26 April 2011

Shield Bugs


Gorse Shield Bugs at Snitterfield Bushes

Whenever I come across Gorse I always have to stop and have a look for the Gorse Shield Bug but I've never managed to find any until a recent visit to Snitterfield Bushes nature reserve. Even then I had a good look and found nothing until I noticed one right under my nose and then I noticed a few more.

I think you have to "get your eye in" so it is worth persisting if you don't immediately see one.

Gorse Shield Bug - Piezodorus lituratus

Gorse Shield Bug - Piezodorus lituratus


Gorse Shield Bug - Piezodorus lituratus

Looks like they would stick out like a sore thumb against the dried Gorse but the reality is quite different

Shield Bugs at Grafton Wood

Rhopalus subrufus

Not , strictly speaking , a shieldbug but very closely related.  I spotted this small insect on a Dandelion "Clock" seedhead.  Its not an insect I had seen before and I was engrossed in getting a picture and looking through the camera viewfinder when I noticed some movement at the top of the seedhead. and was surprised to see a Sloe Shield Bug deep within the Dandelion "Clock".

Rhopalus subrufus & Sloe Bug

Sloe Bugs

Then seemingly out of nowhere another one appeared and it looked like 2 shieldbugs trapped inside some magical cage....

Sloe Bugs
... but they weren't trapped and one of them broke free!

25 April 2011

Garden Insects


The recent warm spell has attracted lots of insects into the garden and they have particularly been attracted to the  Forget-Me-Nots which have spread substantially since last year.

Small White - Pieris rapae

Honey Bee - Apis mellifera

Unidentified Fly - Getting stuck in!

Cuckoo Bee - Nomada sp

Hoverfly - Rhingia Campestri

Sloe Bug - Dolycoris  baccarum

Sloe Bug - Dolycoris  baccarum

When the sun comes out so do these Sloe Shield Bugs. There are loads of them...and its mating season!

17 April 2011

Oversley Woood


Hoverfly on Stinging Nettle

The little black ones are hard to ID!  Note the nettle's "hairs" to get some idea of his size.

Cuckoo Bee - Nomada sp

I can't resist trying to take pictures of these Nomada even though they do their best to dodge a photo opportunity. Sometimes they oblige though. Maybe he couldn't see me through all the pollen grains on his eye.

Hornet Queen - Vespa crabro

An unexpected pleasure! The queens will have recently emerged from their winter hibernation and will be looking for somewhere to build a nest but there can't be too many about and the chances of seeing one are pretty low let alone getting a decent photo so I struck lucky. 

I find that I hear a Hornet before seeing it. They have an unmistakable deep loud drone like a Lancaster Bomber compared to the Spitfire of a fly or wasp. Even deeper than a really big Bumble Bee.  Fortunately I heard the noise just a few feet from where I was poised with camera "chasing" Nomada bees and instantly knew what it was and that it would be gone in an instant. I swung round to where the Hornet was emerging from the nettles in the undergrowth and managed to fire off a couple of shots before it disappeared .

Orange Tip - Antocharis cardamines (Female)

Not managed to get the more striking and familiar Male yet with its characteristic orange wing tips, but here is a female. They are a lot easier to distinguish from other whites when you can see their lower underwings which are  mottled with green but if you look closely you can just  make out the pattern showing through the wings.

15 April 2011

Monk Wood

Ashy Mining Bee - Andrena cineraria

Another of the small Mining Bees. They are presumably called "Ashy" because of their grey/white hairs against their black bodies but this one is so covered in pollen that you have to look closely to see the white hairs.

Hoverfly - Epistrophe eligans

One of the early hoverflies. Quite a small one but I was able to get up close and as he was sitting on a leaf at about chest height I was able to get a shot in profile. Is it just me or does the head look almost like a human face in profile (nose/mouth etc).

Green Veined White - Pieris napi

Still seeing loads of Orange Tips but none are stopping to have their photo taken. Fortunately this Green Veined White was more obliging

These are part of the  Grasshopper family but I've not come across them before. There are 3 species in the UK but one of  them is limited in its distribution and mainly in the South. I managed to find both of the others at Monk Wood. Though I wasn't entirely sure what they were until I got home and did a bit of research.

Slender Groundhopper - Tetrix subulata

Found on a fairly bare piece of ground which had been recently coppiced and cleared at the side of a woodland ride. My first thought was that it was a young Grasshopper (Nymph) but I did think it was a little early in the year. It was also the sort of place where I wouldn't be surprised to see grasshoppers in the summer, particularly when a little vegetation had grown back. I had also seen one at Tiddesley Wood the day before and filed the picture away to try to identify which Gasshopper it was when I had more time.

Common Groundhopper - Tetix undulata

This one was found in a shady damp part of woodland on a rotten log. Not where I would expect to see a grasshopper or nymph which made me question whether it was a grasshopper. I knew of groundhoppers but nothing about them but when I started researching it became obvious that this was a groundhopper as was the one above!

Small Hoverfly on a blade of Grass

Flea Beetle - Psylliodes chrysocephala ?

Tiny leaf beetle which would be fairly unremarkable except when you notice the enlarged thigh on the rear leg which identifies it as a Flea Beetle a jumping beetle. I could never have seen that detail out in the field

13 April 2011

Trench Wood

On the same day I went to Tiddesley Wood I also went to Trench Wood. This was a glorious sunny day , almost too sunny for photography, and very warm with not too much breeze. 

Bee Fly - Bombylius major

These Bee Flys seem to be everywhere at the moment which gave me the chance to try to get a shot showing the full extent of its proboscis. The biggest problem was trying to get one against a nice contrasting background. They seem to like sunbathing on the dirt tracks or dead leaves but not so much on greenery. However there were so many about that it didn't take too long. 

