Tuesday, 22 December 2015
Sunday, 18 October 2015
It’s been a while since my last post however, my time ‘away’ has been very enjoyable….I’ll let you into a little secret…I’ve had an affair!…yup, I’ve been smitten!…I’ve fallen in love with BUGS…insects, creepy crawlies…call them what you will. There’s around 24,000 species of insect in the UK and Ireland and, apart from the more obvious species like butterflies,moths and dragonflies etc., I’ve not really ‘noticed’ them before, just now and then taking a cursory glance (and maybe a photo!) at the odd one or two sitting obligingly on a leaf or grass stem, but over the last three or so months I’ve become fascinated by how diverse they are in colour, shape and behavior…I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of getting any sort of decent photographs. I’ve spent many a happy hour(?) peering into various sorts of bushes and undergrowth and it’s suffice to say that insects are very adept at flying, jumping, running, hiding, playing dead and have many other ways and means of avoiding the intrusion of that large glass eye!!)
Getting a decent photograph is only the first hurdle, getting a correct ID can become an even bigger challenge. There’s not much info out there regarding books and the internet to help with the ID of the ‘lesser’ known species.
Anyway..enough of the waffle here’s a few images (and even fewer words!) hopefully showing how diverse some of the wonderful bugs that I’ve fallen in love with can be!!
One of the largest (apart from the previously mentioned Dragonflies/Butterflies) ….
Roesel’s Bush Cricket ♀ Metrioptera roeselii Up to 26mm long, one of the13 species of Bush Cricket found in the UK.
One of the hairiest….
Hairy Shieldbug Dolycoris baccarum Mostly found in the southern half of the UK, this is one of the 37 species of (UK) Shieldbugs, it can grow up to 13mm long.
One of the crop growers enemies….
A Wireworm..the larval stage of one of the UK and Irelands 73 Click Beetle species. As a larva it lives in the soil for up to 3 years and reaches a length of 20-25mm where it feeds on the roots of various plants such as corn and potatoes with the ultimate destruction of the crop.
One of the most strangest looking….
Acorn Weevil Curcullio glandium One of the UK’s 613 species of Weevil, found mostly on Oak trees were the larva develops inside the acorns. It has a body length of about 8mm.
One of the most annoying….
German Wasp Vespula germanica One of Britain’s 4 species of black and yellow social wasps…although they would appear to be anything but ‘social’ when they induce that (amusing?) arm waving, hip hopping dance often seen at picnics and alfresco summer dining occasions! Body length up to 20mm.
False Ladybird Endomychus coccineus Not a ladybird but one of the 8 species of Handsome Fungus Beetles. It mimics an unpalatable ladybird in the hope it will be overlooked by any interested predators. 4 to 6mm in length it feeds on fungus growths on or under the bark of dead trees.
One of the rarest….
Net-winged Beetle platycis minutus The smallest (up to 8mm long) of the 4 species of these, rather rare and very local, soft bodied beetles that are found in Britain. This particular one is found in southern and eastern England.
When I realised that this beetle was on the notably scarce list I reported it to the county recorder who got back to me to say that he only had one other record for Bedfordshire, and from a different location. And to my surprise, three weeks later, another one landed right in front of me on a dead/fallen tree that I was ‘examining’ about 25 miles away over the border into Hertfordshire! Perhaps they’re not so rare after all??
Box Bug (late instar nymph) Gonocerus acuteangulatus One of the 11 species of Leatherbugs found in the UK.
Before the early 1990’s this bug was restricted to a small 10km area around Box Hill in Surry (hence the name!) but now it is slowly spreading to other parts of the southern UK and is now classed as local. The adult has a body length of up to 14mm.
I had a good search of the area where I found this nymph but failed to locate anymore individuals.
One of the prettiest….
Black-and-yellow Longhorn Beetle Stenurella melanura With a body length of up to 20mm this prettily marked Longhorn Beetle is one of the 58 species found in Britain, they display a wide variety of sizes and colours.
Wasp Beetle Clytus arietis Another Longhorn Beetle again using colours and patterns to try and outwit any predators this time loosely mimicking a wasp. Up to 15mm body length.
