Berberis sawflies 2016

They’re back again! For the 11th year in a row we have Berberis sawfly larvae on our Berberis bush here on the outskirts of York- as you can see below:

Berberis sawfly larva on our Berberis bush, 8 July 2016

Berberis sawfly larva on our Berberis bush, 8 July 2016

I first saw the adult sawflies here this year on 12 June:

First adult Berberis Sawfly of 2016, spotted on 12 June

First adult Berberis Sawfly of 2016, spotted on 12 June

Despite minor depredations by the larvae, the Berberis bush is still stonkingly healthy.

Our Berberis bush

Our Berberis bush

This year its beautiful orange blossom attracted the daily attentions of a Hornet – the first time I have seen this happen.

Hornet feeding on our Berberis bush, May 2016

Hornet feeding on our Berberis bush, May 2016

You may recall that when I first spotted Berberis sawfly larvae here, it caused a minor sensation – in the sawfly world, that is. To read the full Berberis sawfly larva story, click here  and here. It’s a long story, and includes the Natural History Museum in London and a World First for me here in Heslington. You might want to brew a cuppa before you embark on the saga …

Meanwhile, if you’ve got Berberis sawflies – or any other sort of sawflies – where you are, there’s a British Sawfly recording scheme that would like to hear from you. Email your sighting (including date and location) to britishsawflies@liverpoolmuseums.org.uk.

Anneliese Emmans DeantheBigBuzz – Bringing poetry to life

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Berberis sawfly larvae 2014

They’re back! For the ninth year in a row I’ve found Berberis sawfly larvae nibbling our Berberis bush:

Recently hatched Berberis sawfly larvae in my garden, 24 June 2014

Recently hatched Berberis sawfly larvae in my garden in York, 24 June 2014

To read the full Berberis sawfly larva story, click here and scroll back through the posts. Tip: It’s a long (but thrilling!) story, and includes the Natural History Museum in London and a World First for me here in Heslington. You might want to brew a cuppa before you embark on the saga …

Alternatively, if you want to hear all about it in person, then I’ll be telling the tale (the abbreviated version!) as part of my Buzzing! show the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London this coming Saturday (5 July) from 1pm. Entrance is free. No need to book. See you there!

Anneliese Emmans Dean – theBigBuzz.biz – Bringing poetry to life

Berberis sawfly larvae 2013

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve not seen any 2-spot ladybirds where I live (in York) this year, or any Painted lady butterflies. And I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be seeing any Berberis sawfly larvae this year either. However, on 14 July I finally noticed a little tell-tale nibbling on my Berberis bush. And on closer examination, turning over a leaf or two, I found your friend and mine, a very young Berberis sawfly larva.

Berberis sawfly larvae, York,  July 2013. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean

Berberis sawfly larva, York, July 2013. Photo by Anneliese Emmans Dean

Now, I say your friend and mine, but it may well be that you don’t consider him your friend at all. Not if he’s munching vast swathes of your Berberis bush. We’re lucky here as we only have small quantities of the larvae, so they don’t cause very much damage. Which means I can enjoy their company and admire their beauty!

True, they’re not fabulously beautiful early on, but a week later they’d grown considerably and were a lot more colourful, as you can just about glimpse below (but which you can see much better here).

Berberis sawfly larva, York, 21 July 2013

Berberis sawfly larva, York, 21 July 2013

This is the 8th year in a row that I’ve spotted Berberis sawfly larvae in my garden. If you want my whole Berberis sawfly larvae saga (including the sending of a sample to the Natural History Museum in London for their collection), then make yourself a cup of cocoa, sit back, click here and scroll through the archive of posts!

If you want to skip straight to my video of them laying their eggs,click here.

And if you’d like a Berberis sawfly larvae poem, then why not try my Buzzing! book, which is shortlisted for this year’s Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize!

Anneliese Emmans Deanwww.theBigBuzz.biz – Bringing poetry to life

Berberis sawfly larvae 2012

They’re back! For the seventh year in a row, I have Berberis sawfly larvae nibbling at my Berberis bush – as you can see here.

Berberis sawfly larva on my Berberis bush, York, 14 July 2012

Berberis sawfly larva on my Berberis bush, York, 14 July 2012

For the full Berberis sawfly larvae saga, click here and scroll through the posts.

Or, to begin at the beginning,  click here.

Anneliese Emmans Deanwww.theBigBuzz.biz

Berberis sawfly larvae 2010

In case you were wondering … yes, for the fifth year in a row our berberis bush is being nibbled by voracious Berberis sawfly larvae:

Berberis sawfly larva, photographed by Anneliese Emmans Dean, July 2010

Berberis sawfly larva, photographed by Anneliese Emmans Dean, July 2010

You can read the full saga of this, my world-first insect discovery, by clicking here, and scrolling back through the posts!

Berberis bush after a visit from Berberis sawfly larvae

Berberis bush after a visit from Berberis sawfly larvae

And you can find out more in person by coming along to my Buzzing! show at the Edinburgh Fringe this August, where the Berberis sawfly larvae will have a star billing. I’ll be performing Buzzing! at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, from 9 -14 August. Find out more

Book your Buzzing! tickets here!

