Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cinderhill Community Woodland...


Cinderhill is only around 20 minutes by car from home and yet, until recently I had not only never visited, but didn't even realise it existed. Maybe that's not quite true because I had driven past the entrance many times but only seen a sign saying RSPB and had assumed it was a 'birding spot' only...




Here's the entrance...






And some shots of the habitat...



This view shows the heathland area to the right...



There's a little picnic area and outdoor classroom, also this fantastic snake carving...




A tiny video of the entrance path leading to the reserve...




There are adders as well as grass snakes and slow-worms to be found, although I was unlucky on the day I visited and couldn't even spot any under these tin sheets...







There were plenty of gorse shieldbugs to be seen, which pleased me somewhat as this is the closest to home I have found any. They were all on the broom you can see in the habitat photos above, rather than on gorse...






Also lots of these little beetles feeding on the broom...





There is also an area of ancient woodland and that's where I found this little hopper nymph...




Not at all sure about this tiny nymph. It was just about 2mm long and the closest I have been able to get is Closterotomus fulvomaculatus, very difficult to be sure at this stage though. Unless you know better?


A Plant bug nymph (Miridae)


I spotted a number of caterpillars but only photographed this mottled umber...

Erannis defoliaria- A Mottled Umber Moth caterpillar



This beetle was an exciting find for me and one that has me wanting to re-visit as soon as I can to look for a male. It is the first Minotaur beetle I have seen locally and it is quite an impressive size. 


A female Minotaur Beetle


I found this jewel beetle that I think may be Agrilus angustulus. It was present in good numbers, I saw at least half a dozen and all on willow. I haven't found any reference to this species being associated with willow though, several other trees, but not willow.

A Jewel Beetle (Buprestidae)

At one particular spot on the reserve there was a lot of this tiny blue flower that I think might be Heath Milkwort...

Heath milkwort (Polygala serpyllifolia)

A few nice finds for a first visit and it's such a lovely place that I just know it will draw me back again soon. There is such a diverse amount of habitat in one place and so I am sure there are more undiscovered delights awaiting my return. I spent around 3 hours in the sunshine exploring the area then packed up my gear and headed for home., promising myself that I'd be back at the first opportunity...




Until the next time...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The secret world of the Cardinal Beetle larva revealed...

I think it was back in February of 2014 that I found a number of cardinal beetle larva in local woodland. In this particular spot there are several fallen trees and on one of them, the bark is now flaking off. Besides hundreds of woodlice and a few darkling beetles, there were these yellow larvae. 

I thought it would be interesting to try and observe the metamorphosis into pupa and then adult beetle and so took a couple home with me. I set up a suitable habitat inside and old fish tank and provided them with some of the bark from the tree I found them on. Then it was a case of just checking every now and then for any change once spring began to arrive and hoping that I didn't miss it. Of course I had no idea whether it would happen that year as I knew that these beetles can spend up to 3 years as larvae.

The Cardinal beetle larva
Spring 2014 came and went with no signs of either one being about to pupate. I was going to have to be patient and let them spend another winter with me. From the 1st of April 2015 I began the task of checking again, whenever I remembered to do so.
I didn't see anything happening until the 23rd of April. I hadn't checked them the previous day, but had on the 21st and so I assume that one of the larvae had begun to change sometime on the 22nd as it seemed too advanced already to have happened overnight...





How amazing that you can already see the eyes, antennae and legs beginning to form.
By 7pm on the same day you could clearly see the features had become more defined and could now also see the wing buds... 



A closer look revealed details of the mandibles and maxillary palps. The mandibles are a pair of hard, tooth-like structures that move horizontally to grasp, cut and crush food. The maxillary palps are two pairs of finger-like appendages found around the mouth in most beetles. The are used to move food into the mouth and are the maxillary and labial palps...




A view from above


I rotated this picture for a better view of the developing face



In profile

The next time I checked on the larva was at 11.35pm on the 25th of April and as you can see, there had been quite a change in colour and the features are becoming even more defined. I assume those nasty looking spikes it now has are a defense against predators?



The following morning, yet more changes with those dark patches now showing on the abdomen segments...




A closer look

You have to wonder about how aware the insect is at the stage, if at all! It would certainly wriggle around if disturbed...









This next photo was taken at 5.30pm on the 27th of April...




The next opportunity I got to check was at 7.15am on the 28th of April. And there it was; the adult beetle had emerged. Still looking very teneral but I could now see what I had suspected from the colour changes, that this was a Black-headed Cardinal Beetle ~ Pyrochroa coccinea.








You can clearly see the empty pupal case beside the beetle in this next picture...









By 6.30pm on the same day the beetle had coloured up and was becoming quite mobile...






I decided to keep the adult beetle one last night to ensure it was fully fit for release and the next morning, the 29th of April, bright and early, I returned to the exact spot where I found it and set it down on the very same fallen tree...



It was a beautiful, perfect spring morning...
This is the glade, who wouldn't want to live here?


The fallen tree where I found and released the beetle

Finally a little video of it scampering off to start its new life...

(You will need to view this online, it won't appear in the e.mail version)



What an amazing thing to be able to witness. I gained so much knowledge too of just what does happen and the timescale involved. It had taken one week from start to end and I had been fascinated by the whole thing. What a privilege and to be able to then release a perfect cardinal beetle to the exact same spot with no harm done was mission achieved for me.

