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Bumblebees in Sandy, 2013

Last I managed to see six species of bumblebee in Sandy* and another one further afield in Bedfordshire**. This year I managed to spot eight in Sandy, all but one in the garden. I’m hoping to have lots more wild flowers in the garden this year so hope to attract the bees to go with them.

I’ve submitted all the following as records to Beewatch, which is also very useful in getting confirmation of IDs.

Bombus hortorum

Bombus hortorum

Bombus hortorum

The garden bumblebee, seen in the garden. This is the first one of these I’ve seen, despite them being very common.

Bombus hypnorum

Bombus hypnorum

Bombus hypnorum

The tree bumblebee. We in fact had two nests in our house and garden. The bee above is coming out of one they made in an old bird box in the garden. The birds never used it but these bees did. We had a second nest in the roof too.

Bombus lapidarius

Bombus lapidarius (worker)

Bombus lapidarius (worker)

Bombus lapidarius (male)

Bombus lapidarius (male)

The red-tailed bumblebee. Both in the garden.

Bombus pratorum

Bombus pratorum

Bombus pratorum

The early bumblebee, one of the smaller species. In the garden. They seem to like flatter flower heads, like on this senetti.

Bombus lucorum

Bombus lucrorum (female)

Bombus lucrorum (worker)

Bombus lucorum (male)

Bombus lucorum (male)

White-tailed bumblebee. The queens and workers look practically identical to the buff-tailed bumblebee (B. terrestris) although the males are very much more yellow and quite striking. In the garden.

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum

Common carder bee. In the garden.

Bombus terrestris

Bombus terrestris (queen)

Bombus terrestris (queen)

Buff-tailed bumblebee. The buff tail is more obvious in the queen especially just forward of the tail.

Bombus vestalis

Bombus vestalis

Bombus vestalis

Bombus vestalis

Bombus vestalis

The southern cuckoo bumblebee. It takes over nests of B. terrestris. Sadly not seen in the garden but the bee on the bramble flower was on a piece of waste ground next to a path a stone’s throw away. The one on clover was near the railway station.

* Bombus vestalis?, B. pratorum, B. terrestris, B. rupestris, B. hypnorum, B. pascuorum

** B. campestris?

Bumblebees in Sandy, 2012

Following on from my other enthralling posts about grasshoppers and bush-crickets, here is one about bumblebees. I always used to think there were two sorts of bee: honey bees and bumblebees. I later thought there are two sorts of bumblebee: buff-tailed and red-tailed. However, it turns out that there are loads of bumblebees: about 25 species in the UK, although some of them are rare. Like the grasshoppers, bumblebees can be tricky to identify as they vary according to whether they are male or female or what kind of female they are: queen or worker. There are also considerable variations within species while some different species look the same as each other: see the first one below which is impossible to positively identify from a photo, or at least my photo. I got myself an excellent book recommended by Emily Heath* and submitted records to Beewatch, which has tools for identification as well as well as adding to national distribution data. Like the orthoptera scheme they also email you with confirmation of whether you got it right or not. I saw seven confirmed species of bumblebee in Bedfordshire over the summer, six of those in Sandy, and four in the garden.

I have followed the book’s practice of using the scientific name of each species as there is no consistency in common names. And it saves me some hassle. I have also noted whether each species is a social bumblebee (queen, workers, and males living in a nest a bit like a honey bee hive) or a cuckoo bumblebee (only females and males: the females take over social bumblebee nests whose workers raise the cuckoo female’s young). I never dreamt that such things as cuckoo bumblebees existed.

Bombus vestalis or Bombus bohemicus

Bombus vestalis or Bombus bohemicus

Bombus vestalis or Bombus bohemicus

A cuckoo bumblee, but uncertain precisely which species it is. These two species are very difficult to tell apart without catching them and examining them properly. From the photo, the Beewatch people could not be definite which it was. In Sandy, just off Sunderland Road.

Bombus pratorum

Bombus pratorum

Bombus pratorum

A social bumblebee. In Sandy, in the garden.

Bombus terrestris

Bombus terrestris

Bombus terrestris

The buff-tailed bumblebee, a social bumblebee. In Sandy, in the garden.

Bombus rupestris

Bombus rupestris

Bombus rupestris

A cuckoo bumblebee. In Sandy, near the station.

Bombus hypnorum

Bombus hypnorum

Bombus hypnorum

Tree bumblebee, a social bumblebee. First seen in the UK in 2001. In Sandy, in the garden.

Bombus campestris (probably)

Bombus campestris

Bombus campestris

A cuckoo bumblebee. In Willington (between Sandy and Bedford).

