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

Michael Chinery’s latest book

I’m very honoured that one of my insect photos has been included in Michael Chinery’s latest book, which has just been published by A&C Black.

Michael Chinery is one of Britain’s best-known natural history authors. Amongst many other books, he wrote Collins’ Complete British Insects, which has been my insect ID bible ever since I got bitten by the insect bug some years ago.

Most of the photos in Michael’s latest book are taken by the author himself, but there are some extra photos provided by the likes of Roger Key (with whom I worked in Colwall earlier this year), and sawfly expert Guy Knight, who has helped me identify many sawflies I have photographed over the years.

The photo of mine that is included in Michael’s book is of an adult Berberis (also known as Barberry) sawfly. Keen readers of this blog will know that back in 2006, Berberis sawfly larvae raised quite a stir in our back garden (find out more).

The title of Michael Chinery’s book is Garden Pests of Britain and Europe. And if you want a pristine berberis bush in your garden, then I agree that you would view Berberis sawfly larvae as pests. In large numbers they can completely defoliate a bush. If, like many of the people who contact me at my blog, this is the situation you face, then this book will provide you with answers to deal with it.

Order ‘Garden Pests of Britain and Europe’

However, we are lucky: we have only ever had a moderate number of Berberis sawfly larvae on our berberis bush, and so we are able to view them as colourful, entertaining additions to our garden.

Anneliese Emmans Deaninfo@theBigBuzz.bizwww.theBigBuzz.biz

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

I’m back now from performing my award-winning eco-show Buzzing! at the Edinburgh Fringe 2010. What an experience – with 6 consecutive shows and a live interview (and poetry performance) on BBC radio!

Outside our venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

Outside our venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

I was performing, with my musician John Rayson, at venue no. 28, the Patrick Geddes Room at the gorgeous Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

With John Rayson at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, for our Fringe run

With John Rayson at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, for our Fringe run

How did our run go? Well, I’ll let our audiences tell you:

‘As soon as the show finished, I turned to mummy and said “I wish it could have gone on all day!”‘ Alex, age 11

‘My daughter (age 6) loves minibeast hunts and she loved this show. Great sounds, great visuals – what’s not to like?’ Deborah Curd, edfringe.com

‘I thought she was amazing, mad, creative and John’s music was mind-blasting!’ Nina, age 10

‘Fascinating – gripping from start to finish.’ Bill (retired)

‘Really interesting and exciting. The poems and songs were amazing and the pictures were absolutely stunning. The whole show was wonderful.’ Gemma, age 11

‘Learnt so much in such a short space of time about my garden friends and enemies.’ Pamela (retired)

‘The best show we’ve seen at the Fringe!’ Klara (9) and Julian (12)

And we had this review from  Primary Times:

‘For all eco enthusiasts, minibeast fans and nature lovers, this is an absolute must.  But even if you are not one of the above, this is a terrific show with poetry, songs, music and incredible projected photography. Anneliese Emmans Dean is not only passionate about her subject, she is also a gifted performer and can’t fail to enthuse her audience. My children, ages 10, 8 and 5 years, were gripped throughout the show.  They particularly enjoyed the ‘guess the photo’ as images changed to the accompaniment of the viola player.  They were fascinated by the poetry, and how different styles of delivery created the identity of each insect. One girl in the audience amazed us all with her incredible knowledge of entomology, but there was chance for everyone to be involved.  Whilst the show itself was very educational, the style was great fun, and stimulated many questions for after the show.  All the children (and most adults!) were awash with questions for Anneliese, and whilst she brilliantly answered them all, she also encouraged us to seek out more for ourselves.  She has definitely re-ignited our interest, and given us some more great ideas to fill the remainder of the summer holidays.’

So, all in all, job well done!

Many thanks to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for hosting us – especially to Amy for her impeccable and extremely friendly organisation, and to Sheena and all her staff, and Giles and Anna. To Yvonne and her family (especially Lewis) for all their marketing work on our behalf. To Nina for her warm welcome. And to my husband Mike for being front of house staff, flyer-giver-outer, chauffeur, roadie and general factotum.

And a huge thank you to all our audiences – a very international bunch, from Scotland, England, Singapore, Venezuela, Ireland, Spain, USA … and no doubt other countries I didn’t find out about. Thank you for coming along, and for being so enthusiastic about our show. I wish you all happy bug hunting, wherever you are!

Fancy putting on a Buzzing! show where you are? Then contact me, Anneliese, on info@theBigBuzz.biz

Find out more at my website, www.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.

Return to theBigBuzz website

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

Return of the world-first Berberis sawflies?

Do you remember my world-first insect discovery last October? The first Berberis sawfly larvae ever to be spotted in Yorkshire! Well, it could be that they are now back, in their adult form!

Adult sawfly on our berberis, June 07

Since Saturday 16 June, I have been noticing up to 7 of these black sawflies on and around the berberis bush that the larvae were eating last autumn.

Sawfly in the garden, June 07

I sent some photos to insect expert Andrew Halstead at the Royal Horticultural Society, to see if he could identify them for me. (You’ll remember he wrote an article about Berberis sawfly in the UK – including a mention of my sighting – for the Sawfly Study Group Newsletter in January of this year.)

Sawfly in the garden, June 2007

He replied:
“These pictures are all of Arge sp sawflies and could be Arge berberidis, particularly if they are seen in the vicinity of its host plants (Berberis and Mahonia).”

So, these could well be the first adult Berberis sawflies (Arge berberidis) ever recorded in Yorkshire!  I’m going to send some samples to the Natural History Museum in London to have them identified for certain!

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

Return to theBigBuzz website

Check out the new Compost! The (mini-)Musical Teaching Pack
‘A superb learning experience’

Compost! The (mini-)Musical Teaching Pack

Compost! The (mini-)Musical Teaching Pack