Monday, October 29, 2012

Daniel Craig says it all...

Back in June of this year I came across a family of bugs underneath a maple leaf in local woodland...

I thought at the time they were perhaps aphids of some description and one of my flickr contacts Maria (Rockwolf) did what she has done so many times for me now, found a correct identity for the little things. (Thanks again Maria.)

Maple aphids (Periphyllus aceris) Is what they turned out to be. If only I'd considered it was as easy as finding an aphid named after the tree it was found on! Anyhow, that's only half the story.

These little critters have a fascinating and complicated life (honestly!) for instance...

Some are born as 'aptera' individuals. Meaning:Wingless,parthenogenetic,female aphids.Pathenogenetic meaning: Reproduction by development of an un-fertilised egg.This is basically asexual reproduction or to simplify it further-cloning.

Asexual reproduction
Asexual reproduction is the production of offspring by only one parent. No fertilisation of an egg cell or mixing up of the genes takes place, so all the offspring are genetically identical copies of the parent. Greenfly, hydras and strawberry plants can all reproduce asexually as well as sexually.Humans next?

Some are born as 'alates' meaning:Having wings.

If at this point you are still with me, the following photo shows how they now look. This was taken a few days ago...

I now know that the first picture shows what are known as aestivating nymphs. This means that they enter into a kind of hibernation until they resume development in the late summer.

Notice also how most of the heads are pointing towards the centre of the circle in the first photo.

The second photo shows that they have now matured into 'oviparae' (egg laying adults) the oviparae then lay their eggs on the maple twigs and bark and the whole cycle starts afresh.....fascinating! (Perhaps I should have suffixed that with a question mark?) Come to think of it that raises its own question-can a question mark be a suffix?

Let's move on shall we before, as I heard Daniel Craig saying in a radio interview this week,"I'm in danger of disappearing up my own ********"

This photograph of a crab spider isn't the sharpest shot you'll ever see but leaving aside my excuses as to just why it isn't that crisp-I wanted to include it because of what it shows.

If you look closely, you'll see that what appears at first glance to the a parasite attached to the right side as viewed here, is actually a red spider mite.

Now I may be wrong about it being a red spider mite but assuming that I'm not, I was always under the impression that these mites got their name from the fact that they look like spiders and not that they attacked spiders in any way. If that's true, then why was this one all over the little crab spider? Just hitching a lift? about a red weevil? "Red weevil? Don't be silly!" 

Apion frumentarium
Or as it's commonly known the Red Rumix Weevil. I think that rumix refers to dock as that's where these are usually to be found. I have photographed these little beetles before but never managed a natural light shot until now.

Everyone has been commenting on how few wasps there have been this year and I had to say that I have also noticed a big reduction in numbers,although I have also noticed an increase in hornets locally.

I did spot this insect recently and I'm guessing this is one of the Ichneumon's?

This next photo is of a bug nymph that I found a while ago now but have been unable to put an i.d. to that I'm happy with...

My initial though for this one was a 'hairy-bug' nymph but that didn't seem to fit when I checked it out. Then I thought perhaps it could be Corizus hyoscyami, a rhopalid bug? The only nymph photos I've seen of these though have little spurs/spikes at the edges of the abdomen.

Here's another view...

I seem to remember that the plant it was on was ragwort but not sure that is relevant.

As always, if you recognise this one, please do let me know.

Last up for now is this robberfly that I photographed in the garden as a bit of an experiment. It was taken using just natural light but is a stack of 20 hand-held images.

Whilst I guess I have to be pleased with the resulting level of detail-for me, I am not sure I like the effect, it seems a bit too sharp to be realistic?

Until the next time then...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Autumn takes hold...

Various events have kept me away from photography for a couple of weeks, and when I did manage to have a scout around the local woods and fields, I was struck by just how quickly things have moved towards autumn now.

Butterfly and dragonfly numbers have reduced significantly since I last found time to have a wander but there are still invertebrates to be found...

A shot that illustrates the autumnal feel nicely to begin with. This dock bug was the only one that I came across on this particular day. At this time of year they tend to congregate before hibernating and can be found in quite large numbers, usually've guessed it-dock!

A Hazel Leaf-roller Weevil (Apoderus coryli)

I wasn't expecting to see this leaf-roller weevil amongst the few hazel leaves left on the trees. These are one of the first species I look for when the new leaves appear in early spring and to see one this late is quite unusual.
Having said that, in mild winters, I have found them in November.

Carabid Beetle (Possibly Leistus)

This great looking metallic beetle was out and about the same day as the weevil and positioned itself at the top of the stem just long enough for a couple of nice clear shots.

A Garden Tiger Moth Larva (Arctia caja)
My next find was this caterpillar. I think this is the garden tiger moth larva. It was quite fast and I did wonder, as it was close to the ground if it was looking for somewhere to pupate.

I found a secluded spot where there was still some scabious in flower and as you'd expect, it was attracting a few insects...

