As well as our honeybees, wild bees do very well here too. The shrill carder bee is amongst these, a rare bumble bee which we see from time to time visiting the flowers of hedge woundwort or knapweed.
Flies are also many and varied. The beefly Bombylius major is one of the first to appear in spring, its long proboscis distinctive as it seeks out patches of bare soil in sunlit patches of wood. The downlooker snipefly Rhagio scolopaceus is another characteristic spring species as it adopts its pose downward facing on fence posts or trees. The small yellow-legged robberfly Dioctria linearis frequents cleared willow glades here in one of its few recorded Welsh localities.
Towards late summer, it is the horseflies which are most noticeable as they plague the horses and cattle. Clegs Haematopa pluvialis are tolerated but the dark giant horsefly Tabanus sudeticus and large marsh horsefly Tabanus autumnalis worry them more.
On warm June nights a few glow worms appear, luminescing from the wood pile or raspberries. Few other beetles have been identified here, but the regular supply of organic cow pats is likely to be attractive to many species. Great diving beetles have found our new ponds, along with dragonflies such as the four-spotted chaser, southern hawker and – on one occasion – the lesser emperor.
Butterflies have never seemed as numerous as they did when Matt first surveyed the farm in 1999, but a small population of dingy skippers holds on in one of the meadows; silver washed fritillary, holly blue and comma frequent the woodland edges. Purple hairstreak dances around the oak tops and marbled white has recently been added to the list.
On the few occasions we’ve left a moth-trap running over-night, we’ve been rewarded by a haul of hawk-moths, carpets and emeralds. Scarcer species found to date include the aspen specialists Figure of 80, Lead-coloured Drab and The Seraphim, as well as the Hoary Plume and several other micro-moths. There are likely to be many species as yet undetected. Visiting specialists – wanting to record the many insect groups that we’ve not had the time or expertise to look at – would be welcomed.