Saturday, October 15, 2016

Birds, Bees, Barkflies, Beetles and other Bugs...

Despite the fact that this 'Blogger' blogging platform has been doing its level best over the past few days to frustrate me to the point of pulling out my remaining hair and giving up; I am pleased to say that I have instigated a few changes to the layout of the blog and I am ready to produce update number 188. I apologise for the fact that I have been unable to get my 'Magnet Articles' page to show correctly, I am working on it. Shall we start with this:

I'd reached the age of fourteen and I hadn't started courting,
And my mum was getting worried about me.
She said, "Dad, it's time you told him all about the birds and bees,"
He said, "The birds and bees," and sat me on his knee.

You won't be old enough to remember this, but it's a monologue from the days before it was politically incorrect to like Benny Hill. It's a lead-in to this first little section which does indeed feature the birds and bees. 

There are 4 requests for help attached to these sounds files. The photo isn't relevant by the way, just that the only way I could load a sound file was if I included a picture.I am not sure I have cracked the best way of adding sound files to my blog and so these may not play on your phone/tablet etc.



Here's where you can help me: I would be the first to admit that I am not at all experienced with birds! I could be described as something of a bird-virgin and so I was kinda hoping that you might be able to educate me. I would just love to know which species these songs belong to. For all I know, they could be the same species, if not the same bird. 
I would be eternally grateful for any information you might be able to share using the comment option at the bottom of this post. 

What about the bees though? In light of the current dire predictions regarding these insects, I wanted to show that, in my garden, the bumblebees at least were doing well this year...

They seemed to love the addition of the Eupatorium plant. This one is 'Eupatorium purpuream', or 'Sweet Joe-Pye Weed'. According to Wikipedia (and who could doubt Wiki?) it is native to Central North America. It loves my garden though and the bees love it. 

It's about now that I check whether you have been taking everything in thus far. You have? Oh goody. It didn't escape your notice then that I said there were four things you could help me with regarding the birds, and yet, I only mentioned three? Number 4 is the picture that shows on each of the sound clips. It's a little bird that I photographed back in the summer at Great Dixter in Sussex. I couldn't get close enough for a really detailed photo, but once again, I have no clue to its identity. Do you?


Now here's an interesting little beetle. I think this could be 'Ptilinus pectinicornis', the Fan-bearing Wood-borer. This is the description that I found:
3.5-5.5mm. Distinctive due to the highly developed antennae; very strongly pectinate in the male and very broadly serrate in the female. Head deflexed, eyes much larger in male. Pronotum highly arched. Widely distributed across southern England and the midlands to south Yorkshire but lacking records from Cornwall, East Anglia and most of Wales.

On one particular day in August: the 19th in fact, I saw more green shieldbugs and their nymphs than on any day before, or since...

There were plenty more but I have spared you those. 

Wasp faces. They are all different you know. They can recognise one another by their face markings. I know that is true of paper wasps at least. I am fairly sure that the markings on this one make it a common wasp 'Vespula vulgaris'. 

Whereas, this one I have not got an ID for yet, unless you...? I wonder if this is a paper wasp. If so, then I think they catch these insects not to eat themselves, but to feed to their larvae...

UPDATE: Mellinus arvensis (A Field digger-wasp) Thanks to Maria J for ID.

The next photograph may not win any competitions, it lacks detail for a start. But, I do like the fact that it is thought provoking. It's a stand off, but just who is being threatened here. Is the spider just standing tall and saying 'don't bother me little ant'. Or does the ant think it may be able to overcome the spider?

A couple of flies next. How amazing that they are both flies and yet they bear little resemblance to each other. That's nature, so diverse it never fails to impress me...

               UPDATE:  Little Snipe Fly - Chrysopilus asiliformis. Thanks to Maria J for ID.

I don't know what this one is, perhaps a little soldier fly? What I do know is that it was yet another of the insects I have rescued from the bird-bath this year.

You have to admit that this scorpion fly is something that most people would not even realise is something that belongs in the Diptera order...

If I make this entry too much longer you will need to spend longer scrolling back to the top, than you have reading it, and so I guess I will cut and run. Not before I have added one last pairing though. A couple of barkflies...

I appreciate that the lower photograph appears to show a giant of a barkfly, but they are both actually around 2-3mm. The barkfly (or barklouse) is really under-recorded and we are told that there are still many more species to be discovered, even here in the UK. 

I have added a new, easy to use comment box right at the bottom of this page. I hope it helps to make it easier to get involved and tell me what you think. It seems that the original comment box only appears when you view this update on its own page and not from the home page. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

I was born yellow but soon had spots...

Sometimes I get to witness insect behaviour that just has to be shared on this little blog of mine, and is hopefully interesting and important enough to make a 'stand-alone' entry. "Tell me more JJ"..."I will..."

I had been observing a group of ladybird pupae for quite a while in the hope of catching a newly emerged ladybird. I took a number of photos of the pupae over a few days as they matured. It is so hard to tell exactly when an emergence might take place though. One or two looked about ready to pop and yet, nothing changed for what seemed like forever. Eventually my patience was rewarded. I arrived one day just at the right time to witness a complete eclosion.

Time to let the pictures do the talking...

Click on any photo for a larger view
This first shot was taken at 8:10pm when the light was already failing

Just 5 minutes had passed at this stage

That whole process from start to finish took around 10 minutes. I don't know if that is about average because I have never before seen this in real time, but I would think that even 10 mins is long enough to be in such a vulnerable state. 

50 minutes later it was recognisable as a harlequin ladybird, although the pupa itself is quite distinctive and obviously that of a harlequin...

I was so thrilled to be able to not only witness this unseen behaviour, but also to be able to photograph it and share here on my blog. Some of the photos are maybe not as crisp as I would have wished them to be, but that background you can see is provided courtesy of a leaf that I was holding in one hand, whilst holding my macro gear with the other.