I have been more than usually conscious of the insect life going around this year as the chick rearing season has been underway. Without insects there are no chicks, and it has been interesting to keep an eye on the various different species which have popped up at this crucial time. Sawflies have been particularly abundant, and this is great news because their larvae is a key food source for black grouse chicks. Of course talking of sawflies is the same as talking about birds; the name actually applies to dozens of different species, most of which look like a cross between a wasp and a flying ant. I have noticed in particular that the number of sawflies is at its highest around willow scrub, and while I haven’t been able to find any of the larvae themselves, clouds of sawflies have given me an encouraging spring in the step.
There have also been large numbers of scorpion flies, snipe flies and a million varieties of micro-moth which rise up like a bow-wave when I walk through the rushes where the ragged robin is flowering with considerable enthusiasm and the forget-me-nots lie in great baby blue drifts. I’m not sure that these tiny moths are such excellent news in themselves, but their caterpillars will be well worth having around for black grouse purposes and it is always quite encouraging to see them in such abundance. Craneflies have been slightly harder to find, but in my experience they tend to be visible for a short window only when the conditions are perfect, and they spend the rest of the time buzzing invisibly through the undergrowth – available for hungry chicks, but not apparent to me.
A respectable quantity of insect life is certainly present, and I just have to hope that the warm, dry weather is allowing the birds to take full advantage of this cornucopia.