Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Pond Dip - August 2010

Dad and I had fun dipping the pond last Sunday. I was very pleased to find around 20 southern hawker larvae - the most dragonfly larvae we've ever found at one time.

This one had recently shedded its skin - as the skin is normally hard they have to shed their skin to enable them to grow:


As usual we also found pond skaters, water slaters, leeches, newtpoles and a few tadpoles. It looks as though all the damselfly and mayfly larvae have now emerged.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

August

Late summer at Frog End has brought an abundance of wildlife and the insect lists for the garden are growing rapidly. Unfortunately, even longer is the list of species I've yet to identify.

Speckled woods are only absent at night and when it rains:

We had a wall brown a couple of weeks ago, taking the butterfly species count up to 18, of which we've seen 17 in 2010:

After a poor mid-summer the dragonflies are about again and so far this last week we've had a golden-ringed dragonfly (that refused to be photographed), a common darter:

and a migrant hawker:


This large hoverfly Volucella inanis seems to like the buddleia flowers:

and the goldenrod is covered with green shield bugs of all sizes and stages of development:

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

More butterflies

Some more photos of the species currently in the garden:

Red admiral:


Holly blue:

Green-veined white:


Comma:

Just goes to show

To all those caterpillar squashers out there...

I left our big white verbascum (I don't know which species it is) to be decimated by the mullein moth caterpillars earlier in the year. They must have eaten about a third of the total leaf area and chewed through the central flower stem.

This is a close up of some of the leaves six weeks ago (a week or so before the worst damage was done):


one of the cute culprits:


and the verbascum today:

It's flowered better this year than any other - probably as a result of the main stalk being completely severed. Just goes to show that killing the little munchers isn't always in the best interests of the plant (though I admit our large white caterpillar vs Brussels sprouts episode a couple of years ago didn't go so well for the sprouts!)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Common blue

Half an hour after commenting that the local garden centre had common blue butterflies and we did not I spotted this one at Frog End:

Doing the rounds

video

(please ignore the sound of sawing in the background!!)

The Big Butterfly Count

Right on time for the Big Butterfly Count the garden is suddenly filled with them.

Our list for the 15 minutes included the following species:

small white
large white
holly blue
brimstone
peacock
comma
small tortoiseshell
speckled wood

No gatekeepers, skippers or meadow browns today, but given how few of them there are about I think that's pretty representative.

Brimstone on field scabious:

Peacock on buddleia:

Small tortoiseshell:

Holly blue on hemp agrimony:

You can submit your butterfly count here

Since we did the count this morning we've had a red admiral and our first ever common blue in the garden. Suddenly it's not seeming that bad a year for butterflies at Frog End.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Species Surveys 2010

I've decided to survey the insects present in the garden over the next few days / weeks (depending on the weather and how busy I am). Of course I won't manage to survey everything and I suspect that there are many families that I simply won't get round to, but I shall try to at least begin species lists for the bees, wasps and flies, and to add to the very short lists I currently have for beetles, bugs, moths and hoverflies.

I took a lot of photos today and it's going to take a long time to identify most of the species - particularly as I don't know any bee species, but I can immediately add these two species to the lists for Frog End:

Two-spot ladybird:

Meadow brown butterfly:

There were two really exciting finds of the day:

1) Two southern hawker larvae in the pond:

Southern hawkers have oviposited in the pond both last summer and the summer before, but I'd never previously managed to find any larvae in the pond.

2) This wonderful rove beetle. At least I think it's a rove beetle. It was just sitting there on a buddleia leaf. I've never seen anything like it in the garden before - it was huge!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Out came the sun

After a few days of urgently needed rain the sun came out again this afternoon and with it came the insects:

Harlequin ladybird on Achillea cerise queen:


Hoverfly (I think it's Syrphus ribesii) on Rudbeckia hirta gloriosa:


I'm not sure which species this is:

Azure damselfly on field scabious:

The common wasps love the Persicaria amplexicaulis:



After a poor start to the summer I've seen several species of butterfly in the garden over the last couple of weeks including small whites, large whites, speckled woods, blues (they never settle so I can't tell which species), gatekeepers, ringlets (a new species for Frog End), small skippers, commas and this peacock:

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Small skipper

A small skipper Thymelicus sylvestris visited the garden today. It was particularly interested in the watering can, but it did settle on the gooseberry for a couple of minutes before returning to its favourite spot.

Although the small skipper is a new species for Frog End it's been a pretty poor year for butterflies in general. Although it's difficult to go outdoors without spotting a speckled wood there have been very few other species about - probably a result of the wet summer we had last year. If the moth caterpillars are anything to go by then this sunny weather should result in a boom in the population of some species at least.



Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Mullein moth caterpillars

The mullein moth caterpillars are getting fatter and fatter:


I do love their cute little feet!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Spots and stripes

Not a single broad-bodied chaser photograph in this post I promise!

I was going to dead-head some of the verbascums that have finished flowering when I noticed that they were occupied by some rather cute individuals. I think they are the mullein moth Cucullia verbasci, but the photos on the web look slightly different and I'm not sure how variable it is. Yet again I've made a mental note to buy a book on caterpillars.


They're causing quite a bit of damage to the verbascum leaves, but I don't mind that at all


The caterpillars were not the only ones enjoying the verbascums. My mother has a fear of weevils after once finding one in her tea so as a child I was always responsible for removing any that were foolish enough to come inside the house. This is by far one of the prettiest I've seen:



I think it's Cionus hortulanus.

More questions than answers

At least seven broad-bodied chasers have emerged from one of our ponds this year. Of these, I have seen all but two and each of these five was female. Added to the fact that of the dragonflies I've seen in flight none have been male I can conclude that we probably haven't had a male emerge from the pond this year. Not having had a great number of broad-bodied chasers in the garden in the past two years it is likely that the individuals that emerged this year are siblings. I confess I haven't searched very hard to see if this is known to be the case, but for now I'm wondering if all eggs oviposited are the same sex, possibly to prevent siblings from mating with each other.

Of the five individuals that I observed emerging two were unsuccessful. One didn't manage to open its wings at all and the other (below) only managed to unfold three out of four. I don't know for sure the fate of the second individual - I suspect it was either eaten by a bird or else simply died and fell amongst the rushes, but it was definitely sitting in the same position over 36 hours after it emerged and I doubt it could have taken flight. Given that rates of mortality must be pretty high during the larval stage of the life cycle I was quite surprised by this high rate of unsuccessful emergence. Have we just been unlucky or do so few really emerge successfully?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Lupins

The purple lupins are in full bloom at the moment. I'm not sure why, but the purple ones always seem to flower first, followed by the pink and white ones (shame I never seem to get yellow, orange or red ones when I grow them from seed).

Although not native to the UK, lupins are very popular with the insects, especially the bees, but I've not seen a dragonfly on one until today:


Female broad-bodied chaser.



I couldn't resist taking some photographs whilst the sprinkler was on this evening: