Monday, August 24, 2015

Featuring a Tipulidae threesome...

Where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday that I returned from Somerset and wrote a blog entry, when in reality, it was 3 weeks ago.
This strange, stop-start summer has continued and as always, there is bug-life to encounter and share...

I seem to have been 'strapped for time' (that's another strange expression when you think about it isn't it? I think originally 'strapped' meant, in financial need. (Hmmm...that applies equally.) Anyhow, I did find time one evening to go out with the camera and look for butterflies. I always say that if I have one good find, then the effort has been worthwhile, and this day proved to be so with the first Brown Argus butterfly I have seen locally in a few years...


A Brown Argus Butterfly (Aricia agestis)

Showing the upper wings

There were also a number of Skippers around too...




And a solitary Red Admiral...



Similarly, just a single White Admiral, and tatty too...


But Brimstone's aplenty...


Including this next one that seems to have one wing that failed to inflate properly when it was emerging from the chrysalis...



And then we come to one of, if not the best find of the day. This little fly is a beauty to my eyes and again, one that I haven't seen for at least the last three years...


No apologies for adding more shots...


This is Phasia hemiptera, a Tachinid fly. This species is strongly sexually dimorphic (different in appearance between male and female) with the female having orange hair patches to the sides of the abdomen, but only the males have these, curved and colourful, patterned wings.


On the way home from taking these photos, I noticed that the nettle bugs are back on the stinging nettles at the entrance to the old orchard...





Close-by, a Sawfly was busy making lunch out of another insect...

The usual reminder here that videos will not show in the emailed version of this update.





And  beside the pond, there was something of a Crane-fly threesome going on?


I'm not sure of species here but could be Nephrotoma, possibly N. crocata?                 


Meantime, back in the garden itself, in my little pond; well I like to call it a pond, it isn't really anything more than a plastic tub but the frogs love it...






Right above where these little froggies are, I spotted a small caterpillar making a cocoon and decided to try and film some of the action using the macro lens...




And this is the footage I got. It took place over about 10 minutes of action but I have condensed it here by speeding up to around x8


A lot of work for the poor thing. I looked again the following morning at it was still trying to complete the task.

The sunflowers have been attracting a few insects, which is something of a bonus as no sunflowers were planted this year. I guess they must have grown from seeds the birds dropped. I saw an unusual looking ladybird one day and it turned out to be this recently emerged Harlequin that had yet to acquire its spots..







The next 'find' was ridiculous in its simplicity. I was sitting here at the laptop, when I noticed a tiny speck on the wall beside me. As any bug-hunter will testify, you just have to investigate once your curiosity has been piqued and when I did so, I found this little weevil...



I placed it on to a leaf for a more natural looking photo...



I thought I knew at least the species of this one but, looking again, there are so many that I'm not sure now. I have no doubt that my friend Maria will know (hint) and if she doesn't, I'll eat my hat and run around the block naked! (Don't worry...you're as safe as I am from that sight!)




Whilst you try and erase that frightening image from your mind, let me offer this fresh as a daisy Rhopalid bug...



This was once again a garden spot and knowing that there are just two species resident and this doesn't look right for the obvious one of R. subrufus, i think it is Corizus hyoscyami. These are very handsome looking bugs and to find one so freshly emerged is a first for me. Here's one that looks how I usually find them...




What else can I share with you? I know, I have seen frogs by the bucket load, but I was pleased to spot this tiny toadlet recently...



The toadlet was at one end of a meadow beside a pond and there are several rhododendron bushes beside the pond also and that's where I see these colourful hoppers each year. There are plenty of the adults around now...


Graphocephala fennahi-A Rhododendron Leafhopper
If you live in the UK and spot this bug near you, then the British Bugs website are asking for people to report a sighting of this invasive species to them: www.britishbugs.org.uk


Is anybody else finding lots and lots of Green Shieldbug instars?



They seem to be all over the lower vegetation locally whenever I am out walking. As well as the 'Greens' there are goodly amounts of 'Hairies' this year as well...


Dolycoris baccarum-Hairy Shieldbug Nymphs

I think perhaps I should leave it there for this particular update and so I'll just add a picture from way back in June when I went to Canterbury to photograph the Heath Fritillaries...



Until the next time...

Sunday, August 02, 2015

JJ goes West....

For the past couple of weeks I have had a change of scenery and a change of county as well. I have been entrenched in deepest, darkest Somerset. The weather could have been kinder, but that's Somerset for you, I have been spoiled by the drier climate of the South East. At least there were bugs a-plenty, enough to hold my interest anyway.

