Melecta albifrons at Castle Rocks, West Hill

As I was in town today I thought I would get a photo of the house holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) behind the library, which I discuss later in the post. With ferns in mind I thought I’d also quickly see if the royal fern was in leaf at Castle Rocks.

The sun was out and felt warm for a change, which a lot of insects were taking advantage of. There was a lot of aculeate activity and to my surprise a number of Melecta albifrons were on the wing making the lives of the nesting Anthophora plumipes a misery.

Melecta albifrons, Castle Rocks
Melecta albifrons at Anthophora plumipes burrow.

I noticed a lot of interactions between the two species with one female Anthophora being very aggressive chasing off the Melecta and finally just sat at the mouth of its nest burrow to prevent the Melecta from getting in. Melecta albifrons is a cleptoparasite of Anthophora and will try to get into nests to lay their eggs on the pollen store gathered by the host.

Anthophora plumipes, Castle Rocks
Female Anthophora plumipes at burrow entrance.

Melecta albifrons is another bee I have been trying to find in Hastings so that’s another Hastings bee tick for me. It’s quite a large black bee with white spots down the sides of the abdomen. Another striking black and white bee on the wing at Castle Rocks was Andrena cineraria.

Andrena cineraria, Castle Rocks
Andrena cineraria, Castle Rocks.

The royal fern was also in leaf. It is very unusual to see royal fern growing out of a sandstone outcrop as this is usually considered a wetland species. The sandstone where it grows obviously stays saturated enough for it to grow.

Royal Fern, Castle Rocks
Royal Fern, Castle Rocks.

Another interesting plant to be found at Castle Rocks is bird’s-foot. This tiny legume has very distinctive seed pods, in the shape of a bird claw, which the photo clearly shows.

Bird's-foot, Castle Rocks
Bird’s-foot, Castle Rocks.

Also there was a wheatear, a black redstart, a sedge warbler and a couple of holly blue butterflies in the gulley.

Now finally here is the photo of the house holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum). This naturalised species, introduced from Asia, is quite scarce and the sandstone outcrop behind Hastings library is the only place I’ve ever seen it. It is very difficult to photograph as you have to view it from the reference library through security glass, pigeon mesh and railings. Also the graffiti art underneath the plant makes this a very unique piece of urban habitat.

House Holly Fern, Hastings Library
House Holly Fern, Hastings Library.

So that was quite a few species added to my species quest list today. Not sure of the current total at the moment as I have a number of specimens to identify yet from the last few days.

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2 responses to “Melecta albifrons at Castle Rocks, West Hill

  1. Glad to hear about the Sedge warbler sightings at White Rock and Castle Hill – I have not yet seen one. In the welcome sunshine on Friday there were lots of insects on the wing around my flat including the leaf beetle Chaetocnema concinna. The St Mark’s flies were also out in numbers after the cold rains confined them to vegetation earlier.

  2. Beautiful pictures. I was fascinated by the interaction of the two bee species. I have seen a male Anthophora plumipes in the holes in our house wall, I have not seen the other species yet.

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