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