Coun­try Mouse

Here comes the hawthorn fly

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

NOT many of us are good at en­to­mol­ogy. My knowl­edge has been im­proved by fly fish­ing, but is, at best, ba­sic. I do know, how­ever, that this week her­alds the ar­rival of the un­mis­tak­able hawthorn—or St Mark’s—fly, which tra­di­tion­ally ap­pears on April 25, the Saint’s Day.

Black, about a third of an inch long, with clear wings and tell­tale trail­ing legs, they hatch in their mil­lions and are a favourite food of trout when blown onto the wa­ter be­fore the even big­ger mayflies ap­pear in late May. The male’s eyes are split and have sep­a­rate con­nec­tions to the brain, which al­lows them to hover, look­ing up­ward for fe­males and down­ward to mon­i­tor their po­si­tion on the ground—a neat trick. They’re ugly and a swarm can be dis­con­cert­ing, al­though they don’t bite, but they are among the most im­por­tant pol­li­na­tors of fruit trees at this time of year as ap­ples and pears come into blos­som.

Of the other in­sects, we have more orange tip but fewer brim­stone but­ter­flies than a year ago, plus the odd tat­tered small tor­toise­shell that has hi­ber­nated over the win­ter. The bum­ble­bees are be­com­ing busy, but, alas, there seem to be very few hon­ey­bees. MH

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