Friday, July 13, 2018

Full of Foliaciousness.....

It's Sunday July 8th, we are in the throws of a heatwave here in Kent, with temperatures close to 30c (86f) most days, for the past 2 weeks. I am sitting under a gazebo in the garden with close family (their garden actually) when I feel something tickling my arm. I look down and find the smallest bug I have seen for sometime.

My eyesight isn't good enough to make out much detail because I guess it is no more than 3mm in length, but from what I can see, it doesn't look familiar. I ask for a small box to take it home and photograph before releasing. Kerrie comes up trumps with a tiny pink box...well, Kerrie does like pink you see, she even has pink wheels on her car! 

Once I get the teeny bug under the lens, I can see that it is....well, this is what it is... 


This is a bug that belongs in the 'Tingidae' family. The Tingidae are a family of very small bugs in the order Hemiptera. They are commonly referred to as Lace bugs.

  
This is a new one to me and is called 'Derephysia foliacea', the Foliacious Lace bug. I think in this instance, foliacious refers to  it being leaf-like? But it doesn't look much like a leaf to me, so that could be complete bull! Perhaps it is the thin layers that it refers to?

Just attempting to demonstrate how small these are.  
They do look quite similar to the Andromeda Lace bug that I have in my own garden on the Japonica plants, but quite a bit smaller and seeming to prefer Ivy.


Andromeda Lace bug




Another newbie for me was this ladybird larva that I spotted in the garden. I had to look this one up and it is the larva of a 14-spot ladybird 'Propylea quattuordecimpunctata'. Try saying that with a mouth full of crackers and a belly full of beer! Why do some of the smallest bugs have the longest names?



Butterfly sightings (by me anyhow) have been sporadic this year. I did however spot my first Ringlet of the year recently...


It was taking the fern ladder of higher consciousness, and was on the second rung meditating, when I saw it. 


Sometimes, particularly if I am out walking the dog, I don't want to take the full macro kit with me but still cannot resist the pull of searching out invertebrates. On these occasions I rely on my phone to capture an image that may not be full of detail, but at least logs my finds. And so these next few photos are just that, phone pics...

Agroeca brunnea spider egg sac (Liocranidae)
I first found one of these strange constructions in August of last year. At that time I had no clue as to what had made it, but thanks to my Flickr friend 'Rockwolf', I now know that it is the work of a spider and contains eggs. 



Here's another spider egg sac. This time probably a garden-cross spider: well no actually! This one isn't a spider egg sac at all, rather something containing tiny Hymenoptera...WASPS. How can I be so sure? Because in September of 2017 I also spotted one of these, and watched as legions of tiny wasps emerged. 



Lots of Dock Bugs, which I usually only see in numbers like this just prior to hibernation; seems a bit early for that. Having said that, I have a Small Tortoiseshell in the house that appears to be trying to do just that. It came in about 2 weeks ago and has not moved. I shall have to deal with it at some point to ensure it survives...



Sometimes the bugs come to me...


This tiny hopper was on the car mirror when I returned after a walk one day...in fact today!


The final three phone images then: first one is a longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata, next is one of the Chrysotoxum species of flies, possibly  Chrysotoxum bicinctum, and lastly a hoverfly that I can't identify, unless it is Cheilosia species, which are difficult to separate (not from each other like bonking beetles, but the species).                              




What is it they say about a bug in the hand?





I think that might have been slightly bastardised from the original? Anyhow, I photo'd this tiny plant bug one handed when it landed on me in the garden. With the DSLR I hasten to add, not the phone this time. By the way: doesn't the 1:1 macro make your skin look wonderful...Oooooh, I could kiss myself!
Image result for lips emoji copy and paste



Saturday, July 07, 2018

Nigel the leafhopper...

I have blogged about the Red-legged Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) before, or the Forest Bug, as it was always called until a fairly recent name change. They belong to the Pentatomidae family and are a fairly common species across the UK in wooded areas. The insects look like this...


Top left is an early instar, top right a final instar and below is an adult bug. For anybody who doesn't already know by the way, an instar is just a developmental stage of an insect between each moult. The number of instars an insect undergoes depends on the species.

Bugs need to moult to be able to grow. They have a sort of external skeleton. Called strangely enough, an exoskeleton, which they shed in a process called ecdysis. Once shed, a new, larger covering is formed. The remnants of the old, empty exoskeleton are called exuvia.

Way back in 2010 when you and I were a lot younger than we are now, I found one mid-moult...


Well a few days ago I came across another of these adult bugs that had just moulted and the adult still had its teneral colours. For anybody that doesn't already know by the way ☺️ 'teneral' is, and here's the dictionary definitionof, relating to, or constituting a state of the imago of an insect immediately after molting during which it is soft and immature in colouring. 

