Saturday, 25 October 2014
visit to a local nature reserve a couple of weeks ago I looked to the ceiling of one of the hides, hoping to find overwintering butterflies. I didn't find any, but realised the hide contained several hundred lacewing, loosely clustered together in groups all around the ceiling and wall edges. It is something I had never come across. I believe these are one of a group of similar lacewing species, Chysoperla carnea group. Some of the individuals have started to change colour.
Saturday, 11 October 2014
Several Pisaura mirabilis, sat on the painted leaves on the sunny wall.
This one seems to have regenerated a few legs, notice that some legs are shorter and paler than the rest. These nursery web spiders will overwinter soon.
As will young wolf spiders, Pardosa sp. which were also on the wall.
A Linyphia triangularis, males guard the female web in this species, fighting any contenders with their long cheliceae. The female is on the left, the male - out of focus - on the right.
Metellina male with present for female? Male Metellina sp. will capture prey before attempting to court a female, and then mate with her as she is entertained with the present ('nuptial gift' as it is called). I found this mature male today and wondered if that is why it was carrying this present. Unfortunately, I didn't see the female.
And on the playground, under a window frame painted with some street art, this pink and fully grown Araneus diadematus.
I found this male Amaurobius similis on the kitchen wall, on the prowl tonight. It measured 8 mm long. I got a good view of palps allowing for species ID.
For more October spiders, check out the Flickr group #Arachtober or on twitter.
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Today, at school pick up time, she told me she had rescued one from a puddle under the chestnut tree. I searched and initially found none, but finally, I founf a live female and a very squished male on the ground, hoorray! Both were collected and taken home, and to my surprise they turned to be the Southern Oak Bush Cricket, Meconema medidionale, distinguished from the related Oak Bush Cricket by its stumpy wings and larger male cerci. Oak Bush Crickets are nocturnal and live in trees canopies, so they are thought to be under recorded, although they are attracted to light, so they turn up inside houses in the summer. Instead of singing by stridulating with their wings like other crickets do, males attract females by drumming with their rear legs on the substrate, and this sound can be audible up to 1 m away. They are predatory crickets, and feed on small insects like aphids and leaf-miners (including those of Cameraria ohridella, the Horse Chestnut leaf miner). Despite their name, they occur in many tree and bush species and are a late species, with adults found from mid August up to the first frosts.
Since the 1960s, the Southern Oak Bush cricket expanded its distribution range from its original homeland in Italy throughout large areas of Northern Europe, and is now also found in North America. It was recorded in the UK for the first time in the autumn of 2001, and since then, it has spread north up to Nottinghamshire. Given its flightlessness, it is surprising how fast they are expanding. A study systematically searching for this species in the recently colonised Slovak and Czech Republics found that they are found mainly in urban habitats like parks or campsites, often with localised populations near car parks and main roads, suggesting that they might be dispersed passively by vehicles, especially trucks and caravans. They are, unexpectedly, often found on vehicles.
The fact that several individuals are present suggests that the crickets have been around for a while in the school grounds. Would a teacher returning from a visit down south might be responsible from the introduction of this cricket species in Hull?
The squished male
Side view of the femaleUPDATE 8/10/2014
We released the female on the chestnut tree. Although she had lost a leg, she was quite capable of jumping, and hid under a shrivelled leaf. I found a freshly dead male in the same spot, quite intact. Here he is. Look how much longer his antennae are compared to the female.
British Orthoptera & Allied insects page. Here.
Grabenweger, G., Kehrli, P., Schlick‐Steiner, B., Steiner, F., Stolz, M., & Bacher, S. (2005). Predator complex of the horse chestnut leafminer Cameraria ohridella: identification and impact assessment. Journal of Applied Entomology, 129: 353-362.
Vlk, R., Balvín, O., Krištín, A., Marhoul, P., & Hrúz, V. (2012). Distribution of the Southern Oak Bush-cricket Meconema meridionale (Orthoptera, Tettigoniidae) in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Folia Oecologica 39(2) 155-165.
Liana, A., & Michalcewicz, J. (2014). Meconema Meridionale Costa, 1860 (Orthoptera: Tettigonioidea: Meconematidae)–The First Record In Poland. Polish Journal of Entomology, 83(3), 181-188.