One of the Smallest….
Black Scavenger or Ensign Fly Sepsis cynipsea One of 29 species of small ant like flies that are associated with animal dung, this is one of the smallest at around 3mm body length and is abundant throughout Britain.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick look into the vast world of bugs, and as you can probably imagine, I’ve got a large amount of photos (many still to process and i.d.) and in my next post I’ll try and show the variation that occurs within some of the different species.
Monday, 22 June 2015
One day last week I decided to go out and see if I could find one of the UK’s rarer butterflies…the WOOD WHITE (Leptidea sinapis)..a UK priority species, as this extract taken from the UK Butterflies website explains.
Despite relatively short-term increases, the long-term view is that this butterfly is in decline and is therefore a priority species for conservation efforts. This butterfly has suffered due to a change in woodland management and, in particular, the reduction in coppicing that allows new woodland clearings to develop that provides the conditions suitable for this species. Even improvements in habitat management will not guarantee that the species will reappear from areas where it has been lost, since it is not a very mobile species and may not, therefore, be able to recolonise naturally.
I knew that some had been seen in a wood in the south of Northamptonshire, about an hours drive from home.
A weak sun in a hazy blue sky was doing it’s best to live up to the weather forecasters promise of a sunny and warm day as I set of from home at just after 7am. I was a little worried that my journey was going to be in vain as when I arrived the sun had been replaced by grey clouds and a decidedly chilly breeze, not good conditions for butterfly hunting!
As I’d made the effort I decided to have a wonder anyway and see what I could find and, to my amazement, less than 200yards from the car park I saw my first butterfly…and it was a Wood White!
After taking a few photographs, and feeling rather chuffed at finding my target species in such a short time, I decided to carry on along the track, it looked like good bug hunting territory!, to see what I could find. After about a mile and 2 hours of slow progress (lots of bug photos!) I saw two more of my target butterflies.
Nearly 4 hours had elapsed by the time I arrived back at the car and by now the clouds had disappeared and it was a sunny and warm 20°. After a drink and a quick bite to eat I went ‘exploring’ along another track that led off in the opposite direction and within minutes I’d hit a Wood White hotspot, I walked along the track for about 3/4 of a mile and stopped counting them when I got to 30, they seemed to be everywhere, slowly flitting along the track edge and occasionally having a little aerobatic tussle with a rival, or two!
I was also lucky to see a pair start to engage in a courtship display, unfortunately they where ‘bombed’ by another rival and all three flew off in different directions.
Again taken from the UK Butterflies website…The courtship of this butterfly is an amazing spectacle. Male and female face each other with wings closed and intermittently flash open their wings. At the same time, the male waves his proboscis and white-tipped antennae either side of the female's head. If the female is receptive to these signals, the female bends her abdomen toward the male and the pair mate, staying coupled for around 30 minutes.
Despite missing out on the full courtship display it turned out to be a very successful day, the ironic thing is that about thirteen years ago I actually lived about ten minutes walk from this site and during my regular walks and mountain bike rides around the area I never knowingly saw one of these butterflies!
A couple of days later I went in search of my second target species, this time a day flying moth called the CHIMNEY SWEEPER (Odezia atrata). It was dull, overcast and windy for most of the day but at around 2.30pm the clouds parted and the sun began to shine and I made a spur of the moment decision to go out and see if I could find any. It was a thirty minute drive to the site where I’d seen them last year and when I arrived it was sunny and 19°. Again my luck was in as I soon spotted a couple perched low down in the grass, unfortunately it was still quite windy and they were staying well down and only occasionally making short, low flights. After a few failed attempts I managed to get a few decent images…
It turned out to be not a bad week in the end!
Wednesday, 17 June 2015
It’s been a while since I inflicted the last lot of ‘bugs’ onto you, so I’m hoping that you’re sufficiently recovered by now and are ready for another dose?