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum

Bombus pascuorum male

Bombus pascuorum male

A social bumblebee. In Sandy, in the garden. Beewatch confirmed the first picture and I’m pretty sure about the id for the male (ginger beard and very round body), which makes it the first time I’ve seen a male bee and known it was a male.

* Edwards and Jenner. Field guide to the bumblebees of Great Britain & Ireland. 2005

Bush-crickets in Sandy, 2012

Following on from my write-up of grasshoppers I’ve seen in Sandy, I would like to do the same for their close-relatives, bush-crickets. Bush-crickets are also orthoptera, but I find them more interesting. They are generally shorter but more bulky, larger, and have really long antennae, hence their old-fashioned name: long-horned grasshoppers; in America I believe they are also known as katydids. They are a lot easier to identify than grasshoppers: colours tend to be more consistent, although most of them seem to be green, but the females in particular have long ovipositors at the back whose shape tends to give the species away. Some of them tend to hang around on tops of leaves if you keep your eyes open- especially dark bush-crickets and speckled bush-crickets- and some have repetitive (dark bush-cricket) or long (roesel’s bush-cricket) songs which helps in tracking them down. Some of them have been living in our garden for years, which helps. All these photos were taken in Sandy, several in our garden.

Dark bush-cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera)

Female dark bush-cricket

Female dark bush-cricket

Male dark bush-cricket

Male dark bush-cricket

The dark bush-cricket is commonly found on brambles, sometimes sitting on top of the leaves. Their song is quite distinctive: a short repeated buzz. I once went for a run at twilight past about 100 yards of brambles. I’ve never seen any there and couldn’t see any then as it was too dark but I heard loads all the way along. The male and female  look quite different. Only the male sings and so is the only one with any wings to speak of, although these are hardly there either. The female has a clear long and curved ovipositor.

More on this at the Orthoptera & Allied Insects site and Wikipedia.

Speckled bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima)

Female speckled bush-cricket

Female speckled bush-cricket

Last year I managed to get loads of this as they’ve been active and breeding in the lavender in our garden (e.g. this one from above, this one shedding its skin, these two mating, and so on) but they weren’t around so much this year, presumably because of there being less sun. Like the dark bush-cricket, they are also found on brambles, and I’ve seen them together a few times. The picture above shows the wonderful crazy eyes bush-crickets have, especially when their antennae are going all over the place. They are also, as one might expect, speckled, although it’s not as obvious to the naked eye as it is on a photo. Although you can’t see it here, the ovipositor is sickle shaped. It does sing but its wings are so small they are barely audible without a bat detector.

More on this at the Orthoptera & Allied Insects site and Wikipedia.

Oak bush-cricket (Meconema thalassinum)

Female oak bush-cricket

Female oak bush-cricket

This one lives in trees, but I found it on a path near the health centre in Sandy. If you go near a bush-cricket, they normally jump away more violently than their awkward walking would suggest. This one though actually walked onto my hand like a ladybird would. It kept walking and was happy to keep walking over my hands and my coat. I was on my way to picking up my daughter from school and it stayed on my coat the whole way there, while I was waiting, and all the way home. I put it down on the pebbles in the back garden, where I got the above photo. It was so tame, it let me put it on the rosemary and, when I’d changed my mind, onto the apple tree where I thought it’d be happier. I haven’t seen it since though.

You can see it has a straighter ovipositor than the two above. Despite the larger wings, it doesn’t sing at all but (apparently) drums its foot on a leaf.

More on this at the Orthoptera & Allied Insects site and Wikipedia.

Long-winged conehead (Conocephalus discolor)

Male long-winged conehead

Male long-winged conehead

Female long-winged conehead

Female long-winged conehead

This is one I tracked down by sound on a patch of waste ground near the railway line. This is one example of an insect whose range has expanded hugely in recent years, presumably as a result of climate change. They have an excellent name, and there is indeed a short-winged conehead.* The ovipositor is almost straight.

More on this at the Orthoptera & Allied Insects site and Wikipedia.

Roesel’s bush-cricket (Metrioptera roeseli)

I sadly didn’t get any pictures of these this year although I saw a few and heard loads more. These are relatively easy to find as their song is a long aggressive buzzing, so you can home in on them quickly. They hide in long grass, though, so it’s hard to get a camera near them without a blade of grass getting in the way. They are also somewhat more jumpy than the oak bush-cricket mentioned above so if you get too close and alarm them they jump and disappear in a flash. However, here is one from 2011:

Male roesel's bush-cricket

Male roesel's bush-cricket

It looks a little like a dark bush-cricket at first glance although it has a distinctive pale U-shape behind the head. The female has a sharply curved ovipositor. They normally have shortish wings, but in good sunny years long-winged (macropterous) individuals appear and the one above is such a macropterous example. You can see and hear this singing in this dodgy video I took.

