Monday, August 20, 2018

You might die laughing...

"Where do I begin? To tell the story of..." (or) "Let's start at the very beginning a very good place to start..."

Yay! Two song lyrics and I haven't even got going in Ernest (as the cupcake said to the pansy). Did I really type that? Sometimes I have no control over my finger (you don't think I can use more than one to bring this to you?) and I have no chance of reaching 50 wpm. Hell, I don't even know what it stands for (as the cupcake said to the...Oops! Better get on with the plot...

What? The newspaper established in 1986 with a slightly liberal, left of centre bias. Here's what I found on a website called something like 'Media Fact-checker'-They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes) to favor liberal causes.  These sources are generally trustworthy for information, but may require further investigation.

Factual Reporting: HIGH

Maybe so, but do they really need to use tabloid headliners like this?

Grrrr, it gets my goat, really it does! And I need my goat, who else will listen to me ranting about these things with blind indifference? And after all, she is my nanny. Would you like, at this point to see a picture that I took of a horsefly? Of course you would, why am I even bothering to ask, you crave one right? Well to misquote Buddy Holly, no need to 'crave-on'...

'Cool Daddy, cool' 

I hope you are keeping count of these lyrics; I found those last ones somewhere only we know. About the horseflies then, as per usual, the headlines don't reflect the facts, which are revealed...eventually:'Risks are greatest for people with a weakened immune system and if the drugs don’t work (Me: Gee thanks, you included a lyric especially for me) then minor cuts could rapidly become serious.'

'The effects of an infected horsefly bite can include a raised and nasty rash, dizziness, shortage of breath, and weak and swollen limbs.'

Yeah, and then you die a long and lingering death, during which, your knee-caps drop off and you swallow your own tongue, which tickles you to death...from the inside! 
Movin' on up...

The little plant bug that you see in this photograph is the latest addition to a long list of invertebrates that I have discovered in my equally little garden. It belongs in the Miridae family, and is called 'Deraeocoris ruber'. It feeds on other small insects and can be found on a range of plants: I regularly see it on nettle. I don't recall the name of the pink and white plant in this photo, but I shall call it Ruby...Ruby, Ruby, Ruby.

Here's something else I found on nettle, not in the garden I hasten to add... 

I failed to find an ID for this one in my moth book, and so I looked out the booklet called 'Insects on nettles'...

Then promptly put it back on the shelf: it was about as much use as an ejector seat in a helicopter! I think it might be one of the Tortrix moths, and possibly the 'Large Fruit-tree Tortrix'. Fame is but a fruit tree? ♫♫♫

I found a couple of Red-legged Shieldbugs the other day. When I say a couple, they were actually coupled...

What interested me about these was that pale spot which tips the scutellum; apparently, those who know about these things say that it varies in colour, from orange to cream. But looking at these two, I wonder if it could be that males have orange, and females cream? Or whichever way around it works, I am assuming the female is the one on the left here.

A shot from underneath one of those bugs

And by way of a comparison, here's what a Green Shieldbug undercarriage looks like...

Palomena prasina - A Green Shieldbug

Yes, they can look very pink at times.

I always check any beech trees that I come across (that's beech, not beach, baby, beach baby) because I live in hope... that's it really; I live in hope! No, I live in hope of finding a lobster moth larva. Never have, but I have found several other interesting caterpillars, like this one...

A Green Silver Lines caterpillar - Pseudoips prasinana

A blog update wouldn't be a blog update without a spider photo now would it? C'mon, it's not as if they are spiders from Mars!

A spider!
Actually, I can do better regards identity than just 'a spider' because I happen to know this one. Yes, she's a personal friend, you might even say she's my best friend? (Let me know if you tire of these lyric references won't you: won't make a jot of difference of course.) 

Yes, this one is 'Araneus quadratus' - A Four-spotted Orb Weaver spider. How can I be sure? ;-) (Yes...ANOTHER lyric) Because I found one a couple of years ago and was able to identify that one. In fact, let me find the photo and share here, because it's a slightly less menacing photograph than the one above. this one will make you fall in love with spiders...

Araneus quadratus

 Didn't work huh? Oh well, I won't give up on trying to convert you, I won't back down. You have the photo anyway, and every picture tells a story.

The first of two questions: Do you know who this guy is?

Roderick James Nugent "Rory" Stewart, OBE, FRSL FRSGS That's who!

Obviously a very learned man: so why does he feel the need to start every sentence with the word 'so'? Is it because he is the government's prison minister and so sentences are just so for him? 

I only mention it because I heard him being interviewed on Radio 4 this morning and when I was running through my mind what I was going to write next, he came to mind, because I was about to start my next sentence with that very word!


I know there has been a lot of, well let's call it frivolity, peppering this update. But now I want to try and expand your horizons just a soupcon, should your horizon be in need of expansion, which I very much doubt. 


Scroll back up the page a tad, until you come to the photo of that caterpillar with the shieldbug right above. But before you do...because you won't be able to read this next bit from there: what is the connection between those two creatures?

