This is a plug for the much-maligned Nettle, a plant most of us humans quickly learn to recognise in order to avoid its stings, though most wildlife seems well able to avoid them. I’ve read that Nettles support 40 species of insect but I wonder if that number is on the conservative side. Here are a few insects I spotted on them earlier this year: 7-spot ladybird larva, the 1st instar of a Common green shieldbug, Grypocoris stysi, Nettle weevil, the larva of the hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri, and a Speckled bush-cricket nymph.
Looking for leafmines has had all sorts of spin-off benefits this year, as I’ve learned to recognise more tree species and encountered creatures I’ve never seen before. This little creature is a prime example: it has been confirmed as the Barkfly species Valenzuela flavidus.
Perhaps due to their tiny size (this one’s c.3mm), Barkflies are much under-recorded – I’d never even heard of them – but, as the Barkfly Recording Scheme website notes ‘The lack of recording ensures that even casual recorders of the group have a good chance of making significant finds. Wherever you live you are likely to turn up species previously unrecorded in the area and may even find species new to Britain.’ Seven new species of Barkfly have been discovered in just the past 10 years. So, that’s another insect group to keep a look out for.
To showcase their diversity, in colour, size, shape, pattern, habits and hairiness, I’ve been gathering photos of these (cater)pillars of the insect community, the larvae of moths, sawflies, and some mysteries, which could be one of these … or something other. Here they are:
Moths: 5-spot burnet (Zygaena trifolii), Drinker (Euthrix potatoria), and the delightfully named Maiden’s blush (Cyclophora punctaria).
Sawflies: a possible Allantus species (its identity cannot be confirmed as it was on the wrong plant), and the fluffy looking Eriocampa ovata.
Mysteries: if you can ID any of these, please leave a comment below. Thanks!
It seems, from what I’ve just been reading on the NatureSpot website, that I was very lucky to catch these Scorpion flies in flagrante delicto:
Mating usually occurs at night. It can be a dangerous time for the male, if he is not careful the female might decide to kill him! To avoid this he presents her with a gift of a drop of saliva which, it seems, in the world of scorpion flies, is the equivalent of a bunch of roses or a box of chocolates.
Some people go fishing; I go insecting, and these are an assortment of recent insect finds:
Red-headed cardinal beetle, Click beetle, Dock beetle, Earwig, the fly Nemorilla floralis, the Mirid bug Harpocera thoracica, the hoverfly Xylota segnis, insect eggs (possibly a ladybird species), Red-and-black froghopper, Scorpion fly, St Mark’s fly, and a weevil (not sure which species).
Seeing these two different species of larvae was a good reminder to me that not all ‘caterpillars’ are butterflies or moths.
This first is the larva of an Oak sawfly (Periclista lineolata) that was happily munching away at a delicious young Oak leaf.
And these other little nibblers, above and below, covered in dots and dashes and munching on the leaves of Guelder rose, will grow up to be beetles, Viburnum beetles (Pyrrhalta viburni).
I doubt I’ll ever see the adult Oak sawfly, as they seem rather elusive, but I have more chance of spotting these beetles as adults so must remember to keep an eye out for them in July and August.
Something flitted close past my ear, pulling my hair, making a low thwack sound. I rubbed my neck, threaded my fingers through loose strands of hair, thinking an insect had landed on me … nothing. I pulled off and checked my cap … still nothing. Thirty minutes or so later, as I had finished my meander around the park, I took off my backpack to put my camera away and found this hitchhiker, a Caddisfly.
Even as I unzipped my bag to get my macro camera, it remained motionless. I got down within inches of its face and took several photos, yet still it didn’t move. Eventually, wanting to get it off my backpack, I had to poke it gently with my finger and even then it just climbed on to my finger and moved slowly around my hand. I don’t think it was injured at all, just remarkably laid back about human contact. Finally, I managed to persuade it to climb on to a nearby bush where it could snooze in the sun in peace.
I had expected to find Gorse shieldbugs on these glowing gorse bushes (the clue’s in the name) but, in fact, the most numerous were the Hairy shieldbugs (of which there must have been at least 20).
The Gorse shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus) (above left) looks very like a Common green shieldbug but its red antennae are a distinctive identification feature. The Hairy shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum) (above right, and below) is a much more colourful character, a stylish combination of purple-brown and green, and it also has distinctive antennae, this time three white bands on a black base.
Slowly, slowly, more insects are emerging. When I was getting a Gorse photo for last Sunday’s yellow wildflower challenge, this teeny tiny Gorse weevil (Exapion ulicis) paid a visit. I’m not sure if it was getting salt from my hand as it seemed quite reluctant to leave.
And yesterday I was scanning a Buddleja for leaf mines when I had the feeling I was being watched. This Common green shieldbug (Palomena prasina) was very well camouflaged sitting perfectly still on its leaf.