Friday, 19 September 2014
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
I have been photographing garden spiders in the last few days. They are an easy subject. You can find the same individuals day after day in the same spot and you can get very close without disturbing them.
I tried a white background with this one, placing a white card behind the spider outside.
This is the largest spider around, in a very leafy front garden.
Sunday, 14 September 2014
One of the females, in close contact with her egg sac (2/9/14)
Friday, 12 September 2014
The flatworm with its head up
While handling it it adopted all the postures this caterpillar is known for, suggesting either an elephant, when the caterpillar is fully extended, or a snake, when the caterpillar is disturbed and it raises its front, while retracting its head.
A 'snake' resemblance is a recurrent theme in various large caterpillars from several families, and it has been suggested that this way the caterpillars gain protention from birds, wary of snakes, which are startled when the caterpillar moves its head and the eyes are exposed on the thickened anterior end.
A Canadian team formed by Thomas Hossie and Thomas Sherrat carried out an interesting set of experiments using pastry caterpillars, which they exposed to natural predation by placing them in branches in the wild. They used pastry caterpillars coloured with food dye with or without eyespots with or without defensive posture ('snake') and with or without countershading.Their results suggested that the presence of eyespots and the raised position might deter birds from eating the caterpillars and countershading and the position of the eyespots in the thickened anterior end has a protective effect too. But don't rely on me telling you, as you can read it from Hossie's himself in his blog Caterpillar Eyespots.
A close up of the eyespots.
The 'elephant' pose.
and the 'snake' pose
another angle of the snake pose
And of the elephant pose.
The happy caterpillar munching away on its new home.
Sunday, 31 August 2014
Some invertebrates appear as heralds of autumn, and today three striking ones were present in the garden. Migrant Hawkers have been around for a while, forming loose swarms that hunt between 2 and 8 m high, often well away from water. In the cooler, shorter days of late summer it becomes easier to come across sunbathing ones, perched on a branch, often more than one near each other. I flushed this male a few times as I went about in the garden, until I finally spotted him hanging from its perch. I got so close taking the macro above that I could have kissed him.
A single Red Admiral was also about, alternating between feeding in the buddleia and basking on a brick wall. During sunny spells she closed its wings, while during passing clouds she revealed its fresh, amazingly marked wings to their full splendor. This was a beautifully marked individual, the small, delicate blue markings on the edge of its wings very apparent.
I used the flash to counteract the sunshine and reveal the intricate patterning of the underwings, which can make the butterfly well camouflaged.
This garden spider, Araneus diadematus, is one of the largest in the garden, she hangs her web on the side of the rubbish bin, and has her retreat under the rim. Given the size of this species, detailed inspection of the epigyne is possible without even disturbing the spider (click on the photo to see it).
Thursday, 28 August 2014
There were at least two male Common Darters, Sympetrum striolatum, around the wildlife garden pond today. If you move slowly, they are great posers and allow very close approximation. Their faces are locked into a perpetual smiling grimace, adding to their charm. If you watch them from a close distance, you'll notice that they are constantly flicking their heads around, looking for insects flying overhead. If a suitable one is detected, they dart off, returning to their perch to eat their prey.
The ever smiling darter
We found this male garden spider, Araneus diadematus, on our garden gate, actively walking about. Male garden spiders are on the lookout for females in August and September, when they become adult and receptive. This was a large and handsomely marked male, so I gave it a session on the white bowl and then released him near the largest female in the garden.
A loose leg and a wing are visibleI was amazed by the determination of the wasp, which was thrown about by the hoverfly while it was only holding by the hoverfly's abdomen.A very short clip shows moments after they landed.
Thursday, 14 August 2014
Given how slow spider courtship may be, in particular the slow initial male's approach to an often aggressive female, I count myself lucky to have witnessed the mating of yet another spider in the garden.
The female Zygiella x-notata
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
A bit later, then, in my street, a couple of migrant hawkers were hunting over the verges. Migrant hawkers often hunt together with other individuals, and they may settle to bask near each other. They tend to hunt from 4-5 m above ground. I managed some records shots, this one the best.