Hoverfly - Eristalis species
This is either Eristalis Tenax or more likely Pertinax. It is one of those "Drone Flies" which love to hover a few feet in front of you then darting away and darting back again seemingly checking you out and stalking you. This one is enjoying the Blackthorn blossom

Muntjac Deer fawn
Yes, unusually, something cute and furry.  I haven't got anything against cute or furry creatures it is just that they usually see me before I can take a picture, I have a growing collection of the back end of  deer/rabbit/fox etc !

I'd like to say I don't know who was more surprised me or the baby Muntjac but I am sure it was me! I had been feet away from where it was lying for a good 5 minutes taking pictures so I am certain it knew I was there and was demonstrating one of its survival tactics which is stealth. Don't give away your position.

The parents leave the young deer alone for long periods during the day whilst they go about their business and the only defence the baby deer has against predators is to remain hidden and only  take flight at the last possible moment which is what this one did next, off to find another quiet bit of undergrowth.

So, I was very happy to have had the encounter but  a bit sorry to have unwittingly disturbed it.

Pussy Willow Catkins

A great source of food for all sorts of insects....

Peacock Butterfly - Inachis io

A small Bee

Hoverfly - Rhingia Campestris

Demonstrating pollenation in action. The hoverfly is getting covered in pollen which it will carry to the next plants it visits. Also shows that it it isn't only Bees that do the pollenation all the other Flies and wasps and butterflies do their bit. It is just that the Honey Bee does it so well and on a much bigger scale because of the large colonies it lives in.

Tiddesley Wood

An unseasonably warm spell (Low 20's C) and a few days off prompted me to do a whistle stop tour of a few of the local woods to see how nature is reacting.

Well, Spring has definitely sprung and somehow the insects and plants have got through the harshest winter in years and natures cycle continues unabated. Lots of butterflies, bees and flies on the wing and the woodland floors are covered in Primrose, Dog Violet, Wood Anemone etc to fuel the newly emerged insects with nectar.

Cuckoo Bee - Nomada sp

One of my favourites of early spring. These are small wasp-like Bees that lay their eggs in the nests of Mining Bees like a Cuckoo. The mining bee digs a nest burrow and lays eggs in individual cells into which it leaves a ball of pollen and nectar to feed the larvae when it emerges in the spring. The Cuckoo Bee saves all the hard work and follows the Mining Bee, nips into the nest burrow and lays its own egg which will then be able to feed on the food store when it emerges. Not entirely sure what happens to the Mining Bee Egg? There are several species of this Bee which are very hard to tell apart but they each specialise in a particular Mining Bee species so you see  a particular Mining Bee and you often also see its "stalker". The technical name for this practice is Cleptoparasitism!

Leaf Rolling Weevil - Apoderus coryli

Leaf Rolling Weevil - Apoderus coryli

Not seen this one before but you can hardly miss it.  Looks superficially similar to some other beetles eg Lily Beetle but it is quite unusual in that it has a distinctive "neck" to attach its strange head to its body.

Tortoise Beetle sp
These are normally bright Green so this is either an immature one or possibly an adult which has overwintered and temporarily  lost its colour, which happens in other species like the Green Shield bug. I expect to see more of these (green ones) in the coming weeks.

22-Spot Ladybird - Psyllobora 22-puncta

I haven't counted them!  Actually these are much smaller than the "normal" ladybirds and can easily be overlooked.  I would definitely be unable to count the spots with the naked eye... Should have gone to specsavers!  Unlike the usual Ladybird these do not feed on aphids but on leaf mold.

7-Spot Ladybird - Coccinella septempunctata

7-Spot Ladybird - Coccinella septempunctata

This is the common Ladybird and it seems abundant at the moment they are everywhere.  Not sure what this one is trying to do in the Teasel head, maybe there are some seeds still in there or it just looks like a safe place to sleep?

3 April 2011

Garden Insects

The recent warm spell and the sun breaking through the clouds has got the early spring insects dashing about looking for suitable food supplies , nest sites and , no doubt, mates.

Small Tortoiseshell - Aglais urticae

The first butterfly I have seen in the garden this year. Adding some colour to an already colourful pot on the patio



Is it a Bee? Is it a Fly? ...... It's a Bee-Fly. Well I don't make the names up.

Strictly speaking this is a Fly but it superficially resembles a Bumble Bee being quite round and hairy. It is quite easy to overlook this fascinating fly as it is quite small, quite a drab brown colour and it flits around quickly so you don't get a good view of it. However it has one very distinctive feature being its huge proboscis (the long pointy bit at the front) which makes it look like some kind of dangerous cartoon creature. In reality, as with most dangerous looking insects, it is perfectly harmless and the proboscis is for feeding on nectar in those difficult to reach places.

Bee-Fly  -  Bombylius major

Bee-Fly  -  Bombylius major
...using its long thin proboscis to reach nectar in a Forget-Me-Not flower



As more plants are coming into flower then so the Bees start appearing

Tawny Mining Bee - Andrena fulva
This striking bee was flying at ground level around the garden probably looking for a good place to dig itself a nest. Don't worry even if they do nest in your garden you wont get a swarm of them as they are solitary Bees. The "nest" is quite a modest affair (small hole in the ground) and you probably won't even know its there although you might see a small volcano like mound of soil which they have excavated at the entrance hole .

I was having no luck getting a picture of this female until it buzzed around me a few times and then landed on my trousers!


Honey Bee - Apis mellifera