Sunday, September 29, 2013

Under Bark Wood-with apologies to Dylan Thomas...

I always say that when I am out bug hunting/photographing that if I manage just one good photo or interesting find, then it's been an okay day.

Well on one recent outing, I did accomplish the latter, I'll leave you to decide whether I also did the same with the former...





These strange little critters represent a first for me, in that I have never found or photographed them before; at least, not knowingly. I did once photograph a single individual by accident-I was photoing something else, when one wandered into the shot, but they are so small that I didn't even realise until I looked at the picture on my computer.

What are they? These are member of the order-Thysanoptera, they are Thrips.
There are eggs, instars and adults in these photos.


There doesn't seem to be too much information readily available one these but I have discovered that there are apparently 6,00 species worldwide. Almost half feed on fungi and they lay their eggs in crevices under bark, which is where I found these. Although most are tiny at less than 1mm up to a max of 2mm, they can bite.


A closer look at an instar

As people keep reminding me, autumn is now upon us and actually, even nature is now starting to agree, but some of the insect life seem to think it's still spring...










A couple of things that tell me a new season has arrived are the return of the springtails (Collembola)...

Allacma fusaca- Collembola


...and then the pesky craneflies that seem to be everywhere through September...




But most of all there are the........spiders!


There do seem to be some quite large specimens of this garden spider (Araneus diadematus) this year, amongst the females that is, the males are much smaller.

A small selection of other spiders that I have photographed...












I was particularly pleased to find this last one. It's a crab spider-Misumena vatia and unusually a male. They are not seen anywhere near as much as the larger females, probably just because they are so small in comparison...


Hang on! Having uploaded this picture, this looks very green, although I know these can change their colouring, I am not sure my i.d. is correct now? Oh well...somebody will tell me if it is wrong...


As some of you are not seeing the beauty in spiders, shall we have something that is at the other end of the spectrum as far as beauty is perceived by most people?

A Rosemary-leaf beetle

This lovely beetle-Chyrsolina americana you may have guessed is not native but was introduced in 1990 and is now fairly abundant. I have read that they have short wings and cannot fly, which has me wondering how they have become widespread relatively quickly.

The wasps seemed to me to be late arriving in any real numbers this year but now that the blackberries are fruiting locally, there seem to suddenly be plenty...even in the rain!




There are still a few weevils to be found, here's just a couple. First up; an acorn weevil...


...and this one is a black-bean weevil...



I've also found a number of tortoise bugs in long grass in the past few days...






As you can see,they vary quite a lot in colour. I also came across this very dark instar...



As always, there are caterpillars to be found at this end of the year and I thought this one demonstrated the art of camouflage superbly?


It's not just the colour of this looper that impressed me but the pose it strikes, that even includes holding it's front feet at such an angle that it replicates the little bud at the top of the branch above it.

I should stop there-I have taken enough of your time and...you have a life to lead. Just before I depart though, it's becoming something of a tradition as I have said before, to include a 'what is that' photo for consideration. I have my own theory as to what this could be but would love to hear from anyone that knows for sure...

It was discovered under a fallen leaf and was minute-maybe only 1mm or so, but, what a fantastic structure? How could something so small be so perfectly formed? Anyway, any ideas?



As the horticulturalist once said..."That's shallot" 

Until the next time...

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Another blog update, another mystery?

Well for a change I can start this update by answering some queries, rather than posing some...

From my last update then.

Let's try and run these in order; the moth eggs that emerged on thistle. I had no clue from the tiny instar at that stage what they might be. Well my friend Jason Elmore suggested that it may be an early instar of the Dark Dagger moth, and that did look quite close, but once they had moulted a couple more times, it became clear what they actually were-Knotgrass larvae...



That fits too with thistle being a foodplant and so hopefully that one has been resolved. Even so, if you disagree please feel free to let me know and I'll be more than willing to eat humble pie-I have plenty left yet.


Next are those 'silky sputniks' that we thought might be constructed by spiders. I can now reveal that having spent w-a-a-a-a-a-y too long for my own good observing them, they are indeed spider creations...



Not much of a photo I know but the evidence is there as we go through the keyhole.."Who would live in a house like this?" Awe...such a shame about     David Frost.

A couple of, even worse, cropped shots of the teeny spiders that emerged...



And so at least we can now be secure in the knowledge of being confident these are spider structures, even if the species is still in doubt.


I did find another similar looking 'nest' recently...



Hmmm...doesn't look all that similar now that I look at it again but, you get the idea-similar enough?

Lastly from my previous update, Jason E. was wondering if the eggs I found that had turned red prior to the larvae emerging could have been Oak Hook-tip?

I would never normally have been able to say with any confidence that they weren't , but I actually trapped an oak hook-tip moth a while ago and whilst in the trap overnight, it produced a few eggs that I managed to photograph and they have a different structure to the ones in my last update...


If they were not oak hook-tip, then what were they? I think I said that I hadn't managed any photos that were worthy of including at the time, well I'll share what I did get-these are when the larvae had just emerged and were,I guess around 2-3mm in length at that time...


And now? They look like this...


Looking very striking now they have moulted and grown but other than now knowing they are geometrids, or loopers, not much wiser-there's always the next update though.



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Staying with caterpillars and larvae for a bit, I saw and photographed another of those fluffy little sawfly larva that I saw on alder last year around this time...


It's the larva of the woolly alder sawfly (Eriocampa ovata) 




This isn't my attempt to corner the market in oddities but, here's (above) 'The Vapourer' that I always think looks oriental?

Another? Okay, if you insist-how about this mega hairy beast...


What we have here is the Pale Tussock that can be found from July to October, feeding on oak, birch, lime, or hop leaves; although less lightly to be seen in hop gardens these days, as there aren't many left. Hop gardens that is, not moths or their larvae.


Before I put caterpillars to bed, so to speak...this was a real treat for me and I hope will be the same for you. I was able to watch an Elephant Hawk-moth lava munching away at rosebay willow-herb and caught it on video...

video
A reminder here that this video won't show in the e.mail version of my blog

And a full length shot reveals that this is quite a beast-I measured the length of this particular specimen at 80mm. As you can see, it was extremely wet from the overnight dew when I first found it...



It seems to be a bit of a tradition now to include at least one unknown oddity per update and so I guess I had better keep tradition alive by adding one here, as we are approaching the end of this missive?

Too large to be a ladybird pupa and I don't think my original thought of some kind of gall is right either, but what do you think?



Oh! Just before I take my leave-I wanted to mark the fact that 2013 has been a bumper year for clouded yellow butterflies, even to the extent of finding one in my local woods one day...


I had to chase this around for sometime before it allowed me a photo and they are very strong fliers too. What shocked me though, was just how brutal all the other species were towards it. Each time the yellow descended from the trees to nectar, it was harassed by pretty well all of the other butterflies. I watched as it was hounded by large white-comma-peacock-meadow brown-brimstone-green veined white and even a small copper that looked ridiculous compared to the size of the clouded yellow but still saw it off.

I wondered what it was that allowed every other butterfly species to share and yet, all were united against this stranger.

'Time gentlemen please' or you'll still be reading this when I publish my next update. Until the next time then...