The second larva had shown no signs of emerging this year at all and as it was still alive and well, I decided to return it too. I found a suitable piece of loose bark that I could lift just enough to place the larva under and then carefully let the bark settle back.

That's all for this update, I hope you found it as interesting as I did, or at least got some idea from my photographs of what goes on in the secretive world of the cardinal beetle larva.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Frogs hop and Cuckoos spit?

Could I just take a moment to explain about commenting on my blog updates. In recent days I have become the target of spammers. I have been getting around 20+ spam comments each and every day. It takes time and effort to check, mark as spam and delete all of these and so I have been forced to change the blog settings until this is resolved.

And so...I have temporarily set commenting to 'Blog members only' I apologise for any inconvenience and hope it will be short-lived as I very much value your comments and don't want to discourage anyone from doing so. 


Many thanks, 'JJ'
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10/05/2015 I have been told that some people are experiencing difficulties with commenting and so I have re-set the comment option to how it was originally. 

Sorry for any inconvenience caused...
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As we steam into May full speed ahead, things are certainly accelerating on the bug-front. There has been an enormous increase in all kinds of invertebrates locally over the past few weeks, helped I am sure by a record amount of sunshine through April. Where then, shall I begin this latest update? How about choosing something unusual? Yet again it was one of my favourite places Comfort's Wood that would provide me with this find...





This tiny (2mm) creature taxed my equally tiny brain quite a bit, trying to find an identity for it. My initial suspicions were that it might be a bark-louse, or bark-fly as they now seem to be called. The 'neck' looked about right and as that was about all I could make out on such a small thing at the time, knew I would have to do some research once I could get a better view on the PC. 

There followed a protracted spell of internet searching as my books yielded a little less than nothing at all. It did seem as though it was a bark-fly but I just couldn't find any reference to any that appeared to cover themselves in this debris.

Finally, as I was about to admit defeat, I came across an article published by Cambridge Journals Online and written by A,Henderson and D.J.Hackett of 'The Lichenologist'. It seems to describe, if not the exact same species, a most similar one with the same behaviour. As there is a link provided to share the article within a blog, I am assuming there is no copyright breach involved. There is certainly none intended and it seems to be the best way to share the information:

Lichen and Algal Camouflage and Dispersal in the Psocid Nymph Trichadenotecnum Fasciatum
A. Henderson and D. J. Hackett (1986).
The Lichenologist, Volume 18, Issue02, April 1986, pp 199-200


Please return to this update after reading the article though, or even better come back to it at the end of the update? ;-) 




I have been finding a few weevils recently...

Phyllobius pomaceus
I think this colourful one is the Green Nettle Weevil but separating the Phyllobius species can be really difficult and so I am partly relying on the fact that I found it on nettle. Even that isn't conclusive though as there are probably half a dozen more species that are also to be found on nettle.


Phyllobius pyri (?)

What I just said above! Phyllobius are tricky and so I can only say that this might be the Common Leaf Weevil...


I think I know what the next species is and I am certain that I know what they are doing...

Perapion hyrdrolapathi


Dock Weevils would be what these two are. I haven't added a question mark to the end of that statement because I am sure this time....well, almost...kind of...relatively...




Deporaus betulae
Similar to the Hazel Leaf-roller that I posted last time and utilising the same behaviour of rolling a leaf around the egg, this one however uses birch and so is called the Birch Leaf-roller. Oh! You may have noticed another small difference in that this one is black, rather than red.


A couple from the garden now. A Woundwort Shieldbug and a Green Tortoise Beetle...


Eysarcoris venustissimus
(I note that this bug (above) is another that has undergone a name change, previously known as Eysarcoris fabricii...)  

Cassida viridis


There are a few Damselflies to be sighted locally now as well. Although, still only 'Reds'...





The grass bugs are back too, nymphs and adults...

Leptopterna dolbrata (Nymph)

Leptopterna dolbrata is one of the common grass bugs and is widespread throughout the U.K. The other species this nymph could be is L.ferrugata but I plumped for dolbrata given the habitat was damp.


Stenodema laevigata
Again this is a species attracted by damper conditions and I actually found this one in the same spot as the previous bug. Best distinguished from other grass bugs by the coarse and densely pitted pronotum, according to the marvelous British Bugs website and overwintering as an adult, then mating in the spring with a new generation of adults appearing from July.




I've noticed a few Orange-tip butterfly eggs on the cuckoo-flower now...




Yet another thing that is beginning to show up in the long grasses is what we used to call  cuckoo spit. The term cuckoo spit refers to a foamy substance found on grass and all manner of plants actually in spring and summer. As you might expect, it doesn't come from cuckoos, or any other birds for that matter. It's an insect called a froghopper. 



The name seems to originate from the fact that it appears around the same time as the return of the cuckoo. The foam is created by the froghopper nymph as a protection from predators; it's generated by excreting the plant sap they feed on and mixing it with air...a kind of wet flatulence if you like!

The adults don't need to do this as they have a different strategy that involves camouflage and warning colours.




I think that will probably do for this update, particularly as I have already started on the next. I will share one last picture. I began with a minute creature and so will end with another. I believe this to be a minute wasp. It was just 2mm long...



Until the next time...