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Posts tagged ‘England’

Four-banded flower bee

Four-banded flower bee, Anthophora quadrimaculata, female

Anthophora quadrimaculata, female

I photographed this Four-banded flower bee Anthophora quadrimaculata during a weekend bee workshop run by Steven Falk, author of the recently published Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland. I think it shows the diagnostic bluey-grey eyes rather well. The course was just one of many hosted by Sallyann Spence at Berrycroft Hub on a working farm just north of Swindon at Ashbury on the Wiltshire/Oxfordshire border. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it, excellent company, good weather and we even got driven up onto the downs in a 1977 Daimler Pinzgauer high-mobility all-terrain 6WD ex-Swiss army military utility vehicle… what’s not to like? Read more

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Our smallest resident butterfly

Small Blue butterfly, Cupido minimus, male

Cupido minimus – male

The Small Blue Cupido minimus is the UK’s smallest resident butterfly. Females are chocolate brown whilst males, like the one pictured above photographed recently at Martin Down, have a silvery-blue dusting of scales near the base of the wings. The sole food plant is Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria and so it is reliant on the type of grassland habitat where this plant can flourish. It favours areas with broken ground.

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Buried, but not forgotten

Sexton beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides

Nicrophorus vespilloides

While sorting through some old photos from 2008 I discovered this photo of a burying or Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. These are useful beetles that bury the carcasses of small vertebrates such as birds and rodents as a food source for their larvae. These beetles sometimes called carrion beetles belong to the family Silphidae.

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Billy witches

June bug, Melolontha melolontha, male

Melolontha melolontha – Male

I’ve not posted for a while. Working freelance has kept me busy and much of my spare time has been spent either keying out specimens, uploading insect and wildlife records, writing reports or more enjoyably attending various insect workshops. At the last one, on Caribidae (Ground beetles) I got chatting to a young lady at the microscope opposite me. Ashleigh works in Edinburgh as a curatorial assistant (Entomology) for National Museums, Scotland and I mentioned that sometimes flying beetles get attracted to my moth-trap. Not quite so welcome are the big, up to 30mm long ‘Spang Beetles’ or ‘Billy Witches’ more commonly known as the Common Cockchafer Melolontha melolontha.

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Vernal stars

Wood Anenome, Anemone nemorosa

Anemone nemorosa

Stretching on red spindle stems through still sleepy foliage to find the warmth of the vernal sun, this has got to be one of my favourite Spring flowers. The Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa is a splendid sight when its tiny stars form a white carpet on a woodland floor.

The six white petals (technically its sepals) are sometimes streaked with just the slightest hint of purple-pink and can be softly shaded with lavender on the reverse. A delicate blue version Anemone appennina is sometimes grown in gardens and often becomes naturalised which may account for the odd colour variation.

It’s found flowering as early as March, but Spring appears to have been a little late this year so enjoy them while you can. These were photographed at West Woods, near Marlborough, Wiltshire.

The Pellucid hoverfly

Pellucid hoverfly, Volucella pellucens – female

Volucella pellucens – female

Here’s a photo of one of our largest flies, the Pellucid or Large Pied-hoverfly Volucella pellucens that I took back on the 8 July 2012 in Marlborough while I was in the middle of a RiverFly survey on the River Og. Pellucid means transparent or translucent and in this instance refers to the ivory-white band across the abdomen, which if caught in the right light enables you to see through its middle. This and the dark spot on each wing makes this species quite easy to identify in the field.

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Mint moth, pyrausta aurata

Pyrausta aurata

I used to live in what is now called Royal Wootton Bassett. It was just plain old Wootton Bassett when I lived there. But then that was before we were flying back union jack covered coffins from Iraq and Afghanistan. Thankfully most of our troops are back home now.

On sunny days in July I’d often find this tiny moth in my equally tiny courtyard garden basking in the sun. When I had to move home, there it was again in my new garden near Marlborough. Now much as though it would have cheered me no end to imagine it had followed me, perhaps hidden amongst my many books, there had to be a common connection. After giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that it was either attracted to mint or marjoram, or both. Read more

Milk or dark chocolate?

Ringlet, aphantopus hyperantus, female

Aphantopus hyperantus – female

Here’s another photograph from back in July, again from Morgans Hill. This time it’s the Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus.

This example is in full sun and therefore appears to be a rather pale brown, but at least that allows you to see the detail. The plumper body suggests this may be a female. However, when freshly emerged the colour is a much darker, velvety chocolate, verging on almost black in some instances. You can get a flavour of this in the example below that I photographed in July 2012 which I’m guessing may be a male. And a very handsome butterfly it is too with the contrast of the delicate white lace-like fringes to the wing edges.

Note the variation in the spots which are much more prominent on the specimen above.

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Red and black froghopper

Cercopis vulnerata

Cercopis vulnerata

Last weekend I attended a workshop on Auchenorrhyncha hosted by Alan Stewart and Tristan Bantock, superbly organised by Mike Edwards of the British Entomological and Natural History Society (BENHS). More info about BENHS here and the Auchenorrhyncha Recording Scheme here.

Leafhoppers, planthoppers, froghoppers, treehoppers and cicadas are a sub-order of insects from the order Hemiptera that I know little about, despite the fact there are around 400 species in the UK. I’ve rarely seen or photographed any of them but I did get a photo of this red and black froghopper or ‘spittlebug’ Cercopis vulnerata earlier in the year at West Yatton Down. This should be an easy species for me to remember in future as it is our only red and black ‘spittlebug’ and our only ‘hopper in the family Cercopidae.

As a quick way of telling them apart, leafhoppers Cicadellidae have rows of spines on their rear legs (hind tibiae). Planthoppers Delphacidae have a large moveable thumb (spur) on their hind legs and froghoppers Cercopidae and Aphrophoridae have one or two stout spines on their rear legs.

We only have two treehoppers Membracidae and both have a backward extension of the pronotum (basically the back of the head is pointed like a spine). As for Cicadas, we only have one species, the New Forest Cicada Cicadetta montana which is very possibly extinct in Britain.

They are good indicators of site quality, particularly grassland, so I’ll be keeping a look out for them next year on Salisbury Plain.

 

Speckled

Speckled Bush-cricket, Leptophyes punctatissima, female

Leptophyes punctatissima – female

This is probably our commonest bush-cricket, the Speckled Bush-cricket Leptophyes punctatissima is a small green cricket with a brown stripe down its back (admittedly it’s not very prominent on this particular specimen) and is covered in tiny black speckles. Crickets are easily distinguished from grasshoppers by their long antennae which can be easily twice as long as the body. In comparison grasshoppers have rather short antennae.

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