                                                 

I know! For anybody that doesn't already know by the way ☺️ 'imago' is the final and fully developed adult stage of an insect, typically winged. So what you're saying then JJ is that it is basically an adult? Yeah, I suppose I am. So why do you feel the need to go over-complicating things? Sorry, some folk like to know the entomological terminactitude. Did you just invent that word? May have done 😬 Can we just get back to the plot please? Okay...here's what I found...




You should be able to click on these images for a larger view, but I don't know how much more detail there will be, because I stopped using high-res images on my blog when I found people were stealing them. 

As you can see the exuvia (you know what that is don't you) is still just behind the bug. Here's a photo of that...


And a close up of the adult shieldbug...


I have other photos, I could have gone on photographing it for ages, in fact I did! But there is such a thing as overkill, I will just add one more here that I took a while later when it had just begun to acquire some colour...


Very subtle isn't it, but it has started the process which will result in the brown colouration of a fully hardened shell that will allow the bug to fly and start feeding again.


Meanwhile, back in the garden, the buddleia has become home to an increasing amount of little creatures. I am always, well not always, I sometimes, complain about name changes of insects; well in this instance I can see that the new moniker of 'Hairy Shieldbug' is much more apt that its predecessor of 'Sloe Bug'. Take a look at this nymph I spotted on the buddleia, for anyone that doesn't already know by the way ☺️ a 'nymph' is an immature form of an invertebrate before it reaches maturity. I think the difference between a nymph and an instar, is that an instar relates to the different stages of a nymph, first, second, third instar etc. Still awake? Okay, the photo...

A Hairy Shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum)

It is hirsute  eh. And, in all the years of observing bugs, I have yet to find a single one of these on blackthorn. For anyone who doesn't already know by the way ☺️ blackthorn and sloe are the same plant. Apparently, a survey of 55 different plant species was carried out in Surrey and not one of these shieldbugs was found on sloe. 

Here is a really early instar which is also quite hairy even at this stage...


I have read that even the eggs are supposed to be hairy! I don't know about that, I only found my first ever batch of eggs this year and as far as I could tell, there were no obvious hairs.

I haven't seen too many dragonflies this year yet. But I did see this fresh one drying its wings before its maiden flight. I think this is probably a male.

A Common Darter Dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum)


On the other hand, there have been plenty of these 'bonking beetles' as always at this time of year...



There are also quite good numbers of skipper butterflies floating around in the long grass now...

A Small Skipper Butterfly (Thymelicus sylvestris)

Whilst I was down on bended knee, having a little genuflect, I also spotted this intriguing hopper...


I haven't been able to put a name to it yet, so let's just call it Nigel for now shall we.

Then finally, there was this 'nest' that I suspect is the work of a spider...


It might not be though; that's the thing about nature, it is always throwing up things that you haven't seen before and then it is down to research. My research on this one has only thus far turned up a similar looking construction made by an  Araniella species of spider.


Okay then...
Pack away your books and leave in an orderly fashion please. I will see you all back here soon for more of the same.


Sunday, July 01, 2018

Leaf-cutter bees in the garden...

In 2016 I noticed a new species of bee in the garden. This was Anthidium manicatum - the European Wool Carder Bee...


Wool carder bees are members of the Megachilidae family and are so called because they collect plant or animal hair or fibers. Leaf-cutter bees also belong in this family, and that's what I spotted in the garden for the first time a few days ago. Megachile centuncularis: the patchwork leaf-cutter bee is the one I think has been busy building two nests. The first clues that they had taken up residence were these leaves with circle shapes cut out of them...



They seem to be particularly fond of the  Akebia quinata (Chocolate Vine) but have attacked a few different plant leaves. One nest is at the base of a potted plant...



And the other in a broken clay pot hanging from the bird feeder...



Both nests have two entrances. Or perhaps, an entrance and exit? Not sure, I had better check that. What amazes me is the speed at which they cut and remove a section of leaf: I estimate that it takes on average just 10 seconds. Fascinating too how they roll the section of leaf to enable them to carry it between their legs.



And a tiny video from my phone (may not show in email version of update)






Some information about these bees  from the Wildlife Trust that may be of interest to you:

The patchwork leaf-cutter bee is one of a number of small, solitary leaf-cutter bees. Leaf-cutter bees nest in holes in plant stems, dead wood, cliffs or old walls, and can be seen in gardens. They famously cut discs out of leaves, gluing them together with saliva in order to build the 'cells' in which their larvae live. The larvae hatch and develop, pupating in autumn and hibernating over winter. The patchwork leaf-cutter bee is on the wing from April to August, and feeds solely on pollen and nectar.