You still here!

Oh! You have looked and now you are back, okay. If you said they are both green, then you are kinda right. Look again at their Latin names and you will see that 'Prasina' forms part of both. 'Prasina' from the Latin: Leek green.

I know, I know, I am like a visiting relative who doesn't know when it's time to leave. I'm outta here:  I'll just slip out the back, Jack!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Often new, but seldom true...

There's an old proverb that goes something like this: The mature fruit is cooked in August and dished out in September.

Well I certainly feel like mature fruit, or even, slightly overripe! But it is true that this month sees nature's crops ripening. Just the other afternoon I was out walking on yet another day of high temperatures, and having forgotten to take a drink with me, was able to pick a few juicy blackberries. I noticed lots of brightly coloured berries on the rowan trees too...

Enough preamble, let's get on with this August update. In fact, how about beginning with a conundrum...

NO! That as you well know is  carborundum! I said...oh never mind; take a look at this photograph...

I found several of these 'things' attached to the buddleia in the garden one day. I have no idea as to what they might be. What I do know is that they all disappeared almost as soon after. Any ideas as to what they might be?

A clue to what comes next? Okay, how about this...

No, it's not Moeen Ali; although the clue would still have worked had it been him. How about this then...

Yes, I am talking about Gryllidae or Crickets to be common about it. I found two species of cricket inside the house recently; and neither were House Crickets, mainly because we don't have them here in the UK. Unless you have bought some dry roasted, to consume! 

Meconema thalassinum - a male Oak bush-cricket

Conocephalus discolor - A female Long-winged conehead cricket
As you can probably tell, I put them both outside to photograph. I assume that the oak bush-cricket being arboreal, was the reason I found it upstairs in the bathroom, with the conehead downstairs in the living room. 

I've probably mentioned this before, but for as long as I can remember I have had this mantra about bug hunting; it says that if I find just one interesting thing whilst I am out looking, no matter how long it takes, I consider it to have been a good day. 

And so when I spent a morning at a local nature reserve recently and came home with a lot of poor photos (my own fault) I wasn't phased. I had one superb find, and so even the frustration of spoiled images was not enough to damper my enthusiasm. Well, okay it might have just piddled on it a bit, but not enough to notice!

More of that in a moment; first this...

Elasmucha grisea - A Parent bug nymph

On a rare, rainy day, I went out in search of shieldbugs. It is something I rarely do, limit myself to one subject, because it is often doomed to failure. And so I wasn't really surprised when having been out and about for an hour or so, it began to rain again and at this point I had found nothing, zilch, nada, bugger all! 
So...I sheltered under a tree for a while, to escape the rain. What to do to pass the time until resumption of my bug hunt? I know, WhatsApp a friend. I hadn't been chatting long, when I got distracted by something crawling over my hand; would you believe it? Well would you? You might if I tell you that it was (assuming you are not ahead of me and have already guessed) a shieldbug nymph, of all things. Yes, a flippin' shieldbug nymph, after all that searching, one lands right on me! 

I'll spare you any further dialogue on the subject as this is already becoming quite verbose, save to say that it was the Parent bug nymph you see in the picture above. 

Yes M'am...because later that very same day, look what I went on to find...

Only a whole family of these lovely creatures. And what a family eh, what are there, 25 nymphs? These were in a different area to my first find and were on the underside of a birch leaf. 

Interestingly, an article I read by the Wildlife Trust, states that these are largely restricted to silver birch trees. My own experience differs from that though. I have found many of these, along with numbers of adult insects, and more often than not they have been on alder. True, birch is also used.

These bugs get their name from the habit of sitting on their eggs and babies to protect them from things like parasitic wasps.
An adult bug caring for its offspring

There are good and bad sides to the exciting find I mentioned earlier: good in that it is something that I have only ever witnessed twice before. Bad because I know that some of you wimps don't like spiders.

I'll ease you in gently with this phone photo that I took from a distance...

This is Argiope bruennichi, a species of Orb-weaver spider that has the common name of Wasp Spider. They are very large, probably the largest spider you will find in the UK, although they are not originally native.

This from BBC Earth:  In 1922 the first wasp spider  to be seen wild in England was found at Rye in East Sussex. These brightly coloured spiders are common in Continental Europe where they enjoy the warm weather they need to feed and lay their eggs.

Over the next few decades wasp spiders spread, becoming locally common in counties along the south coast of England where average temperatures are higher. More recently they’ve been recorded in inland areas, especially in south and southeast England, and some have even reached as far north as Shropshire and Derbyshire.

I rotated this photo for easier viewing

This is a female by the way; males are much smaller and brownish in colour. They are most likely dead too, eaten by the big female! 

 This shows the zigzag 'stabilimentum' on the orb web.
A wasp spider's web contains a band of thicker silk called a stabilimentum. This might act as a warning to birds not to fly into the nest which could destroy it. Or possibly as a lure for insects that are drawn to the ultra-violet light it reflects. It may even be a way of dumping excess silk – its exact purpose is still baffling scientists.

