Friday, June 26, 2015

In which Giovanni gets all spiky...

Back in March of this year I came across some shieldbug eggs under bark. I didn't know at the time, but they were later identified as Spiked Shieldbug eggs (Picromerus bidens) and it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to further study the life-cycle of these fascinating bugs.




And so I took some home with me and carefully ensured they were given optimum conditions for the bugs to develop and finally emerge. These are the pictures...

Nothing happened until April 15th of this year when the first nymphs arrived...










These are the tiny nymphs that emerged on April 20th 2015


On April 25th four more emerged. These are redder because I managed to catch them soon after emerging...
April 25th nymphs


By April 29th they had darkened

On the same day, some began to moult for the first time...


April 29th first moult

The next picture is from May 4th...



Unfortunately my sometimes haphazard filing system has resulted in a few pictures going AWOL between these dates, which is really annoying for me as they showed how the nymphs had already begun to become predatory. Instead of feeding on plant sap, they were starting to need more substantial food in the shape of caterpillars etc. Even more upsetting, is the fact that you can bet your bottom dollar no sooner have I published this update without them, than they will miraculously re-appear? 


Anyhow, let's move on to the next stage that I do have,the mid-instars...


May 31st mid-instar nymphs

It was at this stage that I struggled to find enough food for them all and so decided to release them all, apart from one individual that I would hang on to to allow me to complete the whole process in pictures, from egg to adult insect. I called him Giovanni! Giovanni is the Italian equivalent of John-Gift from God. I also understand that Giovanni is a leader in something called 'Pok√©mon' and as he was to become the leader it seemed apt...         

Giovanni in all his glory...

The next picture is from June 1st...



Beginning to show some lovely metallic hues now


June 10th next and these are now late instar nymphs...

June 10th late instar

Starting to show the spiky shoulders that gives this bug it's common name...



June 10th late instar

The final instar nymphs are quite something...

Final instar Spiked Shieldbug Nymph


Final instar Spiked Shieldbug Nymph

Final instar Spiked Shieldbug Nymph

One final moult...



And the cycle is complete...

Giovanni becomes an adult...



In all honesty Giovanni could be female but whatever his sexuality..he/she..is splendiferous!





This picture (above) shows Giovanni whilst he was still a touch teneral in colour as it was taken soon after the moult. I waited a few hours for him to recover and ensure he was fit for release, and then took him to an area where I often find these shieldbugs and watched as Giovanni wandered off in search of a new home...



The end.

Or is it? Not quite because since tying this up, I have had a lie-down, sat in the Hero Yoga Pose for half an hour, given myself an Indian head-massage, completed a course of cognitive therapy, read a couple of pages of 'Mindfulness' - Finding Peace in a Frantic World, given myself a stiff talking to about losing files and set about re-exploring my satellite drive, whilst all the time concentrating on my breathing and guess what? I have located one of the missing pictures that shows how soon these little bugs become predatory...




Well I certainly learned a whole lot by doing this and I guess it's something I may never have seen otherwise.

Until the next time...

Friday, June 12, 2015

Tiny bugs and noisy starlings...

I want to begin this update with an example of just why macro-photography holds such a fascination for me. I have dabbled in other types of photography at times, but it's macro that holds my interest over and above all else. These first two photographs seem to illustrate the point nicely...



I was looking for sawfly larvae when I found this tiny fly the other day. There's nothing outstanding or particularly interesting in either the fly, or the photo and I almost overlooked it completely. But, I guess because it appeared to be fairly docile and sedentary in the late evening cooler temperatures, I thought to myself, why not try and get a closer picture? I'm so glad I did...


Just look at the detail a photo at x5 magnification reveals! The entire head seems to given over to those huge eyes. You have to wonder just where the brain is and how small it must be? It's this kind of revelation that still grips me and excites me. You never know what each photography session is going to reveal and even then, I sometimes get home and view the pictures on my PC and notice something I didn't even see at the time by viewing the camera's LCD screen.


I did eventually find some of the sawfly larvae that I had been originally looking for that day...




And then the next day I spotted this female sawfly egg-laying (apologies for the lack of sharpness in this photo, I am not very good with the little point and shoot camera) and as I didn't want to disturb her, I made a mental note to return and see if I could find any eggs.


A Birch Sawfly?

EDIT: Update on this from Flickr contact Steviethewaspwhisperer who says: Your sawfly I think is not Birch - I think those are the hairier ones with clubbed antennae.  Thanks for correction Stevie. By the way, why does the birch sawfly also seem to be called Cimbex femoratus?

I think this might be Craesus septentrionalis, the birch sawfly. They do seem to use various deciduous trees for egg laying. This was on alder, but confusingly, the alder sawfly is totally different in appearance, as are the larvae. (I did find an alder sawfly larva that I'll add a photo of shortly). I didn't get a chance to return for a few days but when I did, these are some of the eggs I found...



I think in this close up you can actually see the shape of the sawfly larvae...



                             
Then I discovered these on another leaf nearby. Eggs and tiny larvae... 




The alder was also home to lots and lots of woolly aphids. There must have been hundreds of them at different stages of development. This one in my picture below was being attacked by what I think is probably an Anthocoris species nymph... 


        They seem to loose the cotton wool effect in their last moult...

A Woolly Aphid Moult (Exuvia)


And the fully-winged adult looks like this...




Here's the alder sawfly larva that I found...


An Alder Sawfly (Eriocampa ovata)



More eggs now...



I suspect these are green shieldbug eggs (Palomena prasina)


In July of 2013 I posted a blog update showing how I had found some of these eggs, but they had been parasitised (Link to that post is here) and I photographed one of the tiny wasps responsible shortly after it emerged. Well this time around, I spotted the wasp actually doing its dirty work on the still green eggs...













We keep hearing about the fact that our bees are in real trouble these days and so I was pleased to be alerted to a swarm in a field recently by a local walker...







I am guessing that this was just a halfway house whilst some of the workers were scouting for a new nest site? It might be just coincidence but somebody was telling me recently that a farmer had set up some hives fairly close to where these were spotted.






I have been observing lots of little speckled bush cricket nymphs in the garden over the past few weeks....

Leptophyes punctatissima ~ A Speckled Bush Cricket nymph
Leptophyes punctatissima ~ A Speckled Bush Cricket nymph

This cricket can often be found in domestic garden perching on bushes, leaves and flowers, even window ledges. The nymphs begin to emerge in May and then go on to develop into adults by late summer.

The first of these photos was taken using the full macro kit and the second, using the 100mm macro and a Raynox DCR-250 macro attachment. Speaking of speckled things; here's another, only this one was a lot faster!

(Almost) A Speckled Wood Butterfly


The garden also had a visit from a rather pretty moth...

Alabonia geoffrella ~ A Micro-moth

I'll wind this update up with a photo of a starling, also from the garden. I have been forced to take down the feeders that are attracting the starlings for a while. They are so noisy, fight each other over the food and also poo everywhere!





Until the next time...