Staying in the Cevennes led to some encounters with large insects unseen before by us. The first was the large caterpillar of the Giant Peacock Moth or Saturnia pyri, which is a Saturniid moth native to Europe. It is the largest European Moth and is also known as the Great Peacock Moth, Giant Emperor Moth or Viennese Emperor or most poetically, in French Grand paon de nuit.. This one was found marching energetically up the centre of the road, and despite attempts to remove it to the verge, (feeling the great weight of it on the end of our stick) it insisted on returning to the tarmac, and the dangers posed by this route. Only after several attempts did we leave it curled up round a shrub.
The gigantic Violet Carpenter Bee would visit the flowers around the house, with a buzz so loud that you felt you had to duck out of the way. Latin name, Xylocopa violacea, the violet carpenter bee, is the common European species of carpenter bee, and one of the largest bees in Europe. Like most members of the genus Xylocopa, it makes its nests in dead wood. It is not particularly aggressive and will attack only if forced to. It is sometimes mistaken for the European hornet. This species is well known in India as the ‘Bhanvra’. In 2006 it was reported from Cardigan and 2007 it was found breeding in England for the first time in Leicestershire, this follows a northwards expansion of its range in France and Germany and breeding in the Channel Islands and in 2010 it was also recorded in Northamptonshire and Worcestershire.
Violet Carpenter Bees hibernate overwinter and they emerge in the spring, usually around April or May. Hibernation is undertaken by the adults in wood where there are abandoned nest tunnels. In the late spring or early summer, they may be seen around searching for mates and suitable nesting sites. After mating, the gravid queens bore tunnels in dead wood, which is where the name Carpenter Bee comes from,although old nest tunnels may be used. Like other solitary bees, the queen creates the nest alone. The eggs are laid within a series of small cells, each of which is supplied with a pollen ball for the larvae to feed upon. The adults emerge in late summer then hibernate until the following year