Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Insect antics

Well, the Green Tortoise Beetle eggs hatched after 12 days (indoors – the outside ones haven’t hatched yet), and they are now almost two weeks old. But they have very strange ways…  Do not read on if you are of a sensitive disposition.  You have been warned.

This is one that was only just hatched, in side view.  It was all of about 2mm long, so getting things in focus was tricky.  The leaf hairs of the woundwort leaf look like a forest.

At the rear end of the larva, there are four dark spines.  In between the spines is the anus, which is extensible and can be  directed towards the upper two spines.  The big brown blob is excrement, which they use as a disguise.  Delightful.

Green Tortoise Beetle larva

Green Tortoise Beetle larva (Cassida viridis) on Hedge Woundwort (Stachys arvensis)

These next ones were probably the first to hatch, as they have had time to accumulate quite a decoration. It’s a slow process – about twenty minutes to produce each of those little brown sticks (maybe they have to let it dry gradually – ugh!)

Green Tortoise Beetle larvae (Cassida viridis) on Hedge Woundwort (Stachys arvensis)

Green Tortoise Beetle larvae (Cassida viridis) on Hedge Woundwort (Stachys arvensis)

This is how they looked a few days later, after giving them some fresh woundwort leaves:

Green Tortoise Beetle larva

Green Tortoise Beetle larva about five days old

And here’s how they look now, looking nothing like beetles at all, but about 5 mm long, and carrying a huge load. It includes cast larval skins as well as more excrement.

Green Tortoise Beetle larva

Green Tortoise Beetle, two week old larva

While I was checking the woundwort, to see if the outdoors ones had hatched, I came across another woundwort specialist. I would have missed it, thinking it was just a bit of dead leaf, if I hadn’t seen something very similar on the ispot wildlife identification website. The woundwort was a big clue for identifying it, and a bit of googling led me to the Woundwort Case-bearer moth. It’s also described on the UKmoths site – but it’s hardly an exciting looking moth.

The hairs on the casing come from the woundwort leaf – I think it cuts bits of leaf to make a cover like a tea-cosy. (Do you remember those? My aunt made one – it was thickly padded and had a clip at the top like a handbag – I’ve never seen another one like it.)

I assumed it was a pupa, and put it in the bottom of the box with the Green Tortoise Beetles, hoping that it might eventually hatch out. However, the next day, I realised it had moved, and that there was other evidence that it was a larva.

Woundwort Case-bearer moth's larval case

Woundwort Case-bearer moth’s larval case

It has been in there for several days, moving around when I wasn’t looking, but today I found it on the bottom of the box, looking dried out and dead.

Woundwort Case-bearer moth's larval case

Woundwort Case-bearer moth’s larval case

However, when I looked again, it had moved itself back onto a dried-up leaf, so I put it onto the fresh leaves.

It came out to say hello!

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

It clearly didn’t like being exposed on the top of the leaf, and within a few minutes it had crawled over the edge to the underside – very hazardous when all it has to hang on with are tiny little feet, amongst all those long hairs, and dragging round its huge case.

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva looking over the edge

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva – let’s see what it’s like down here

Well, that’s turned into rather a long post. I also have loads of photos of colourful bugs from last weekend, when I repeated the Garden Bioblitz that I did a year ago. I was surprised to find quite a lot more different species – but I think I’ll save that for another day.


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Ra ra ra! 45 minute run! Plus… creatures in the garden

I haven’t run much in the last month – just two one-milers since I did the Race for Life 5k at the end of June.  The heat wave has put me off, but it seemed perhaps a bit cooler this evening, and I was in the right mood, so I went out to see if I could still keep going for half an hour.

First ten minutes were tough as ever.  Then it was an uphill bit (not steep, but not flat either).  Twenty minutes in and I was thinking about stopping.  Told myself I could keep going a bit more even though I’d got to a bit with no shade – it was getting on for 8pm, but still about 25 C, which is pretty warm as far as I’m concerned.  I overtook a dog walker (always an achievement for me – they are often faster than I am).  Then it was a downhill slope, so persuaded myself to keep going until I got back to my starting point, which was just under 3 miles.

It took me about 45 minutes, which is pretty slow, but I was happy with it as I was really out of practice and it was hot.  My fingers felt like sausages once I was walking – had to hold them up in the air or they throbbed (they’d been fine while I was running, as they were above heart-level I suppose).

Legs feel fine too.  🙂

No pictures from the run, but some from the garden today.  Lots of butterflies today – Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White and Brimstone.  The lavender hedge is full of bees too – Carder bees, Tree bees, Honey bees, Buff-tailed bumble bees (I think – might have been some cuckoo bees too), Early bumble bees and I also saw a few Red-tailed bumble bees, though maybe not on the lavender.

I also noticed a bee flying with a rolled-up bit of leaf between its legs.  I’ve seen evidence of leaf-cutter bees before, where they’ve cut a semi-circle from the edge of a rose leaf, but don’t remember seeing one actually flying with the leaf before.  I watched it go into a hole in the bottom of a plant pot several times.  Earlier on I’d seen a centipede go in the same hole, so it’s an exciting world inside that pot!

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly – squint your eyes and you can see how this could frighten off an attacking bird

Rosemary Beetle

Rosemary Beetle – Chrysolina americana. On lavender, rather than rosemary though. They will also eat thyme and sage. Only found in the UK in recent years. A very pretty pest. I’ve only found the one so far, but will be looking out for them.

Brimstone

Brimstone butterfly (male) on lavender

Leaf-cutter bee

Leaf-cutter bee in flight with a piece of leaf – heading for a hole in a plant pot


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Riverside walk

Really summery day today, so I went for a walk in the nature reserve near where I work. It’s on the edge of a town, but feels really rural. I was moving very slowly, stopping to look at things and take photos, and really enjoyed myself. I probably walked a couple of miles – haven’t downloaded the Garmin route yet, and maybe I won’t bother, as I’m not all that concerned how far I went. I was on my feet and moving for over two hours, so even it if wasn’t very energetic, it was good activity.

Here’s a beautiful beetle – maybe it’ll convert some beetle-haters? 🙂

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle on Cow Parsley

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa serraticornis

I spent a long time trying to get decent photos of a pair of birds that I’d seen earlier in the week.  They were birds of prey, flying over the reed pools, but not easy to catch them in motion!  I put the earlier pictures online, and several people said they thought they were probably Hobbies, which I’ve never seen before, so I really wanted to see them better, to check that’s what they were.  Well, I did see them again, which was fortunate, and I took my binoculars, and could see the reddish ‘trousers’ and the face markings, but didn’t manage to get a clear photo.  This was about the best I got (I must have taken fifty or more!)  It’s been zoomed in from a larger picture.

Hobby flying over reedbed pools

Hobby flying over reedbed pools

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird’s-foot Trefoil, or Bacon and Eggs, Lotus corniculatus

Mute Swan with five babies

Mute Swan with five babies

Baby Coot

Not such a cute Coot – I know all mums love their babies, but maybe a bit of a challenge to adore this!

thorns on wild rose

Thorns on wild rose

Some day soon, maybe, I’ll figure out how to lay out the photos the way I want them. It’s really annoying when they jump all over the place, especially as I spent several years as a publishing specialist, doing page layout for a computer company… But I don’t want to waste time on it at the moment, so it will just have to do. Grrrrrrrrrr!

Edit- missed my damselfly.

Azure Damselfly

Azure Damselfly, Coenagrion puella