Meanwhile this special publication...
was upholding its usual standards by proclaiming...
"Exotic wasp spider that bites 
swarming across England"
The article eventually had this tidbit of useful information "They are a prickly, spiny spider so if you pick one up it can feel like you have been bitten. But they are harmless."
As somebody once said: "What appears in newspapers is often new, but seldom true."

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Happy Bespectacled Stink Bug?

That doesn't mean that this update concerns a species of fly called 'Time Flies'. No, Tempus fugit' is what I meant. Yes, hard to believe but it was 2014 when I last saw something like I am about to share with you. Even more extraordinary for me was that it was as late as the last week of September. 

Having whetted your appetite with this little teaser, I guess I should share now huh? Okay...

What d'ya mean, 'what is it?', would a few more pictures help? Good, 'cos guess what...I have more...

Yes, Coreus marginatus the Dock Bug. This is a nymph that has suspended itself from the vegetation to enable it to moult. Bugs need to continually moult to allow for growth, only stopping once they become an adult insect. The colour is very pale when they first emerge, but will soon darken.

I recently found some really interesting information about flight speeds for insects, also wing beats per second. I thought you might be interested too?

No need for that attitude Robert! I am doing my best here to engage with my public.

What amazed me here was that the Hummingbird Hawk-moth which seems to hover effortlessly in front of flowers, actually has a slower BPS rate than the Hoverfly, House Fly and Bees; yet, flies faster.

Then, take a look at that Scottish Midge - can it really beat its wings  1000 times per second! Try and imagine that? That's 360,000 times in just one hour.

There, you see, now you're pleased you looked eh?

Oh well, I tried...( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Flea Beetles next! Oh stop it...they are not fleas, or even related to fleas in any way. The adultusually have long, hinged hind legs that enable them to jump like fleas. Right now they are peppering my nasturtium plants with tiny holes and there seem to be more every day (beetles and holes that is). There are both Small White Butterfly eggs and larvae on the same plants and so it will be interesting to see who wins out in the end.

I have ringed the tiny caterpillar but the eggs are probably too small to see in this picture

Pupation of the beetles occurs in late summer, with second generation adults emerging during autumn and the larvae will begin to feed immediately after hatching. Mainly on plant roots, although some larvae feed on leaves. Hmmmmm...

Time to wind the clock back to April of this year when I visited America. I still have photos from my trip to share and thought I would include a few more here.

Let's begin with this fabulous beetle: this is Enoclerus eximius the Checkered Beetle. It belongs in the Cleridae family and is 6 - 8mm long. It predates on other beetles, mainly on willow, alder and Californian laurel.
Enoclerus eximius

I was pleased to spot this next little bug nymph; it's one that I see quite often right here in Kent UK, well, not this one, but the same species. Campyloneura virgula is its name...

Campyloneura virgula

This rather large Crane-fly was hanging around in the long grass and I did wonder if either it had just emerged, or those wings had been damaged somehow? 

I haven't been able to pin down an ID for these Damselflies yet but there were lots of them on the reeds around a lake one day when I visited. I am wondering if they might be Forktail species?

These rather large and flightless beetles are known as Darkling Beetles (Eleodes species) and seem to be pretty much a coastal species. I found this one in Santa Cruz.

This was a real treat for me; a Gulf Fritillary, or Passion Butterfly. It was one that I was hoping to find. Passion butterfly by the way, after the fact that it uses passion flower as the chosen food-plant for its larvae.

A Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanillae)

Here's another bug that I made an assumption about regarding identity, only to prove myself wrong when I researched it. I had assumed that this green stink bug was in fact the Common Green Stink Bug Acrosternum hilare, but no, this is actually a Southern Green Stink Bug Zezara viridula. Distinguishable from its cousin by the red antennae segments. 

Edit: Please see the comments on this post for an update on this bug's true identity, because it seems that my second assumption was also wrong!

It has been pointed out to me that it is much more likely to be Thyanata species and possibly T. pallidovirens or T.custator (the red-shouldered stink bug).

Many thanks to Rockwolf for this information; I actually had not even heard of the Thyanata species ;-)

Thyanata species Stink Bug (Shieldbug, much nicer)

These Stink Bugs gave me a little trouble regarding an identity too. I thought at first they were Conspicuous Stink Bugs, in fact, in a way I wish they had been, just because they have a common name of The Happy Bespectacled Stink Bug. But no, it turns out that the description relates to the two spots that look like orange spectacles, on the dorsal thorax, which these don't have.

And so I have settled on  Cosmopepla uhleri a bug that  uses Scrophularia californica as a host, which I believe is a type of Figwort. 

Cosmopepla uhleri 

I still have more I could share but don't want to outstay my welcome and so will say 'That's a wrap' and head for the hills until the next update. Thanks for reading this and making it to the bottom of the page!