Monday, October 24, 2011

Return of the frost...

There is a quote that uses the analogy of painting styles to describe the seasons, I can't remember it word perfect but it's along the lines of, winter being an etching, spring a watercolour, summer an oil painting but autumn a mosaic of them all.

Click on any picture for a larger view

Well, that was the premise behind these shots.I purposely took them out of focus to give an impressionistic vision of Autumn. Rubbish? Probably, but it pleased me so indulge me?

Autumn is just beginning to come alive though and we've been lucky enough to have quite a few clear, sunny days. The two shots above were taken directly behind our house using the little Lumix camera that I've started to carry with me more often now that the colder weather is here.The colours are a bit over saturated but I kinda don't mind too much.

It's also been possible to get a good daytime view of the moon lately.

Whilst I don't seem to have had a great deal of spare time to go bug-hunting recently, it's also true that there are considerably fewer around to see anyhow.
On fine days I still spot the occasional butterfly and as usual there are caterpillars around if you look in the right places.

These two pictures are examples of recent finds that illustrate perfectly how the variation in form, size and colour can make caterpillar/larvae identification tricky. The top one of the two above probably would be most people's idea of a caterpillar when in fact it isn't a caterpillar at all. Whereas, the second photo possibly isn't how you would expect a caterpillar to look and yet this one actually is a small copper butterfly caterpillar.
In case you're wondering...the top one is a sawfly larva.

One creature that will be around throughout this winter however bad the weather gets is the springtail or collembola. These hardy little things can sometimes be seen crawling around on the fresh snow or ice.If you do fancy looking for these yourself, I ought to warn you that the one I've photographed here is one of the largest of the species but even this one is only around 5mm or so.

A Springtail

We have already had a few overnight frosts in this corner of Kent; not hard frosts but enough to turn the grass white and to have to scrape the car windscreen. There's little doubt that the harsh temperatures will have already been responsible for the demise of a good number of our insects. Dragonflies are one species that are not safe in the cold.

A common darter dragonfly

When I spotted something moving on a small piece of wood laying in a crop field whilst out walking recently, it shocked me to find that it was actually the common darter dragonfly shown above. It was soaking up the last of the day's sunshine and was fairly slow to the point where I was able to get a few shots before it moved off. A nice sighting so late in the year and especially so following the frosts.

A couple of days later I was walking the dog on one of my regular routes when I thought I'd check some rhododendron bushes beside a local pond to see if there was any sign of bug life. I'd seen the spectacular rhododendron hoppers there earlier in the year but couldn't imagine that these tiny things would have survived the recent frosts; once again I was proved wrong when not only did I find one but counted at least a dozen on different bushes.

Rhododendron leafhoppers

Speaking of hoppers, whilst walking at the edge of a ploughed field I heard the unmistakable sound of a grasshopper but couldn't actually seen one. I did spot it eventually even though it was well camouflaged. I'm unsure of just which particular grasshopper this is but here's the photo anyway...

Squashbugs are mainly confined to the south of the country and of the 10 species, only two are classified as common. The one that I see most often is Coreus marginatus, the 'Dock Bug'. They feed mainly on fruits and seeds and also possess stink glands and it's for this reason they are sometimes also called 'Stinkbugs'

Coreus marginatus

These bugs can when threatened emit a foul smelling odour from the stink gland that is meant to deter any would be predators.

A closer look at the stink gland

The last photograph in this blog entry is of a little weevil that I found running around on the edge of a cattle trough. It's usually to be found on dock plants, hence it's name of 'rumix'.

Apion frumentarium (Red rumix weevil)

That's about all for now but I'll be back with another update soon. This strange year for insects isn't over yet and there are still some nice finds to be had if the weather continues to be kind.

Until the next time then...