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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Mini-beasts

Apologies to any squeamish readers, but I went out on a woodlouse hunt, to see if I could find the three different species that I found back in June when I did my ‘bioblitz‘.

It didn’t take long to find them, but taking their photos was a bit trickier, as they really don’t like sitting still in bright light.  I deleted a large number of blurred shots to get these more reasonable ones.

I don’t expect everyone to appreciate their beauty, but I do really rather love them.  When I was little, we used to collect them in jars, and have woodlouse ‘farms’ in cardboard boxes.  I was vaguely aware that they didn’t all look the same – I thought the flatter ones looked a bit scary – but just thought they were different stages of the same thing.  But no!  I think these are correctly named, but please let me know if you know otherwise, thank you.

Here’s the Rough Woodlouse again – great sculptural detail on the body plates.  I don’t think these roll up.

rough woodlouse

Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber) – I presume the scientific name means ‘rough piglet’, which is rather cute.

Now the Common Shiny Woodlouse (the ones I used to be scared of).  I don’t think these can roll up.

Common Shiny Woodlouse

Common Shiny Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus) – I don’t think this one rolls up.

And finally, the Common Pillbug or Common Woodlouse or Roly-poly – which definitely does roll up.  this was a particularly shiny one (or maybe I’ve misidentified it).

Pill Woodlouse

Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare) – I presume that means common little armadillo – even cuter.

Pill Woodlouse

Pill Woodlouse – rolled up

And finally, a beautiful little yellow snail – only about 1cm across.

A small yellow snail

A small yellow snail


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Garden Bioblitz final total

Nothing to do with running, but I’ve got to the end of totalling up all the plants and animals found living wild in my medium-sized garden.  Most of it is only a few metres wide, on a steep bank behind the house.  As mentioned before, it includes a small pond, as well as some mature trees (it is on the site of what used to be an orchard, so includes two very old perry pear trees), some hedge and quite a few shrubs.  Part of the lawn (which was originally orchard) still has wild flowers like Lady’s Smock and Lady’s Bedstraw and Meadow Ants’ nests, and we have several log-piles that have been left to rot for beetles and other beasties.  Wildlife, including weeds, are encouraged.

Red Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum

Red Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grand total was… 127!  (And looking through the photos to find one for on here, I’ve seen several more things that didn’t get named.  Next time.)

That includes 12 species of birds, 64 flowering plants, 22 insects, 6 molluscs, 3 spiders, 6 mosses and four crustaceans! (3 woodlouse species and a water-slater – like a woodlouse but in the pond.)  It doesn’t include any garden plants, not even ones that self-seed themselves – that would have added quite a few more on.  It took ages, but was really enjoyable.  The ispot website was great for identifying things I didn’t know (particularly the animals).  Our Great Crested Newt did not deign to show his face, so he isn’t included, but we did see him last week when visitors came round.

So next year, how about having a go – you don’t need to know loads of plants and animals, or spend ages on it.  Even recording just a few common ones is a good start.

I love wildlife.  🙂


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Cycling along country lanes

Another day of garden bioblitz.  Seven frogs seen in our tiny pond all at once.  Here’s one peeping out under a lily pad.

Frog under water-lily

I decided to cycle today, as my foot still feels a bit bruised from all the jumping in the Jillian Michaels shred!  About 40 minutes along country lanes, seeing hawthorn, cow parsley, buttercups and red campion in flower, and I spotted an Orange-tip and two Brimstone butterflies too.  Lovely.  I didn’t have my camera with me though.  Cycled just over 10 km in 40 minutes.  It was lovely in the sunshine.

This Burnet Rose (Rosa spinosissima or Rosa pimpinellifolia) is in full flower in our garden and is beautifully scented.   Later on it has black hips.

Burnet Rose


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Garden Bioblitz day

Bit late posting for day 1, as I’ve been engrossed in Garden Bioblitzing all day.  So maybe I’ll come back and edit this in the morning.  Which isn’t how it’s meant to work at all.  Still, I’ve been active out in the garden almost all day (other than being on the laptop trying to identify creepy crawlies).

So here are a few of the 95 species I’ve found so far:

Jackdaw and Woodpigeon Red-tailed Bumble-bee Lesser Stag-beetle or maybe a female Stag-beetle Wood Avens aka Herb Bennett The frog and newt pond