The more that I get into insects the more fascinating I’m finding them…the vast array of bodily variations and adaptations, the patterning and colourings…a beautiful miniature world that the majority of people pass by without even noticing…….until they’re unfortunate enough to get stung or bitten, that is!…thankfully there’s not too many insects that have a viscous streak…there’s got to be a downside to everything I suppose?
Anyway, here’s some bugs, I promise that you won’t get stung or bitten!…
Thick Legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis) Up to 10mm long. Two things distinguish this green/gold coloured beetle from other similar looking beetles, the ‘swollen’ hind legs (only the male has these) and the ‘ill fitting’ narrow elytra (the hardened wing cases). It’s a common beetle, but restricted to the southern half of the UK, and can be found feeding on the pollen of many wild flowers from April to August.
Green-legged Sawfly (Tenthredo mesomelas) Up to 15mm long. This is one of a few very similar looking Sawflies and is very abundant throughout the UK from May to July. Sawflies are so named because most females have a saw-like ovipositor which they use to ‘inject’ their eggs into the plant tissue.
Red-Headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis) Up to 18mm long. As it’s name suggests this beetles red head is it’s distinguishing feature, the very similar Cardinal Beetle (P. coccinea) has a black head. Both are found in the same sort of habitat, on the flowers and trees, along hedgerows and woodland margins from May to July. They are confined to England and Southern Ireland.
Malachite Beetle (Malachius bipustulatus) Up to 8mm long. The large red spot on the rear end of this beetle set it apart from other similar beetles. Found over most of the UK from April to July in the grassy areas within woodlands where the adults feed on grass pollen while the larvae feed on the insects found under loose bark.
Click Beetle (Athous haemorrhoidalis) Up to 15mm long. This is the commonest of the UK’s click beetles and is distinguished by the elytra being covered in dense brown hairs. It is found in most wild and cultivated habitats throughout the UK from May to July. The larvae are classed as serious agricultural pests.
Click beetles get their name from having the ability to right themselves by springing into the air, this action is accompanied by a loud click.
Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle (Agapanthia villosoviridescens) Up to 25mm long. The yellow stripe on the back of the thorax and the yellow hairs on the elytra set this beetle apart from other large British beetles. It can be found in the Midlands and East Anglia in damp vegetation from May to July.
Sloe Bug (Dolycoris baccarum) Up to 12mm long. I caught this shield bug egg laying out in the open in a very exposed position, I doubt that the eggs survived! Found throughout the UK along hedges and herbaceous margins where it feeds on the flowers and fruits of many plants. Contrary to it’s name it is not confined solely to Sloe bushes.
Black and Red Squash Bug (Corizus hyosciami) A member of the Shield Bug family this strikingly colourful bug frequents a large variety of plants, originally only found in sandy coastal areas of southern Britain it is increasingly being recorded inland throughout England and Wales and as far north as Yorkshire. Careful identification is required as it can be easily confused with the red and black ground bugs.
Phantom Cranefly (Ptychoptera contaminata) Outwardly similar to Craneflies but with some subtle diagnostic features, one of them being the long tibial spurs that are just visible on the hind legs in the photograph. It can be found from late Spring through to Autumn in any vegetated and damp water margins (the larvae are aquatic).
(Muscid) Fly (Graphomya maculata) This female (males have an orangey brown pattern on the abdomen) is a member of the large fly family that also includes the House Fly and the Stable Fly. They are very abundant and can be found in most vegetated areas throughout Europe where they nectar on various flowers..especially on Umbellifers.
Dance Fly (Empis tessellata) Up to 12mm long. This is a predator fly, it uses it’s rigid downward-pointing proboscis to spear it’s prey, mostly other flies. Found from April to August in most open habitats where it frequents the larger flower heads. It is very similar to and is often confused with Robber-flies.
Mayfly (ephemera vulgata) Mayflies are aquatic insects, the ‘nymphs’ live in fresh water, but in early Spring the fully winged adults emerge, sometimes in large numbers…and not always in May! with the sole aim of finding a mate as quickly as possible, the life span of an adult is only around one to two days. The first part of it’s binomial name comes from the Greek ephemerus which means short lived or literally ‘lasting a day’.
