Monday, March 02, 2015

What has no legs and moves by flexing its body?

I know there are those amongst you who don't care for spiders, so let's start this update with a couple and get it over and done with. Yesterday I spotted my first jumping spider of the year in the garden...

Click on any photo for a larger view
Salticus scenicus-A Jumping Spider
Commonly known as the zebra spider, this is probably the most familiar of the British jumping spiders. This one is a female, the males have huge chelicerae (mouth parts/fangs) used against prey and in defence-or even fighting sometimes.

Second one is this little spider I found under bark. I think it might be Clubiona species but I am really not sure...C. phragmitis-C.reclusa-C.terrestis all looked like possible candidates, but then it might be none of them!

There is something just as interesting to me as finding an identity for the spider, if we pull back a little with the camera...

What do you think that object to the left of the spider could be? It looks like the head/pronotum and eyes of a bug or beetle? Quite large compared to the spider, but from memory that was less than 20mm total length.

There are two directions I could head from here, there's an arachnid related find I could post, but maybe, as we are in a 'what do you think this is' kinda vein, I'll choose this photo instead...

Mystery object...
This was also found under dead bark on a tree stump, at about head-height; well, my head height anyway. I wondered if it was part of a moult from a shieldbug or beetle maybe? Or even the remains of a meal? But, what puzzled me was the size-it was fairly large, too large I would have thought for a shieldbug. This section alone was bigger than any shieldbug I know of. A conundrum then? Unless you know that is?

And the arachnid related thingy? Well it's this pseudo scorpion...

A Pseudo or False Scorpion
I couldn't be certain of an identity on this one either, other than it might be       Chthonius species? They are tiny beasts that are related to spiders rather than scorpions. 

A False Scorpion (2~3mm)


Here's one that I have found and even featured on my blog in the past; but this time, I think I know the identity of it...

Paederus littoralis-A Rove Beetle
These little flightless beetles are said to carry a toxin that can cause blisters or a rash if I didn't! From the same family (Staphylinidae) comes this ferocious looking larva...

A Rove Beetle Larva

Eggs/Ova now...and an unexpected find of an egg batch; unexpected because, once again I found these under bark and that's a first for shieldbug eggs for me. Then, I wouldn't expect to be seeing these at this time of year and so they must be duds..some that didn't hatch last year...

I thought on first sight that these were Hairy shieldbug eggs, but having researched it a little and compared both, it seems far more likely, given the location and closeness to lots of gorse also, that they are in fact Gorse Shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus) ova. The little purple critter bottom left is a springtail by the way. It still amazes me that these were laid under bark.

More eggs? Why then am I posting this photograph of a marble gall?

Well because I almost dismissed the next subjects as being exactly that. At least they looked like a dirtier...winter worn version to me. But then pausing for a moment to think it through before moving on, several things puzzled me about my initial diagnosis; let me share the photo I did take first though and you might see what I mean...

Hmm...okay, so maybe not! Funny how you can convince yourself of something and that others will see it too-and then, when the hard evidence is suddenly available and placed side-by-side, or in this case, one under the other, you feel like a complete nincompoop (Google it if you are not familiar.) All this means nothing anyway when you consider what struck me next-if they were galls, how could they possibly be on a fence post, rather than a tree? Size was wrong too, way too small; although I guess all galls are small at some stage of growth.

Let's have a look at another photo then that should provide the answer...

The spheres to the left here have markings that look more familiar as moth eggs and I eventually found out that they are indeed eggs of the December moth (Poecilocampa populi) not to be confused with the winter moth by the way. These should hatch in spring when there are leaves for the larvae to feed on.

Meanwhile, under bark (have you noticed a trend developing in this update yet?) I came across this metallic beetle-I am guessing it's a leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) but yet again, really not sure of ID... 


    A little later on...under bark-I discovered this next beetle...

Pediacus depressus-A Flat Bark Beetle?

I am hoping that this is P. depressus as this one seems to be the rarer of the two UK species. Unfortunately it only allowed me this one photo before disappearing forever. You'll be pleased to learn that the next creature wasn't discovered under bark on a tree stump-No..this one was on top of a tree stump...

This is the larva of a cardinal beetle. There are two possibilities for this one-Pyrochroa coccinea and P. serraticornis. They are really similar but the raised, transverse line as indicated in my next picture appears to be diagnostic and confirms this as P.serraticornis: The Common or Red-headed Cardinal Beetle.

The final one is something new for me as I haven't see it before. At least, I don't remember finding anything like it...

What is it? My best guess is a soldier fly larva. It has no legs and moves by flexing its body. What is a soldier fly? I was hoping you might know! Is it like this little one I found the other day perhaps?

Hmmm...maybe I should end this particular update here as it seems to be asking more questions than it is answering...

Until the next time....