I stayed close to Cheddar Gorge in a pod...



It made a good base from which to explore the area and seemed to be a hit with a comma butterfly that hung around the whole time...



There was also a squirrel that seemed to be busy preparing for winter...







Two of my favourite places were Westhay Moor NNR and Shapwick Moor....



Westhay in particular has some great habitat for insects as well as birds and is known for the fantastic starling murmurations over the Avalon Marshes....


Westhay habitat

One of the first insects I spotted at Westhay, and you'd have had to have had the vision of Stevie Wonder to have missed it, because it is possibly the largest fly I have ever seen, was this horse-fly. I think it is Tabanus bovinus. My reference book says rarely far from water and so that would be right, but I am not sure about the connection to animals, I didn't see any cattle or sheep but maybe there were some.




On this particular day the weather had relented after driving through rain to get to the reserve and when I found this next critter, it was sitting in full sunlight. good for him/her...not so good for photography...


At the time of writing all I know about this rather large weevil is that it is one I haven't come across before. Shouldn't be too difficult to identify you would think with those markings, but thus far it has eluded me. 


On the same fence railing that I saw the weevil, there were a number of these tiny digger wasps buzzing around. I am thinking this might possibly be Ectemnius species, but that's not much more than a guess.                                                                                            
A Digger Wasp-possibly Ectemnius species

At the Shapwick reserve, I spotted my first ever sulphur beetle...well no! I didn't actually. I thought I had, but soon realised that this one is not yellow enough for starters. 




I think it is a leaf beetle (Chrysomelidae) and could be one of the Lochmaea species, maybe L.carea? There certainly was plenty of willow present.

I am more certain of this next one. This is my first ever photograph of a 2-spot ladybird. But which one, or are they both 2-spots? I think the first is but what about the one on the right? 


These are not my best ever photos again but it isn't easy to hold a dog lead in one hand and take macro photos with the camera in the other. Excuses over, this is supposed to be an extremely variable species and although the right one looks a bit like a harlequin, I don't think it is....Oh how I may regret saying that!

It is also listed as 'Abundant everywhere', well not in my part of Kent it isn't, unless it has been hiding from me for the past decade and more.

 Just as I was putting the camera gear back in the car to leave, I saw this really yellow looking green-veined white butterfly...


I think it's a female as they tend to have more colour and I wonder if it is the sub species 'sabellicae' ?                      



Back at the pod, a buddleia plant provided another first for me. This fantastic beetle. It's Cetonia aurata, the rose chafer beetle...

A Rose Chafer Beetle (Cetonia aurata)
These beetles are capable of very fast flight and can fly with their wing cases (elytra) down. Usually seen in sunny weather feeding on (although not exclusively) rose petals.

Close by, in fact, running right through the campsite at one point, where my pod was sited, there was a small stream. I had a number of really enjoyable early evening walks along the footpath beside the stream. I watched the swallows expertly flying at great speed over the water in search of a meal. I even enjoyed observing the horses and cattle ...


I attempted to photograph the demoiselle damselflies one evening but soon realised they were still too busy and those that weren't, always seemed to be just out of reach. This was the best of the bunch and it's not good. It's a banded demoiselle with a midge settle on its wing...



 An early morning visit was needed, and so the next day, I was up bright and early before the sun had warmed them up...

Beautiful Demoiselle (m)
Beautiful Demoiselle (m)


There is a little village close to Yeovil where I once lived for a few years, and one day I parked outside of the primary school in Stoke sub-Hamdon to walk the small lane where I remember seeing wildlife when I lived close-by. To my joy, there is now a new woodland, planted for the Queen's Jubilee in 2002. I spend a couple of hours there I guess, and even met some fellow bug-hunters.

My best find was of these tiny shieldbug nymphs...


They were on alder and so recently emerged that I didn't recognise them at all. I guessed they might be early parent bug nymphs as there were parent bugs on the same alder tree...

Parent bug and eggs
 I suppose other possibilities might be birch or hawthorn shieldbugs? I photographed them again after the first moult and this is how they looked...


Certainly not looking like parent bug instars now?

I think that will do for this update. I have close to 700 photos from my trip but many are not usable and the others will wait for another day. I'll maybe just add a couple of scenery shots that I couldn't resist taking...

Glastonbury Tor
A closer look at the Tor

Late evening cattle
I just liked the light!
Until the next time...