More on this at the Orthoptera & Allied Insects site and Wikipedia.

Hopefully next year there will be more sun, so there are more insects and more light for the camera!

* It has short wings.

General Election prediction

Following my highly acclaimed* and wildly popular** predictions of Eurovision results, I offer my l33t sybilline skilz to the 2010 General Election tomorrow. All free of charge***:

The Conservatives will scrape a majority.

This is based on the principles that both the Liberal Democrat and Labour support will ebb away just enough and that David Cameron’s eyebrows have done a good job of looking serious while he says the word “values”**** a lot over the last week or so.

This is not to say that I hope it will happen. I hope the following happens, which is a little more complicated:

A hung Parliament with Labour the 2nd largest party: Labour form a government with the Liberal Democrats at least just long enough to enact proportional representation so that, whenever the coalition collapses (as it very shortly will, especially if Labour have to go through the rigmarole of appointing a new leader, which is likely as a condition of coalition in the first place) the Liberal Democrats have a serious shot at power in the next election or at least of heavily outflanking the Conservatives in a future coalition.

I think the Liberal Democrats would be foolish to enter a coalition with the Conservatives as they won’t get proportional representation with them, and they will then recede back into obscurity once the effect of the first TV debate fades and David Cameron’s eyebrows become yet more serious. Some of the implications of a Liberal/Conservative coalition are also quite dangerous. The Liberal Democrats, for instance, favour a referendum on membership of the European Union rather than, say, just membership of the Eurozone or closer integration. I don’t think membership of the EU is something that is even an issue anymore. Although they put a positive slant on it

Liberal Democrats have argued for a referendum on whether Britain stays in or leaves the EU. We are the only party confident enough to put the pro-European case to the British people on the big issue facing us – and let the people decide. Britain will only win the case for a flexible, democratic Europe in Brussels if we settle our arguments at home on whether we should be part of the EU or not.

…I fear what could happen in straightened times and in concert with a Conservative government. I am not as confident as the Liberal Democrats.

Anyway, this is by the by. More importantly, William Hill are running a book. As I write, the predictions are:

  • No overall winner: 4/7
  • Conservative majority: 6/4
  • Labour majority: 16/1

Interestingly, William Hill are also offering odds for the individual constituencies. For Bedfordshire North East the odds are:

  • Conservative: 1/500
  • Labour: 33/1
  • Liberal Democrat: 33/1

Normally, you’d say you’d bet your house on the Conservatives winning this one, but for 1/500 it’s hardly worth the hassle. No prices for UKIP or the BNP I see.

* I did correctly predict the 2007 result.

** Perhaps not.

*** I.e. not for prophet.

**** Sounds a lot like the equally meaningless and equally riding-for-a-fall mantra “back to basics” that John Major had introduced following his affair with Edwina Currie.

General Election candidates in North East Bedfordshire

The five candidates so far for the North East constituency are the following. So far no Greens or independents that I know of:

Alistair Burt (Conservative), the sitting MP since 2001:
Website: http://www.alistair-burt.co.uk/
Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alistair_Burt
Lives: Wootton, Bedfordshire (in Mid Bedfordshire constituency)
Qualified solicitor, and executive recruitment consultant (Presumably all former positions as currently lists no other paid jobs in his declaration of interests on his website)
Photo (from Flickr user Nick Treby): http://www.flickr.com/photos/biggleswadeblue/4538025641/

Ed Brown (Labour)
Website: http://www.edbrown4nebedslabour.co.uk/
Lives: North London? (The biography on his website implies he lives in North London: “Ed is also active in local labour party [sic] activities in North London and is a school governor at Brecknock primary school in Camden.”)
Barrister
Photo (from Flickr user Nick Treby): http://www.flickr.com/photos/biggleswadeblue/4538039563/

Mike Pitt (Liberal Democrat)
Website: http://www.mike4nebeds.org/
Lives: Cambridge? (The biography on his website implies that he lives in Cambridge as he is a city councillor there: “He has experience as a Councillor in Cambridge, where he is portfolio holder with responsibility for Environmental and Waste Services on Cambridge City Council.”
Maths teacher
Photo (from Flickr user Nick Treby): http://www.flickr.com/photos/biggleswadeblue/4538017379/

Brian Capell (United Kingdom Independence Party)
Website: No website afaik but some information from a Bedford Today article.
Lives: Wymington, Bedfordshire (in North East Bedfordshire constituency)
Retired financial advisor and ex-headteacher
Photo (from Flickr user Nick Treby): http://www.flickr.com/photos/biggleswadeblue/4538032291/

