Scotland, where the Elephants Really are Pink

Deilephila elpenor

Full Screen Image – Elephant Hawk Moth, Glen Convinth, Highland Scotland ©Nick Sidle

The Elephant Hawk Moth is a very large moth but the name actually comes from the caterpillar which looks very like an elephant’s trunk. The adults are also very pink so this resident elephant named species here really is that colour. Enormous mammals with trunks have not been in Scotland since the Mammoths became extinct after the Ice Age, but visiting ones with a travelling circus are credited with one of the reports about the Loch Ness Monster, when they were allowed into the Loch to cool off and enjoy a bath after a long journey down the North side to near Fort Augustus.

National Geographic News – Loch Ness Monster Was an Elephant?

As to Nessie? I’ve never seen him/her/them so I’m keeping an open mind but if I ever do, I promise to post the news here.


Scotland’s Insects and Arachnids gallery

Glen Convinth

Elephant Hawk Moth – Deilephila elpenor

Stop Thief!


Full Screen Image – Bohemian Cuckoo Bumblebee, Glen Convinth, Highland Scotland ©Nick Sidle

There is a crime wave sweeping the countryside and a new report from the University of Stirling aims to bring it to our attention. The team at Stirling led by Dr Mario Vallejo-Marin, an evolutionary biologist, indict some bees for taking pollen from flowers without acting as effective pollinators in return, which as far as the plant is concerned, is rather the point of the arrangement. It’s a bit like having a meal at a restaurant and leaving without paying – theft. Just like restaurants, plants try and put security measures in place to make sure this doesn’t happen, for example by having structures designed to only allow a bee to reach the pollen after they have provided a cross pollination service in the flower. Bees however have tried to get back to getting a free lunch by finding ways to open up the protective structures, such as by producing the right frequency of buzzing sound, and the study shows that this can mean in some flowers that 80% of visiting bees collected pollen but failed to brush up against the female parts of the flower and so were of very little use to the plant in return.

University of Stirling – Threat posed by pollen thief bees

The system does still work overall, and without bees plants and people would be in a lot of trouble, but this study throws a new light on how it is a much more complex interaction and not always fair in the outcome.


Scotland’s Insects and Arachnids Gallery

Glen Convinth

Bohemian Cuckoo Bumblebee – Bombus bohemicus

Do Scottish Bees have to work harder?


Full screen image  Honey Bee, Glen Convinth, Highland Scotland ©Nick Sidle

New research has shown that whilst in high concentrations caffeine is toxic to insects, smaller amounts in the nectar of certain plants keep bees more alert and likely to return to feed at the flowers which is of course good for the plant as well as the bee.

BBC News – Caffeinated plants give bees a buzz

So it’s not just people who wake up and get on with the job better after their morning caffeine boost. Unfortunately, leaving a double extra size latte from the coffee shop next to the flower bed isn’t going to help, it has to be in the nectar. I’m not an expert botanist and if anyone knows any better please add a comment, but from the lists of plants mentioned in the research, it does not look like any of them grow wild in Scotland. This means that apart from a few privileged bees with access to specialist collections in greenhouses, almost all Scottish bees just have to get on with it without the help of a caffeine lift.


Insects in Scotland gallery

Honey Bee – Apis mellifera