A year ago I wrote about the moth larvae I’d found living inside Teasel seed heads (Inside a Teasel seed head, July 2021). This year, during my recent walks, I’ve noticed small parasitic wasps on many of the flowering Teasels I’ve seen. I haven’t been able to identify these wasps but it occurs to me that they may been seeking that same species of larvae I saw last year, prodding and poking with those fierce-looking ovipositors until they found a soft body in which to lay their eggs.
I’ve never looked inside a Teasel seed head before but I’m glad I braved the spines for a peek because each of the three I pulled open were occupied and, judging by the amount of frass, they’d been occupied for some time.
I think these are the larvae of one of the Endothenia species of moth, either E. marginana or E. gentianaeana, the former presumably being the more likely as there are more records of that species in south Wales. However, to be sure which is which you need to check each larva’s rear end to see if it has an anal comb. Not knowing this, I didn’t.
If you want to learn more about that anal comb, there’s a very detailed description, and clear photos, of the larvae of these two Endothenia species on the UK Moths website (E. marginana here and E. gentianaeana here). And, just to reassure you, I was able to close the seed heads (and wound stems of long grass around them, which should hopefully keep them closed so the larvae can complete their lifecycles) (I read later of someone who uses small rubber bands for the same purpose).
I wasn’t aware of any leafmines on Teasel until I saw a post on Twitter on 23 June by @leafminerman Rob Edmunds. Since then, I’ve been checking the newly sprouted leaves of Teasel whenever I see them. And, finally, on Friday I spotted some mines on a small group of Teasel plants at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.
These are the mines of the fly Agromyza dipsaci, another tiny creature I’ll probably never see but I know it’s around from seeing its larval home. The mines appear in early summer once the Teasel leaves start growing, the blotch usually starting at the edge of the leaf and broadening as the larva consumes more and grows. Its large grains of frass can often be seen inside the mine, as shown in the photo on the right above.
The British leafminers website reports that this is an uncommon miner in the UK so I thought I’d check the records. Sure enough, there are only four Welsh records showing in Aderyn, the country’s biodiversity database – five when my record is included, and only seventeen records (including the four Welsh ones) on the NBN Atlas, the British database. It may be, though, that like many invertebrate species, this little fly is under-recorded. So, if you spot these mines on Teasel near you, please make sure to record your sightings.
I almost always hear Goldfinches before I see them. Their seemingly constant twittering and tinkling always makes me smile, and their bright bursts of yellow and red plumage brighten even the greyest of days. It’s easy to see why these cheeky little chatterers are collectively called a charm.
I’ve been trying to sneak up on feeding Goldfinches for the past couple of weeks but they are always very alert and flit off quickly to the nearest bush or tree when they hear or see me approaching.
Yesterday, I could hear them along the woodland ride in front of me and had a slight bend and some bushes to hide behind, so I finally managed to get some half decent photos.
As you can see, their sharp, pointy beaks are perfect for poking into tight, narrow spaces, and this small charm of Goldfinches were feasting well, picking the seeds out of the Teasel seedheads. What a delight it was to watch them.
The pretty lilac of teasel flower is beginning to fade now but the mini beasts have certainly been enjoying its nectar. In my local parks and reserves it’s a favourite with the 6-spot Burnet moths and with bees of all species. And not long after those pretty little flowers fade away, the seeds will begin to form and grow, and provide food for the birds, particular the dapper little goldfinch, during the winter months. I’ll try to catch photos of them on the teasels in a couple of months’ time.
This is the sight that greeted me as I wandered home through Dingle Park the other day.
A Sloe shieldbug (Dolycoris baccarum) had its head buried deeply into the gaps between the spines of a teasel flower head. The tiny purple flowers had finished so it wasn’t nectaring, and I would’ve thought the flower head too tough for it to be sucking plant sap, so what on earth was it doing?
This little Green shieldbug nymph (Palomena prasina), watching from a nearby grass stem (you can see it in the background of the first image), looked as confused and bemused as I was.
After a few minutes, the Parent bug backed out of its spiny possie but it didn’t move from the teasel.
This was a good opportunity to get a photo of the underside of the bug … but I never did discover what it had been doing.