Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A neglected Kentish orchard...

Immediately behind our house is an area of land that was once a thriving apple orchard, but has now been neglected for a number of years.
As nature reclaims the orchard, the habitat is gradually improving for insects and bugs. Until such time as the land is needed it makes for a great hunting ground, right on my doorstep.

I thought that I'd dedicate this blog entry entirely to creatures that I've found in this area in the past few days. Armed with my pith helmet and machete I ventured into the jungle...

This sawfly larva seems to be around in good numbers and I did find quite a few in a fairly small area of the old orchard.
I'm never sure on identity with these sawflies and so won't even attempt a guess here but I can show you another example of the same species-this one has some little hitch-hikers in the form of mites...

The next find was this very cool hopper. I think this one might be Aphrodes bifasciatus but once again not completely sure, as it's a variable species-I think it's safe to say that it's Aphrodes species though.

This species belongs to the cicadellidae family of leafhoppers.They feed by sucking plant sap from grass, shrubs or trees. This one was under 5mm in length.
My plant knowledge is pretty bad but I'm confident that this hopper is on Ribwort Plantain, there, that's left myself open to correction!
A couple more views

Each time I walk this particular area my footsteps are accompanied by the sound of crickets/grasshoppers calling but for some reason I've not got around to trying to photograph any-until now that is...

Roesel's Bush-cricket
I caught this one in full sun and it was quite lively, staying in one spot just long enough for a snap. It is Roesel's Bush-cricket (Metrioptera roeselii) a cricket that is separated from the similar Bog-Bush cricket by the pale yellow, or green border that edges the pronotum.
The song consists of long bursts of sound, said to resemble a dentist's drill.


I'd have to say that this little grasshopper pictured above was something of a star find for me. Not because it is anything special by way of rarity or form but just that I was amazed by the facial markings that appeared when I put the macro lens on it. I've said it many times now but this is what makes macro photography so special for me-the unexpected detail revealed through the lens.

It'd be obvious to choose the mottled grasshopper as an identity for this one but in truth, I have no idea which species it is! It was only around 10-15mm and found in an area of long grass beside water.

Edit: Since posting this image I've been told by a flickr contact that it's actually a cricket rather than grasshopper and could even be the same species as the one in the first picture (Thanks Neil) and so probably best to ignore what I've written about a possible identity!

The water  is actually a small pond and the pond is home to a host of insects and bugs. The dragonflies that I've seen in reasonable numbers previously, have been hit badly by our awful weather this year and numbers are way below what I would expect.

There have been some though as this empty larval skin shows. I spotted this prehistoric looking thing whilst searching for damselflies at the water's edge.

If the dragonfly skin looks like a monster to you then here's something I found that demonstrates the other extreme. The world must look like a pretty big place to this little turtle bug I spotted...

A Turtle Bug- Podops inuncta

Leptopterna dolabrata

Leptopterna dolobrata is a common species of large grass bug (Miridae) and the males are always fully-winged but females are usually partly-winged, as in the photo of a female above.

I said that the grasshopper/cricket was a star find for me and it was, but I was equally excited by another stellar spot-this time a beetle. Not just any old beetle though, oh, no!

This stunning creature is a beetle from the Buprestidae family. Known as jewel beetles for obvious reasons, sometimes also as metallic wood-boring beetles. I don't find these too often, I think this may only be the third in all the time I've been bug-hunting and so it was quite a treat.


Butterfly sightings in the old orchard have been limited to mostly meadow brown and ringlet. A few small skippers have begun to appear though and I also spotted a couple of comma's on nettle. I once overheard two gents discussing species and heard one say "Oh no, I don't like skippers, they're not a pretty butterfly" well, firstly to me that sounds a ridiculous statement, and secondly, I don't agree-I think they are very nice and I love the subtle colours.

This fly, pictured above is not the sharpest of images but was taken very early one morning in the orchard. I was trying to get some natural light shots hand-held but the light was poor and even dragging every drop of light I could into the camera, it still required a low shutter speed. It was windy too and has made me decide that before I attempt a similar excursion, I must get a device to hold foliage steady for me.

Anyhow, I wanted to include this one as it's quite an interesting looking fly and has great eye colour.  I think these are marsh flies.

Sometimes you have to look underneath leaves to find insects and bugs and that's how I came to find this strange looking critter. It was underneath a willow leaf.
I have seen something similar to this with ladybirds where the ladybird has been attacked by a parasite-I'm pretty sure that this is an aphid that has suffered a similar fate.

On that final gruesome note, I'll put an end to this update. Quite a lot of finds then for a small area that I didn't really spend much time in. I may add to this at a later date with an update of anything else of interest that turns up.

Until the next time...


  1. Hi,
    I always enjoy reading your blog and looking through your marvellous pictures.I found the blog from the Wealden articles by the way.

  2. The photos are amazing. On the last photo there is so called "mummy" which is last stage of parasitzed aphid. In this particular case a parasitoid is wasp from genus Praon.

  3. Thanks for your comments here


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