Ian Seeby (British National Party)
Website: http://easternregioninformation.blogspot.com/2010/04/ian-seeby-ppc-north-east-bedfordshire.html
Lives: Broxbourne, Hertfordshire (“but does occasionally visit Biggleswade with a friend” lol)
Unemployed groundsman
Photo (from BNP Eastern Region website): http://easternregioninformation.blogspot.com/2010/04/ian-seeby-ppc-north-east-bedfordshire.html

Interestingly, only the UKIP candidate lives in the constituency. Even the sitting MP lives just outside it. I would have thought too that the BNP’s attitude to immigration would extend to local matters and that a truly local candidate could be found. At least he visits Biggleswade with a friend. The Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates seem a little shy about where they live on their websites. The Lib Dem person will at least have watched some of the same local news on the telly as I have, with his Cambridge links, which is more than can be said of the metropolitan Labour candidate.

General information on the North East Bedfordshire constituency is available from the following sites:

UK Polling Report: http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/guide/seat-profiles/bedfordshirenortheast
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/election2010/results/constituency/d15.stm
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedfordshire_North_East
YourNextMP: http://www.yournextmp.com/seats/north_east_bedfordshire

Some local campaign leaflets are available from TheStraightChoice.org. I should really contribute to this.

New ECML flyover at Hitchin

The BBC mentions that Network Rail are finally looking at putting in a flyover across the East Coast Main Line at Hitchin so trains to Cambridge will no longer have to cross three tracks, including the express lines.   Cool beans. The Network Rail site has pictures, track plans, lots more detail, and a video.

Aside from the practical benefits of fewer delays, alternative routes, and so on, it looks quite impressive too. It is due in 2014 if all goes to plan, including planning applications in 2009.

What do you call someone from Sandy?

@ostephens on Twitter asked an interesting question:

How do you know the correct form for changing a place name to an indicator of it’s denziens? Eg London -> Londoner, Bolton -> Boltonian

I did manage to find some helpful-looking articles on Wikipedia:

  • An article on demonyms (“name for a resident of a locality which is derived from the name of the particular locality”)
  • A list of adjectivals and demonyms for cities. Sadly Bolton isn’t included in the list or any others I could find.

However, the first article on demonyms has, if not rules, then patterns of demonym formation for English names. The examples of Washington and Wellington (although not British place names) would suggest Boltonian (although the example of London>Londoner does not). A Google search would seem to suggest this is being widely used, and this is confirmed beyond doubt by an Urban Dictionary entry for Boltonian.

What, though, is the demonym for Sandy? What are people from Sandy, Bedfordshire called? @ostephens suggested Sandian, Sandite, and Sandpeople. I have been thinking about this and compiled a list of candidates, some of them based on the suffixes in the Wikipedia article:

  • Sand
  • Sandian
  • Sandyan
  • Sandeian
  • Sandyean
  • Sandine
  • Sandyine
  • Sandite
  • Sandyite
  • Sander
  • Sandyer
  • Sandish
  • Sandyish
  • Sandene
  • Sandyene
  • Sandard
  • Sandyard
  • Sandese
  • Sandyese
  • Sandi
  • Sandic
  • Sandyic
  • Sandivian
  • Sandinavian
  • Sandwegian
  • Sand People
  • Tusken Raider
  • Harenosian

Notes: Sand is formed after the pattern of Germany>German, Turkey>Turk. Sandeian is based on the form of the name used in the Domesday Book: Sandeia. Sandyean is based on the old name of Sandy before the railways changed the spelling: Sandye. Sandwegian would probably better suit someone from Sandwich. I am not sure what the singular of Sand People would be: Sand Person? For Tusken Raiders, see Wikipedia again. Harenosian is from the Latin for a Sandy place: I have probably completely misunderstood the translation of this word.

Interestingly, a Google search for the word Sandyite shows it to be used quite a bit for Sandy, Oregon. A similar search on Bedfordshire doesn’t do anything. Neither do any of the other plausible ones (that I could be bothered to look up). However, I do have three favourites:

  • Sandyite. Sensible favourite. It seems weirdly natural and is also being used in another Sandy. However, sounds a little like ready-made mortar.
  • Sandeian. Elegant/historical favourite. It suggests a nicer pronunciation: San-day-un rather than San-dee-un. It is also pleasantly hard to spell. Plausible alternatives I like are Sandyean (also pleasantly hard to spell and with some historical overtones), and Sandian.
  • Sandinavian. Say no more.

Any suggestions, comments, or actual knowledge?

