With the much more pleasant weather now upon us (though the rain clouds are looming as I write this), I've been enjoying getting out more and more. Recently this week, I spent some time in a small grassy patch along a footpath to capture some images of the blue bells now that they are starting to bloom. Something I also noticed was that the usual bane of my outdoors life, the stinging nettle, had also come into flower, meaning that it would no longer sting! A very handy bit of knowledge if you want to look like a rugged "outdoorsy" type, who knows no fear and laughs in the face of an itchy rash. Though not ALL of them were in flower, so I did get stung a little... All in all, the blooming of these flowers had provided a great resource for an influx of insect life, and it was quite surprising what I could find by nosing around in the undergrowth. There were masses of St Marks flies in the air, plenty of bees of different species which is always great to see, and even a pair of mating weevils!

 Copyright Ed Marshall. The blue bells near my house have all begun to bloom, adding some colour to the area and bringing the promise of a great summer.

 Copyright Ed Marshall. Easily mistaken for the more irritating "stinging nettle", the "white dead nettle" can be identified by its white flowers when in bloom and, more importantly, by the fact that it does not sting. A common misconception which I myself fell foul of before this fact was brought to my attention!

 Copyright Ed Marshall. The St Marks fly, so called because it's emergence was typically found to coincide with the 25th of April which is St Marks day. The males are identified by their clearer wings, whereas the wings of the females are "smokey", making them appear darker.

 Copyright Ed Marshall. A pair of weevils (Nedyus quadrimaculatus) mating on the underside of a stinging nettle leaf.

Whilst on my rummage, I also came across this rather menacing looking insect that many of you may recognise as an earwig. As earwigs are nocturnal this individual was happy to sit and pose for its shot, which shows off the large pincers on their abdomen. Contrary to their name, they do not seek out the ears of passers-by! This is just a myth, though there have been times when people have found them in their ears, and I can unfortunately include myself in that lucky group.

 Copyright Ed Marshall. A common earwig, resting on the underside of a dead nettle leaf. It will become more active of a night when it begins to search for food.

It was also encouraging that I a number of people stopped to ask what I was doing, and took interest when I told them I was looking for and photographing insects. "Bug hunts" are a great way to get the kids more interested nature as well! With a simple handheld magnifying glass, they can begin to discover the great variety of wildlife that lies amongst the flower and grasses. It could prove to be a great way to keep the kids entertained over the summer months, so give it a go! 

I hope you have all been enjoying the Natures Home magazine, my summer edition arrive just the other day and I was happy to see my face in the "Wild about Wildlife" section. If you have any questions, stories or pictures you would like to share with us here at Natures Home, then please email in to us at natureshome@rspb.org.uk