Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shark's fin aphids...

It doesn't seem possible but I have already been writing for Magnet magazine for a year and have had 12 articles published by them. I'm looking forward to next year and the opportunity to inform and maybe interest more people in the wonderful world of invertebrates...

Today (December 15th) has been the first time the stars have aligned and everything seemed right for a bug-walk. I had the free time, the weather was set fair and I was interested to see if anything at all was still around. It didn't turn out to be one of those days when you could have done with a larger SD card in the camera to cope with all of the finds, but even so, for a mid-December day, I was pleasantly surprised...

Psyllobora 22-punctata
This little 22-spot ladybird was the first thing I found-it is only around 3-4mm in length but quite distinctive. It feeds on mildew.

There were a few hoppers around too...

I think this one pictured above may be Stenocranus species (Delphacidae) but wouldn't know which one. I was happy with my attempts to photograph the next one before it made its escape-that is until I noticed the eye colour and realised that it had actually expired...

Philaenus spumarius (Common froghopper)

Idiocerus species (maybe vittifrons)

Empoascini ?

Zygina species

I found this beetle out in the open for a change, I have come across these several times but always concealed under wood or moss. Sometimes called snail beetles after their habit of making lunch out of any unsuspecting gastropod. I know these also come in brown, as I once found one myself.

The black snail beetle (Silpha atrata)

It's springtail time again in the garden and just by checking under fallen leaves I found half a dozen species...

Dicyrtromina minuta ?
I've plumped for Dicyrtomina minuta on this one but as the markings on its rump are quite narrow, it could be D.saundersi I guess? Actually, looking again I think saundersi is probably right looking at the antennae -I think it is probably a juvenile as the head still seems quite large, when compared to the body.

Genus nov.2 sp. nov. 
This one (above) is a non native species and again was spotted in the garden. These seem to prefer damp and mild conditions, with most of my sightings being early in the day when they are out foraging.

The last one for now is this green(ish) specimen...

Sminthurus viridus

Now that mother nature is shutting down for winter, you do need to look a little harder for most bugs and insects, but that's what keeps me interested. Often I enjoy the hunt as much, if not more than the capture, and by capture I mean photographically, not literally. A lot of leaf turning is involved as well as examination of sundry fallen branches and decomposing logs. That's fine as long as you are alone, it can get tricky to explain to bemused passersby though...

When I saw this little group I thought at first they could be aphids. Closer examination revealed the lack of cornicles (the two small protruding tubes at the end of the abdomen) and so I then thought perhaps barkfly/louse? However I don't think all aphids have cornicles and so I am still undecided. As usual with identifying my finds, I settle on something then right away talk myself out of it-for example, the head and antennae look much closer to barkfly here....but...just doesn't seem right somehow?

Elasmucha grisea
By turning yet another leaf I came across this parent bug. No doubt hibernating or preparing to do so. They do overwinter as adults and teneral adults can be found as late as October.

A Pseudoscorpion

This time it was a clay pot that got upturned in the search for bugs. A lot of these creatures are so small that you need to allow your eyes time to adjust before deciding there's nothing of note to be seen. This is around 3mm in length and once disturbed moved quite fast, both forwards and backwards.

They are of course not scorpions at all but related to spiders (arachnids) but look like scorpions without the stinging tail. Those long pincers are used to trap prey and then inject it with venom.

Amazing isn't it that these have been around for at least 180 million years, and yet I'm betting you won't ever have seen one? Not that I'm suggesting you are that old! Oh and, there are exceptions as always, I'm sure my macro colleges will know all about them.

Whilst scrabbling around under lumps of soggy wood I found this rather interesting slime mould.

This one comes under the heading of other things I have found whilst searching for springtails. It's one of the hoverfly larvae but I couldn't say exactly which one.

My last picture for this update and probably for this year, it is this willow aphid. I was amazed to find them still doing well after several hard frosts but they do appear to be coping quite well...

Fascinating little things and I particularly like that sharks fin protruding from the abdomen.

As we are so close to the end of another year of blogging, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to read these updates, and not only supported me, but also commented in such a wonderful and positive fashion. Next year will be the fifth year of JJ's Photographic Blog and I look forward to sharing whatever that brings, with you.

Thanks again, without you, the blog is nothing.



  1. Congratulations on both the article writing (they look very interesting and colourful) and the amount of buggy finds! Really surprised by how many hoppers are around - I've never seen that many before. You do need good macro gear at this time of year for many of the teeny things and I'm in awe of your springtail captures. No idea about the possible bark fly but they look interesting. And I've never heard of a pseudoscorpion! Finally that last bug is amazing. Well done you and thanks for writing such an entertaining and educational blog with the most amazing photos!
    Happy Christmas to you and your family. :-)

    1. Thanks for this Mandy-yes, the extreme macro kit comes into its own at this time of year. Pseudoscorpions are tiny-I doubt you would even notice one with the naked eye...not that you're gonna be looking anytime soon ;-) Take it easy (he says having No idea if that's even possible) and make Christmas and New Year as enjoyable as you can? Edit: Bugger! Did it again-left the 'd' out of your name, so this is the corrected version of my reply ;-)

  2. Well done I think your photos should be in a book as well, I would be the first in the queue to buy one..I just love your photography so thank you for a year of sharing...
    Hope you have a good Christmas and New Year..
    Amanda xx

    1. are not the first to suggest that Amanda, thank-you. I will be working on a proposed book that would contain some of my insect photos over this coming winter, then it'll be down to finding a publisher willing to take it on. Best wishes for the season Amanda and thank-you for your comments this year.

  3. Awesome as ever JJ! Wonderful to see all of those articles presented together like that. What a colourful and beautiful assortment!

    Think the aphids are aphids! Lol! Perhaps Anoecia species? Love the Giant Willow aphid; they're great aren't they?

    Really good to see the Parent Bug too. Must turn over more leaves!!

    Thank you as ever for another superb blog.

    All the best for 2015!!

    Maria x

    1. Well thanks yet again for these uplifting words Maria. Yes, by coincidence Tim (Ramsom) posted a very similar aphid shot on an insect site we belong to soon after I published my blog and so I think you are right there. Yeah..I must turn over a few new leaves next year too ;-)

      Enjoy the holidays and hope to share more buggy delights in 2015

  4. Your springtails are my all time favourites - amazing little creatures and you capture them so well. that Pseudoscorpion is also very interesting.

    Wish you happy holidays and I look forward to see some interesting updates again in next year.


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