomen, could it be a carpenter bee? 11) Vespula vulgaris, common wasp. Wonderful.

  2. Derryck - Thank you so much for identifying so many of these insects. It was a fascinating hour in amongst the thistles, but frustrating because I do like to know what I'm looking at. Jon

  3. Photo update: 4) a fly of the family Conopidae, genus Sicus maybe sp.ferrugineus. They are common and parasites of bumble bees. Thank you for capturing this insect; I shall try and spot one now I know of it.

  4. Again - many thanks Derryck. Jon