  1. Ooooooh!!! Where to start! Lol! Right, with the most exciting, for me at least! Those eggs from under the bark are indeed shieldbug, and with those little 'frilly' bits on the tops (I have now idea what the correct term for those are..... ought to learn!) makes them Asopinae, a subfamily of the Pentatomidae, which includes all the predatory bugs. In the UK, this subfamily has 4 genera: Picromerus, Rhacognathus, Troilus and Zicrona. Of those, Picromerus bidens is the only species known to overwinter as eggs. They typically lay their eggs under loose bark too so that's what I'm going with! ;-) AWESOME!!!!!!!!
    (Having written that about those eggs, I know that Gorse SB eggs also have little frilly bits, but they're not so pronounced, plus mainly the eggs themselves are quick distinctively banded)

    Love those pseudoscorpions. Incredibly detailed images considering their tiny size. Also love that metallic beetle and the way the water droplets accentuate the colours. Can't really see what it is form the angle though.

    Fascinated by the 'empty abdomen' too. Will have to have a look around to see if it's possible to work out what it is. Roughly how long was it?

    Have found those weird flat legless things in the past and had no idea what they were, so thank you for that! Now I know they're soldierfly larvae! Brilliant!

    Another fabulously illustrated and informative post JJ, thank you!


    1. Hiya Maria,
      Well your detective skills exceed mine here because I did consider overwintering eggs but (foolishly as it turned out) just kept to the ones I thought it might be and didn't widen my search to ALL shieldbugs. I have had a look now though ;-) And agree that the spiked-shieldbug does seem to fit well-especially given it was heath-land habitat. How exciting!
      It was the 'little frilly bits' btw that got me thinking about gorse shieldbug eggs ;-)

      Erm..that abdomen was B-I-G..that's what drew my attention to it, first thing that came to mind was that if it were a beetle, it MUST be something like the size of the Asian Longhorn? I am guessing but reckon that part was...maybe 3/4" in old money ;-)

      Pleased about the soldier fly larva but don't take that ID as bible...was the closet I could find though.

      Thanks once again for your help, enthusiasm and kind words ;-)


  2. Gosh! Re-reading my post, I see that I wrote 'quick' instead of 'quite' as regards the distinctive banding... Lol! Wish I spotted these things BEFORE posting!

    Really keen to find Spiked SB eggs so will now be looking under loose bark! Was it a living tree, or a fallen one? Was it oak or something else?

    Really interesting about that abdo! Will have to see if we can find a match with those patterns!



    1. Oh I hate that too, when you write something and can't edit it! Annoying as hell ;-) I knew what you meant anyway Maria...

      Blimey...what kind of tree? Erm...ok...I think it was probably dead as it had been cut off quite low to the ground and I am....fairly sure ;-) It was a mature silver birch. There was just a stump of around 2 foot tall left with loose bark around the edges...

      Yes, those markings should be helpful on the abdomen photo, but then again, not sure how many bug photos are gonna show that view? Unless you can think of something without having to resort to cross-referencing pictures?

      Will keep looking myself anyhow...

  3. Brilliant, thanks for the extra info! :-)


  4. Stunning photos,( False Scorpion and metallic beetle are my favourite) had read through your post before I took the dog for a walk, couldn't help looking under wood at the park , only found the odd slug...! A few weeks back I posted about a Earwig , which turned out to be a larva of a cardinal beetle, we watched it take on a worm, snipping right through the end of the worm as it wriggled to get away. Amazing to watch, glad they small insects. Was the bark from the stumps you had put in the garden ?
    Amanda xx

    1. Hi Amanda..
      Many thanks-I Love how we all inspire one another in this way and yes, nature IS amazing..even just watching is a gift ;-) No, these weren't in the garden this time unfortunately. I really must have another look at your blog and see why I don't get updates...maybe I have subscribed to one of the other ones you have? Anyway..will make a point of visiting soon x

    2. Think you are following my bug blog , but my main blog is the page with the Cardinal larva is here
      hope this helps.
      Amanda xx

    3. Hello again Amanda,
      Thanks for these links-heading over there right now ;-)

  5. Wow I'm impressed by all you've found so far - good to know the season has kicked off! I assume that thing next to the spider is the remnants of dinner? The only soldier fly I know is the Twin Spot Centurion, and I've never seen the larva.
    Love the shiny beetle with droplets, and envious of the pseudo scorpion! Keep it up cos it'll be a while before I'm crawling about low down looking for bugs, so I'll have to enjoy your posts instead! :-) And excellent photos, as usual.

    1. Hi Mandy-G-R-E-A-T to hear from you, hope you are already on the mend some ;-)

      Yeah...reckon that must be the remains of a spider lunch! The pseudo scorpions are fun but so is trying to photo them...Soooo small. I am hoping to be posting more updates as spring kicks in so watch this space up ;-)


  6. Beautiful photographs. I especially like the pseudo-scorpions.

    1. Thanks Gary-appreciate you taking time to comment...


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