Corruption in Bedfordshire elections?

I don’t think the Bedfordshire on Sunday quite meant what they wrote when they published the following paragraph about the upcoming Central Bedfordshire local elections (my emphasis):

The runners and riders for June 4 Central Bedfordshire Council elections have been announced and all potential councillors are being offered the opportunity to sell themsleves [sic] to voters on the internet.

I wonder if it would be an eBay-style format. That would indeed be a scandal to put the expenses controversy to shame.

New café in Sandy

Yay: a new café called the Perfect Cup opened on Monday in Sandy, taking over the former premises of Stead and Simpson across the road from Budgens, and I went to have a visit. It’s a very good location to have a café which makes good use of its enormous windows for people watching, although it’s hard to avoid the feeling you’re being watched when you’re inside. There were a good number of people doing double takes when they noticed the new café, which was fun to watch.

Perfect Cup caf� on day of opening

Initial impressions were good: it is very spacious, is nicely done out and has nice wooden furniture and a few sofas to fight over which my children tried to smear with chocolate muffin. They do a variety of coffee, off-the-shelf soft drinks, sandwiches, and cakes (muffins, millionaire shortbread, etc.) very much along the lines of a Costa Nero. The staff were very friendly too. There were a few signs that this was their first day, such as there being no stirring sticks laid out, although I sprinkle my sugar on top of frothy coffees rather than stirring it in, so this wasn’t an issue, and I could have asked I suppose.

From the point of view of someone bringing their children there, which is a big issue in Sandy, it was a mixed bag. There was a high chair and lots of space to park pushchairs, both by the door and between tables. It’s also easy to get to as it’s right in the middle of town. The drink selection was not ideal: they did a babyccino (frothy milk without the coffee underneath), which my eldest didn’t want, and some large Oasis bottles, but some fruit juice or milkshakes would have been nice. The cakes and biscuits were also a bit major, although my children had no trouble with a large chocolate muffin which they were also kind enough to share with the sofa. There were also baby change facilities, but I didn’t use those so I’ll have to spare a graphic account of that.

I’d say the coffee wasn’t as nice as Archie & Mabel’s down the road, which does one of the nicest coffees I’ve ever had. The large amount of toys and books to keep children amused at Archie & Mabel’s is also something that Perfect Cup doesn’t have, and the former also has better artwork (by local artists), which you can buy if have quite a bit of money spare. Since I last wrote on Archie & Mabel’s, you can now also get savoury snacks like crumpets and toast, as well as sandwiches. It will be interesting to see how the café market goes in Sandy. Sandwich Express has closed down and there was a sign outside it on Monday pointing punters towards P.J.’s on the High Street, which I thought was funny. I do hope that Archie & Mabel’s isn’t affected too much as it is too much of an asset to the town and, while I also would like to see Perfect Cup do well- the more choice the merrier, and the location if nothing else is excellent for a café or restaurant- Archie & Mabel’s is a more personal and charming little café that gives Sandy some personality.

Perfect Cup caf� on day of opening

There is, however, still the Mystery of the Other Room. The space that Stead & Simpson occupied is only partly occupied by the Perfect Cup. However the only entrance to the other bit appears to be through the Perfect Cup. I have heard rumours that it might be a children’s soft play area, like Café Kidz in Biggleswade. That would certainly change things. It would make sense as there are what look like boarded up windows along that side of the cafe, which presumably could be opened up a later date.

Who knows?

More pictures on Flickr.

Sandy on the web

Sometimes for the sake of it and sometimes not, I have been creating Sandy, Bedfordshire sites all over the web on social networking sites. I started with Facebook, as documented earlier; I have also created a group on Flickr, as promised. Below is a list/directory of Sandy sites I have set up:

  • Sandy, Bedfordshire group on Facebook (password needed): has 10 members so far but almost no activity. I’m not sure Facebook groups are designed to have actual content on them anyway, so perhaps this doesn’t matter.
  • Sandy Bedfordshire network on Ning: a social networking site, much better for setting up this kind of thing than Facebook. You can bring together RSS feeds and feeds from Flickr groups into one page.
  • Sandy, Bedfordshire group on MySpace. A do not have enough paracetomol to begin to think about editing a MySpace page. It’s there, anyway.
  • Sandy, Bedfordshire group on Flickr. Flickr seem shy about RSS feeds for these, although Bloglines managed to find an Atom feed and an RSS 2.0 feed, the latter of which I have just subscribed to. I am not utterly convinced it will work.

And a couple that I haven’t set up:

Go thou and contribute. While we’re listing Sandy things, some sources of Sandy news:

Any further suggestions welcome.