This is a Nursery web spider, underneath its eponynous nursery. If you look carefully in the upper-right you can see some of the tiny spiderlings safe inside. And below, a better look at it, warding me off from disturbing its charges.


18. July 2013 · 3 comments · Categories: Seasonal

Way up in the middle of the sky a little bit of rainbow, shimmering in the wispy clouds.


It's that time of year again! Look up in your garden on a hot, still evening (just like today's) and you may very well see fat insects silhouetted against the dusky sky, lazily buzzing around the trees. Perhaps bumblebees at first glance, but in fact they're probably chafer beetles. Look down at the lawn at your feet and you might see one that's landed, presumably to lay eggs in the soil.

I've posted about them before, at the same time of year, and this evening as I walked through the garden I thought "it's that sort of muggy summer evening – I bet the chafers are abroad!" And I was right.

What do those eggs turn into? Great big, ugly larvae living under your turf!



Here are a few things I've noticed recently.

  • Blimey it's hot! The grass is dying and many trees are dropping leaves. And perhaps weeks of 30c yet to come.
  • Butterflies are about – mainly small tortoiseshell in my garden.
  • Loads of bumblebees of various sorts, but not so many honey bees.
  • Crane flies are the most numerous thing to fly in our open windows in the evening.
  • I hadn't really seen any wasps until about a week ago, but now quite a few of them are about, including a nest in my roof, right next to the velux window. Great.
  • Blackbirds and wood pigeons are particularly populous on the lawn right now, but maybe that's just my lawn.

I've found a couple of these insects, dead, in my house recently. The photo is from the underside, but shows the very long rear legs, that look like they were made for jumping, and the distintive double, stripy 'tails'. I wasn't able to get a good photo from the top, for various reasons (it disintegrated and kids were kicking off) but it has a largely black, somewhat textured carapace, aside from the translucent bits you can see up around the 'neck' above. Overall it's probably only about 5mm long.

All my web searching has not turned anything up, but I just know there's someone out there who knows exactly what it is. Please enlighten me! Of course I'm a shade worried it might be a pest that I should be concerned about controlling.

Update: Africa Gomez of BugBlog suggests that it's probably a cockroach. A lot of web searching later and the best I can come up with is the lesser cockroach, apparently one of only three species that are actually native to the UK (though there are plenty of foreign imports). Opinion seems to be divided as to whether it's a pest, and in fact deep information about it seems hard to come by. This is a good article in general on UK cockroaches. I'm still not 100% sure of the ID as many of the pictures aren't quite on the money, though that could be differences in male vs female or different levels of maturity I suppose. 


Summer is here and seems to be the real deal, which means windows wide open late into the evening, to try to dispel the lingering heat of the day. But unless you like to sit in darkness, bugs will insist on flying through those open windows, drawn by your lightbulbs.

I'm getting a lot of crane flies ("daddy longlegs" – in the UK at least) as pictured above, and moths, but nothing much more exciting just yet. A beautiful swallowtail moth a couple of years back was a particular highlight for me, but what has flown in through your open window? Leave a comment, or better still send pictures to share!

Incidentally, you can tell that the crane fly above is a male as it has a blunt end to its body, whereas the females have a pointy end – all the better to lay eggs with. Also, did you know that some tropical species can be up to 10cm long?


Isn't it great when you're just wandering through the garden and you see something beautiful on a summer's evening. It's even better when your iPhone manages to take a semi-respectable photo of it. This is a white plume moth resting on the grass. Quite common at this time of year apparently.

You may recall a previous post about an ambitious, crowd-funded nature documentary project. The project is alive and well but has morphed slightly and is now seeking funding through a different site. They have also got Biologist Simon Watt (Inside Nature's Giants) on board as a presenter.


As you may or may not know, cricket umpires traditionally keep six small stones in the pockets of their big white coat. They pass these from the pocket on one side to the other with each ball bowled, to keep track of the six balls of each over.

During a spot of umpiring my father noticed one of the stones was a bit unusual – as per his pictures above. But what is it exactly? Hopefully somebody out there has seen something like this before and can enlighten us. Please add a comment or send a tweet (@UKNatureBlog) if you have an idea. My best guesses, without having seen it in person, are as follows.

  • A stone with a bizarre, ancient inscription or pattern – perhaps of archaeological significance – but probably not. The (fairly) regular pattern looks like it's natural in origin to me.
  • A worn piece of antler, perhaps from the base.
  • Similarly, bone or tooth.
  • Some fossilized thing, perhaps from the sea?

Update: my friendly local archaeologist Claire tells me that it's almost certainly a fossilised sponge – so my last guess above was correct, albeit inspecific!