Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No knitting, just bugs and flowers (now with added whirligig mites and Rosemary beetle!)

I have seen some beautiful things on my runs and in our garden recently so I thought I'd share them here. Even if you are squeamish about bugs you can still admire the beauty of their markings or their wings and I hope I can encourage you to look at them with different eyes.

6-Spot Burnet Moth

I have never seen so many of these beautiful moths at once.  The weather this year must have suited them perfectly as the air seems to be a whirr of red and black at the moment.  Sadly I didn't spot any caterpillars so my photos start with the cocoon stage.

The cocoon, attached to a grass stem, where the moth develops protected from predators 
Adult moth emerging from its cocoon
They are one of several moths known as 'day-flying' moths which makes them much easier to observe than their night-flying relatives.

Newly emerged moths drying their wings in the sun
You can see their 6 spots clearly here 
When their wings are dry they need to feed and their main source of food is Bird's Foot Trefoil, both 'lesser' and 'greater'.  
Lesser Bird's Foot Trefoil (the redness of the emerging flowers give it the nickname of 'egg and bacon plant')
The seedpods, like the 3 toes of a bird's foot, hence its common name!
Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil
The caterpillars feed on both Trefoil and Vetch which contain traces of cyanide and the toxin carries through into the adult moth.  Their spots are a warning to predators that they taste bad!

On Lavender
On creeping thistle
The beautiful adult

Ladybird or Lady Bug?

Here in the UK we call them ladybirds but elsewhere they are known as ladybugs which actually seems a better name to me.

Yesterday afternoon I was topping up the horses water when I noticed what looked like a battle going on between a ladybird and a larvae.  As I watched I realised that of course it was the adult emerging from the larvae so I nipped off to get the camera.

I never knew that the adult emerged without any spots!  The larvae on the right was just a papery shell.

Ladybird newly emerged from its shell
After 1.5 hours the spots have developed (it was a 6-spot ladybird, one of our natives)
The colour has gone from orange to red
Wings opening, about to fly for the first time
I was delighted that it was a 6-spot ladybird as they are getter rarer each year.  I've written about their assassins briefly before here and here's one from last October:

Harlequin ladybird on Salvia Oct 2012

Flies & a Bumblebee

Now there's a turn-off of a title for many!  But just look at the beauty in these little fellows.  I don't know their names but I just loved their markings and I couldn't resist the beautiful bumblebee laden with pollen:

Dragonfly or Darter?

Hoverfly - a good friend to the gardener as the adults feed on nectar and some of their larvae eat aphids.  There are thousands of species so I won't even attempt to identify them!
Hoverfly number 2 - just look at the beautiful lacy pattern on the wings
Hoverfly number 3 on a pink bramble flower 
I nearly put my hand on top of this beauty as I climbed over a stile as he was sitting atop the post.   He was so well camouflaged.  Beautiful markings.
Bumblebee on Verbascum flower.  Look at all that lovely orange pollen stored on his  hind legs!


Now I know a lot of people have a fear of spiders and I include myself in that category which seems odd as I have a fascination with them.  It's those great big ones I'm not keen on; you know the ones with the massive black bodies and long legs that run at you?

I'm always watchful when I'm in the barn or my potting shed as they like to build massive webs across the doorway or in the rafters.

Having said that, they build magnificent webs so here are a few to show how pretty they are:

In short grass, covered in dew, early in the morning
It looks rather like a parachute!
I was taking a photo of the flowers on this santolina when I noticed the web on the left 
A beautifully constructed bio-dome to keep the babies safe

The dark mass isn't a spider, it's the babies, all snuggled together for safety.  Every so often they spread out and then huddle back together again.  The yellow speck looks like an eye but is just pollen.

The next 2 photos are my favourites.  They often scare people because they think they belong to a Funnel-web spider, a poisonous spider that doesn't live here in the UK (thank goodness!).

They were made by one of our native Labyrinth Spiders who are quite shy and a dull brown so you wouldn't notice them until you spot their web.  Underneath the funnel is a network, or labyrinth, of spider silk protecting their egg sac.

The web is so dense and must have taken ages to weave.

Last of all we have a cluster of baby spiders.  My camera skills are limited and so you can't make out the web in which they are suspended but you can see their legs quite clearly.  They were hiding amongst the clematis by the wall of the house and spread out in the sun then hurried back into their huddle when it went cloudy.

A huddle (how about that for a collective noun?!)of baby spiders

Whirligig Mites & a Rosemary Beetle

Have you ever spotted these little fellows flitting around all over the place on a hot day?  At a quick glance they look like teeny-weeny spiders but on closer examination you'll see that they are actually tiny mites (now that seems like a good example of tautology!).

They are so-called because of the way they whirl around, really quickly, like mini dodgem cars.
Whirligig mites
Whirligig mite close-up

Next we have the Rosemary Beetle who doesn't actually restrict himself to sucking the life out of Rosemary bushes.  Oh no, he also goes for sage and lavender too!

Rosemary Beetle in a Lavender flower
Don't be fooled by his pretty, shiny coat, he'll wreak havoc in your herb garden.
Rosemary beetle close-up

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