The warming weather in the Wee County – albeit erratic at times – has brought out good numbers of insects, most notably queen white-tailed, buff-tailed and tree bumblebees that buzz low over the ground as they search for crevices and holes to make their nests in.

The egg-laden queens have overwintered, slumbering alone in deep hibernation, and now they are seeking out a safe place to start a new colony. The first brood of offspring are all ‘worker’ females and conduct a range of specialised tasks – such as guarding or cleaning the nest, while others forage for nectar and pollen from flowers. Later in the season, offspring are produced that are not workers, instead comprising new queens and males to enable the colony to reproduce.

One of my favourite early-emerging insects is the bee-fly – a wonderful creature that oozes charisma from every pore. The bee-fly is a little, brown-furred beast, with an incredibly long, needle-like proboscis used to probe spring flowers for nectar. They are inquisitive insects, and when sitting in my garden on a sunny April day, it is not unusual for one to hover above me. I presume the colour of my clothes is the reason for the attraction, causing confusion with a flower, but perhaps bee-flies also have an innate curiosity that makes them keen to explore new objects in their home area.

Peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies are on the wing just now, bringing vibrant colour to the Clackmannanshire countryside. But in the next week or so, I’ll be venturing down to the haugh of the River Devon to seek out orange-tip butterflies. The male orange-tip is a tangerine dream, with his vibrant wing flashes and boundless energy. During the early part of the season, orange-tips never stay still, the males determinedly seeking out the updrafts of attractant pheromones released by the flirty females. When a male stumbles upon a female, they both spiral up into the air, their wings filled with exuberance.

The green hairstreak butterfly, however, transcends all others when it comes to beauty and grace. It is a small butterfly, not much larger than a thumbnail, yet the emerald underwings shine like sparkling gems. The green hairstreak is scarce in our area – but Glendevon is a good place to seek them by woodland edges, especially when the sun is shining bright.

Another butterfly to look out for is the comma. When the wings open this is an insect of stunning colour, but on closure the butterfly almost disappears, the scalloped outline of the wings resembling a dull withered leaf. Indeed, the comma caterpillar has taken such camouflage abilities to an even higher level by looking similar to a bird dropping. Is this by chance, or has the caterpillar deliberately evolved to look like bird poo? And if so, how on earth did it happen? I’ll never know, but nature is so incredible in shape, diversity and form that it never fails to inspire – even when it mimics a bird dropping.