Friday, July 25, 2014

How time flies when you're having fun...

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I spent some time in very good company on Ashdown Forest, even stayed overnight, but since then I have struggled to find any time to update the blog for lots of reasons. However, now that I have, let's crack on shall we?

There's an old photographic maxim that says, 'If it's bright, give it more light' but even using that as my guide, the long, hot, sunny days we have been enjoying in the U.K. have been far from ideal for macro photography. I have been reduced to early mornings or evening time to get my pictures, hence my tally for each day has been way lower than usual.
That has not prevented me from observing and enjoying nature of course, there is plenty to tempt the eye at this time of year.

Cabbage Moth Eggs
Let me start with updating the story of the moth eggs pictured here-I found these in my moth trap one morning and eventually pinned down the ID to Mamestra brassica. At least I am reasonably sure just from the ova that's what they are? 
I was fully intending to keep and raise these through to pupating, to observe the larvae and to that end, they did emerge a few days later. But it happened to coincide with my trip to the High Weald and so I had to decide, should I take them with me or release them on a suitable food plant.

I settled on the latter option and so before I left, I found a nice quiet and secluded spot to return them to the wild. I do have other larvae that I am raising though and so I will be able to share those with you instead very soon.

Diaea dorsata 
When I came across this crab spider recently I suspected that it's huge abdomen was down to it being heavily gravid (or would just gravid have been enough- perhaps heavily gravid is tautology?) anyhow, I decided to keep watch as it was only in the garden.

Sure enough, a couple of days later she looked like this...

What she did next was to fold the leaf half over the eggs and seal them in. Unfortunately I didn't get to be around to witness that, I would have liked to get some photos really. And there she remained for almost three weeks, sitting guard over her brood, not even moving to feed as far as I could tell. Eventually the little spiderlings began to emerge and although they were little bigger than a pin-head at this stage, what they lacked in size, they made up for in cuteness...

Another interesting little spider, with a sputnik-shaped egg sac I found was this Paidiscura pallens...

Although this one can readily be found on a variety of trees and shrubs throughout the summer months, oak seems to be a favourite. Even without the   female spider as in my photograph, the distinctive egg sac is sign enough in itself of the spider's presence. It is an extremely small one though and often wrongly identified as a juvenile being just 1.5mm

Eriocampa ovata
Those egg sacs are quite odd looking aren't they but how about this strange critter that looks like it has a bad case of Eczema or Psoriasis? It is actually Eriocampa ovata or more commonly, an Alder Sawfly Larva. They grow to about 2 cm as a larva and are covered in this white powdery substance. It's easily rubbed off when the larvae are moving around and is lost altogether at the final instar stage, when they take on a pale green colour. Found on Alder from May-August with most records appearing to come from the south of the U.K.

Oh, go on then! As we seem to be doing oddities again; how about another type of sawfly larva?

Oak Slug Sawfly - Caliroa annulipes

I think this one is the Oak Slug Sawfly larva, I say 'think' because there are others...there are the Rose and also Pear Sawfly to consider. But as this one was found underneath an oak leaf, I am taking that as a clue. Doesn't make it conclusive though as they also use lime and other trees.

Meanwhile, in the garden, a new addition to the plants,' Liatris spicata' has been attracting the attention of several butterflies, bees, hoverflies and plant-bugs...

Also in the garden I spotted this little bug nymph...

Rhopalus subrufus
It is one of the Rhopalid bugs that turn up most years in the garden and is my first sighting of one for this year.

There is a photo of an adult bug on the excellent BRITISH BUGS Website that I took in the garden back in 2009 HERE

The only other thing of note from the garden would be to mention these odd looking caterpillars that I have been finding on the woundwort plants...

I haven't found an ID for these yet and am assuming that they are different instars of the same species.

Well I think that's more than enough to be going on with but I will be back just as soon as I can and hopefully with an answer to what has emerged from either or both of these egg species pictured below-unless of course, you have already guessed?

 Until the next time then...


  1. Very interesting finds and shots. That spider mom and baby both are wonderful! so that tiny spider and egg sac.

  2. What a wonderful bug filled post! Shame you had to release the larvae of those eggs but it's a full time job raising critters, isn't it?! I haven't heard of that crab spider which is an absolute beauty and I love the baby. Enjoyed learning about all the other bugs featured although I do know one of them.... Eriocampa ovata and its woolly little babies. I've got a larva down by the pond on an alder and I've been watching it. You managed to make yours look like a little lamb! And I have no idea what the red larva is, or the eggs. I shall wait with impatience to find out..... :-)

  3. Thanks for the comments people...very much appreciated. Yes, I would have loved to keep those Mandy but I know it was the right thing to release them on this occasion.

  4. Forget to comment on this blog....!
    Fascinating as ever and whilst I'm not the world's biggest spider fan, I do love that baby spider! Very cute!

    Have looked around for the ID of those 'caterpillars' on the Woundwort, but can't find any matches. Nearest I've got (nut most certainly wrong) is Endothenia species???

    I adore the Rhopalus nymph. Such adorable things!

    Those eggs look rather Shieldbug (or allie) like... Almost like Coreidae / Rhopalidae eggs... most likely way off the mark! Look forward to seeing exactly what they are.



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