Anneliese Emmans Deaninfo@theBigBuzz.bizwww.theBigBuzz.biz

Guess who’s coming to dinner …

Walking round my garden here in York yesterday, what did I come across but my old friends (and world-first insect discovery), Berberis sawfly larvae (Arge berberidis)! Munching away at my berberis. For the fourth consecutive year.

Recently hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, York, 23 June 09

Recently hatched Berberis sawfly larvae, York, 23 June 09

They looked like they’d hatched only recently – as you can see here. Which is just about the same time as they hatched last year. (Read all about it)

I looked around carefully, and found some leaves with Berberis sawfly eggs laid in ‘pockets’ inside them. (Click here to watch my video of how they do this.) As in previous years, the adult sawflies seem to favour laying more than one set of eggs on the same leaf.

Berberis leaf with Berberis sawfly eggs, York, 23 June 2009

Berberis leaf with Berberis sawfly eggs, York, 23 June 2009

And talking of adult sawflies, I looked around some more, and saw two skittish adults. Who seemed to be casing the berberis bush, trying out different leaves to find one that took their fancy for egg laying.

Adult berberis sawfly (Arge berberidis), York, 23 June 2009

Adult berberis sawfly (Arge berberidis), York, 23 June 2009

Interestingly though, when I checked up on the larvae this lunch-time, they were gone!

Nibbled berberis leaf with no Berberis sawfly larvae left, York, 24 June 2009

Nibbled berberis leaf with no Berberis sawfly larvae left, York, 24 June 2009

So, looks like they have a predator.

I asked Andrew Halstead of the Royal Horticultural Society what he thought had happened to the larvae, and he replied:

‘I don’t know what happened to the missing larvae.  Sawfly larvae that feed in exposed positions on the foliage, such as those of berberis sawfly, ought to be easy targets for birds. However, they evidently survive in large numbers, which indicates that there are no effective predators.  Some other caterpillars, such as those of the mullein moth and large cabbage white butterfly also feed in exposed positions on their host plants with apparent impunity. All of these larvae have prominent yellow blotches on their bodies, which may be a warning sign that they don’t taste good.’

So, I’ll have to keep a very beady eye out and see if I can spot any birds eating the next larvae that hatch.

Meanwhile, if you see Berberis sawflies – adults or larvae – in your garden, the Royal Horticultural Society would like to know about it. You can record your sighting with them here.

Find out more about Berberis sawflies (including photos of eggs, larvae and adults) here.

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Check out compost! The (mini-)Musical – ‘A superb learning experience’ – Teaching Pack with Resource CD now available

Compost! The (mini-)Musical Teaching Pack

Compost! The (mini-)Musical Teaching Pack

Berberis sawflies 2008

When I first spotted Berberis sawfly larvae in my garden in October 2006, there was some controversy in the sawfly world about whether they represented a breeding population or not. Well, 22 months and several broods later, I think I can categorically state that we do have a breeding population here.

And though I’ve still not spotted the sawflies actually mating, this year, for the first time ever, I saw them laying their eggs on our Berberis bush. And you can see this too – by clicking here.

If you watch the video carefully, you’ll see why these insects are called ‘Sawflies’. They actually saw into the leaf, and deposit their eggs inside it!

Eggs laid by Berberis sawfly on my Berberis bush in York

Eggs laid by Berberis sawfly on my Berberis bush in York

So, the 2008 Berberis sawfly story began on 4 June, when I looked up from my desk and saw around 7 skittish Berberis sawflies flying around our Berberis bush. ‘Aha!’ I thought. ‘They’re back. And I recognise that behaviour. I think it means they’re going to lay their eggs…’

So, I watched. And I waited. And I videoed.

Videoing Berberis sawfly egg-laying in my garden in York, 6 June 2008

Videoing Berberis sawfly egg-laying in my garden in York, 6 June 2008

And this is what I saw

Now, I have only recently got a video camera (thanks to the Merchant Adventurers’ Award I received earlier this year), so the film is not David Attenborough-esque in its quality. But I think it’s fascinating, nevertheless, to see the Sawfly actually sawing into the leaf …

When I was filming, I *thought* I was filming egg-laying, but I couldn’t be absolutely sure. And at first when I went to have a look at the leaf she’d been on, I couldn’t actually see any eggs. I had to look very very carefully.

Of course, once I had ientified the pockets of eggs, I was able to watch them develop day by day, until they actually hatched …

Berberis sawfly larvae hatching in my garden in York, England -28 June 2008

Berberis sawfly larvae hatching in my garden in York, England -28 June 2008

… and then began their familiar routine of gobbling up my Berberis bush, pooing profusely as they went! (As audiences at my National Insect Week, Ledbury Poetry Festival and Festival of the Rivers Buzzing! shows were able to see for themselves, as I took some larvae along to each of these shows.)

BErberis sawfly larvae taken to my Buzzing! shows for the audiences to see, 3 July 2008

Berberis sawfly larvae taken to my Buzzing! shows for the audiences to see, 3 July 2008

Find out more about Berberis sawflies (including photos and videos of eggs, larvae and adults) here

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