That’s all folks! (for now anyway!!) I hope you found something of interest and didn’t get too bored?
As always any comments or observations will be greatly appreciated.
Wednesday, 20 May 2015
As you will have noticed from my last post I’ve been trying out a new way (for me) of photographing bugs. When I’ve been out walking and spotted any bugs, instead of photographing them ‘in situ’, I’ve captured a few in pots and brought them home to photograph on a plain white background. I’ve still not perfected the technique but I think it does help to show up more of the intricate details and colours that you would not necessarily see in a ‘standard’ photograph…..I’ll be interested to read your thoughts and comments!
Crucifer Shield Bug / Brassica Bug (Eurydema oleracea) At 7mm long x 4mm wide this widespread and fairly common little bug is found in a wide variety of habitats and as it’s name suggests is mostly associated with, where it feeds on the flowers and is classed as a pest, cruciferous plants such as cabbage, radish, turnip, oil seed rape and nasturtiums as well as wild cruciferous plants. It comes in a number of colour forms..black with white spots is the most common form but the spots can also be yellow (young adult)…..
Green Dock Beetle (Gastrophysia viridula) This 4mm-6mm long green beetle often has a golden or bluish sheen. It is commonly found on the leaves of the Dock plant, the larval food plant, from May to June throughout the UK. The female's body becomes very swollen when filled with the bright orange eggs which she lays in clusters on the underside of the Dock leaves …
…a greener one!
Soldier Beetle (Cantharis livida) At 10mm to 15mm long this is one of the more commonly seen Soldier Beetles of the 40 or so species found in the UK. In the summer months they can be found, sometimes in large numbers, on thistles and umbelliferous flowers.
Scentless Plant Bug (Rhopalus subrufus) This 7mm long close relative of Squash Bugs is widely found in woodland clearings and low scrubby areas in the southern parts of the UK where it is associated with a great variety of plants but tends to favour St. Johns-wort (Hypericum perforatum).
Thick-Legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis) This 10mm long beetle is found in most habitats throughout the UK but is more abundant in the southern parts. It feeds on the flower pollen from April to September. It’s the male only that has the swollen thighs from where it gets some of it’s other descriptive names such as..Fat Legged Beetle and Swollen Thighed Beetle.
Raspberry Beetle (Byturus tomentosus) Part of the fruitworm family this 4mm long beetle is classed as a pest in most parts of Northern Europe where it lays it’s eggs in the flowers of both wild and cultivated raspberry, loganberry and blackberry plants, the resulting larvae then feed on and destroy the developing fruit.
Nettle Weevil (Phyllobius pomaceus) This 9mm long beetle is covered in metallic green scales however, these are easily rubbed off as the beetle gets older leaving it with a black appearance. Notice the large ‘tooth’ on the front femurs. Found from April to June, as it’s name suggests, on nettles throughout most of the UK except in Scotland where it is scarce.
NB…After photographing them all the bugs were returned to the area where I found them and released…except the Raspberry Beetle which somehow disappeared!!
Monday, 27 April 2015
A couple of weeks ago, in a moment of sheer indulgence, I became the proud owner of a new ‘toy’…
…and I’ve been practising my flashing ever since…er?..let’s move on!
After confusing myself by reading the book of words that came with it I decided that the best way to get to know how it works was to start taking photos.
I paired it up with my 100mm macro lens and have been amazed at the results..not perfect yet, but getting there slowly.
Progress so far…a few bugs…
Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) 15mm long.
Common Shining Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus) 10mm long.
Common Leaf Weevil (Phyllobious pyri) 10mm long. Apparently they come in various hues, this one has a red tinge. The colouration can wear off leaving them almost black.
The one below doesn’t have the red tinge and the black is starting to show through.
The final set of images are of a Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii) If you grow lilies this is not a good beetle to find in your garden as both the adult and the larvae chomp on the leaves and flower buds from April to August and are classed as a serious garden pest. They grow from about 6 to 8mm long. They do look pretty though!!
What’s happening here?
Still a work in progress but I’m happy with the results so far.