I think this large hoverfly is probably Sericomyia silentis. It seems to be quite distinctive and although if the books are to be believed, this is around May-September, as we've already established, timings are all over the place this year again.
Both it's size and the habitat seem to fit as does the wing veneration from what I can make out.

Another hoverfly found on the same scabious plants was this Helophilus species one. Not exactly sure from this shot if it is H.pendulus or H.hybridus? Actually, scrap that! I think looking at the face, it may well be H.trivittatus? (Where's my pal Tim Ransom when I need him?)

There were also a good number of bees taking advantage of the late flowers too.

When I saw this couple of rhododendron hoppers in cop, pictured below, it crossed my mind that this behaviour is usually to be seen in spring-what then would be the purpose of mating this late in the year? Surely no young would result and so perhaps it was just for pleasure? I brain works in very strange ways sometimes.

Graphocephala fennahi

Of course the changing season has meant that we are now getting much damper conditions and that is just perfect for the fungi.....

I do spend a lot of time contemplating just how amazing and beautiful nature is, of course to portray it in such a one dimensional way is wrong on so many counts:nature is a tough environment where survival of the fittest still rules.
We all probably know that butterflies for instance are short lived, but it's still upsetting to see such a beautiful insect reduced to how I found the one in my next photograph...

This red admiral had lost most of its wings to what I guess must have been bird attacks. A very sad sight, especially bearing in mind that these are one of the species that can overwinter. It was amazingly still alive (just) at this point but there was nothing I could do to help, other than putting it out of its misery-and I couldn't bring myself to do that.

To complete this update I think I'll share a photo of another of nature's inventions that appear in all kinds of forms and manifestations at this time of year-these are the galls that are usually the work of tiny wasps and are to be found on all manner of trees and shrubs. This one I'm calling a marble gall. I have no idea if that is its correct title, it seems to fit though!

I suppose I should add that I found this one on oak. Now you're going to tell me it's actually called an 'oak gall' aren't you?

Until the next time then...

All photos taken using Canon 40d-Canon 100mm Macro and natural light, with the exception of the rhododendron hoppers where I added fill flash.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

I finally decide to take the plunge...

I've been meaning to get around to a blog entry that features underwater wildlife and now that I've made a start on same, have realised that I've probably now got too much for one entry and so may have to spilt it into 2 or even 3 entries.

For starters, let's go BIG...

Dytiscus marginalis
This is a female great diving beetle and is one of our largest beetles in the U.K. The adults come in at around 30mm or so (over 1") and can be found in ponds and lakes.

A closer look at these impressive beetles leaves you in no doubt that they can be fierce predators and have even been know to tackle small fish in garden ponds.

The underside
These beetles can sometimes be spotted coming to the surface, pointing the tip of their abdomen out of the water to replenish the air supply stored beneath the wing case-because, although they tend to spend most of their time below water, they can also fly and often do to colonise new ponds.

Aeshna cyanea dragonfly nymph
 Next is this beautifully marked dragonfly nymph. This particular specimen seems to have quite a lot of blue in the markings,even at this stage.

A couple of closer views of a different specimen that has less blue colour.

These are nymphs of the southern hawker dragonfly, a common species that breeds in ponds and flies June-October.

Another fearless little creature that inhabits most ponds and lakes and preys on all manner of aquatic creatures and insects, is the water boatman or back-swimmer...

Notonecta glauca

To give them their correct title, these are lesser water boatmen-there is also a greater water boatmen, but those swim the right way up making them easy to tell apart.The seems to be some confusion over water boatmen and backswimmers though as I've seen the greater water boatmen described as backswimmers and the lesser described as just water boatmen! 

There are two families:Corixidae for the smaller ones that swim the right way up (are you following this?) and Notonectidae for the larger ones that swim on their backs. There, that's cleared that up?

Even though most water boatman are vegetarians, some will also eat other insects and apparently it's unwise to pick one up, as they can give a painful (although harmless) bite.


This little video I managed to get of one underwater demonstrates two things:firstly,the silvery appearance you see here is caused by a clever trick that allows them to remain under water for longer (up to 6 hours).They hang upside down below the water’s surface and collect air, they then carry this air as a bubble on their body or under their wings.
Secondly, at the end of the video you get a feeling of just how fast they are.

Alongside the dragonfly nymphs, most ponds and lakes and indeed rivers, will have damselfly nymphs also...

I'm not 100% sure on i.d. for these two but think possible the top one is a large red.

Here's my first attempt at filming some damselfly nymphs-it's not over exciting but everyone has to start somewhere and I'm sure I can improve on this...


I think possibly the larger, green one will be a common blue-either that or a blue-tailed, as they are the only ones I've seen as adults at this spot.I'd like to think that it's an emerald nymph and it does look very similar to some I've seen but not seen any where I found this, so not at all sure.

Well, as I suspected, I have lots more pond life to bore... show you yet and so I will endeavour to bring a second update on the same subject soon. If not in the next edition, then the one have been warned!

Until the next time then...