GardenChaferBeetle

A while back I posted about large, evil looking grubs with legs found lurking beneath my soil, and speculated that they were chafer larvae. Well I think that this rather stocky beetle is the end result, being a Garden Chafer. I'm not completely sure of the identification though, so let me know if you think I've got it wrong. It's very chunky – about as deep (carapace to belly) as it is wide, though you can't see that in this photo, though clearly it's not nearly as big as the grubs themselves – but the metamorphoses between the various stages of an insect's life is fairly unbelievable anyway.

BandedDemoiselleFemale

I'm familiar with the classic Banded demoiselle damselfly, that does exactly what it says on the tin – i.e. it's banded, with massive dark blotches on the wings and electric blue body. It really catches the eye. The one above is a female however (I believe) and looks rather different. It's quite striking in its own way however and dare I say I was surprised when I looked it up to find that there is such a thing as an Emerald damselfly but that this isn't it. How much more emerald can you get?

There were the more obvious males around too, which I think helps confirm my identification. Unfortunately they wouldn't pose as nicely for me, but I think this is quite an arty and unusual shot and you can still just about see the dark patches on the wings…

BandedDemoiselleMale

LadybirdSex

The garden has been awash with insect life recently, including lots of ladybirds. This pair was getting fruity. You can just see the abdomen curving down to meet the other, at the bottom left. Are they actually the same species though, I wondered, given they look completely different?

I used this UK Safari page and this handy allotment society guide to help me identify them as most likely both Harlequins. They can display a large variation in colouration but always have brown legs, which is most obvious in the top one here. If I had a top-down photo I'd be able to see if there is an M/W shape on the top of the head, which would also help identify them positively as Harlequins.

ColourfulAphids

Here's a happy farmyard scene, discovered on the branch of a pussy willow tree as I pruned it. Click the picture for a larger version so you can see the detail! I hadn't seen aphids as exotically liveried as this before, being more familiar with plain green or black versions. The twin orange 'horns' on the rear of each one are called cornicles and it seems the jury is still out on exactly what they're for.

The ants in attendance are literally farming these aphids, stroking them and then consuming the sweet honeydew secretions that come from their rear ends. The ant on the far right is clearly stroking that aphid with a front leg. Also if you look closely, the very left-most aphid is a bit bigger and has wings. They don't fly well though, relying mostly on the wind to carry them decent distances.

VapourerMothCaterpillar 

Look at this exotic, hairy brute devouring my rose bush! It didn't take long Googling "caterpillar with brushes on its back" to discover that this is a caterpillar of the Vapourer moth. The head is just out of sight at the leftmost end. Here's an alternative photo (not one of mine) that gives a better idea, especially of what the head looks like. Apparently they are quite common in the UK on all sorts of shrubs and can become pests in large numbers.

Wikipedia has a great page on the caterpillar and the moth it turns into, which isn't nearly as exciting to look at as you might think. This is often the way with moths it seems. The female is actually wingless, looking like a fat, furry flea, and attracts males by releasing pheromones.

11. June 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: News

Sorry for the couple of days of radio silence. I'm sure our readers wondered what was up. Well wonder no more – both of you. The husband (that's me that is) and wife team that forms the core of UKNB operations has just introduced a new life to the world – a bouncing baby girl!

Honestly it's sickening how easy it looks in the documentaries: a female deer gives a sneeze and out pops a young fawn. Which then stands up within minutes and is prancing around, evading predators and generally behaving like a miniature adult before the day is out. It seems terribly wrong that humans must go through many hours of agony, exhaustion and dangerous complications, to produce a youngster that can't even hold its own head upright. I think we'll try laying an egg next time.

WaterLily

A miscellaneous photo to brighten your day, since it's been rather wet and wild. This is a Water lily flower in the botanical gardens at Oxford.

How about a quick rundown of miscellaneous things I've noticed recently:

  • There are more species of butterfly on the wing compared to a month or two ago. I saw my first Painted lady of the year yesterday, not to be confused with the superficially similar Red admiral.
  • Froghoppers have appeared in abundance on many plants in the garden – notably roses and honeysuckle in mine. What you actually notice is the blob of white froth in the crux of a stem, within which hides the green insect.
  • Spiders are very active, with lots in the house, which surprises me as I usually notice that in the autumn.
  • I've seen quite a lot of Jays about in the open, which again I wouldn't usually notice until later in the year. I have no idea why and it may be just happenstance.
  • Ants have started building small crumbly towers in the middle of the lawn, and are pretty much everywhere I look. There seems to be one on every leaf of every plant sometimes!
  • Most of the bees I see are bumble bees or other solitary species. I just don't see many honeybees, but there are loads of bees in general. I am also noticing a lot of dead or dying bumble bees on the ground. I presume it's just natural wastage, having no reason to suspect otherwise.

SnailThroughGlass

I spotted a snail moving up the patio window after a rain shower so I took the opportunity to photograph it from beneath. This shows the mouth parts and two pairs of tentacles. The bigger, out of focus ones on top bear the eyes, and the ones at the bottom are just for feeling the way. If you look at the foot against the glass you can just see the undulating waves of movement running up along the sides.

As with most things, there are hidden fascinations waiting to be discovered, and I recommend this diagram of the anatomy of a snail, as well as this detailed discourse on the tentacles and eyes of snails.

Damselfly

I spotted this damselfly resting on a tulip stalk today, perhaps associated with the neighbour's pond. Not being familiar with the varieties on offer, it took a little while to identify, but I think that it is a female Common blue damselfly, based on this description, the most important excerpt being: "the female is blue, brown or olive-green with extensive black markings including a Christmas tree or double arrowhead on the eighth segment." I'd say this is olive-green/brown with a Christmas tree marking matching the diagram on that reference page. They're also common as muck and about at this time of year, which makes it pretty likely.