Sunday, 24 November 2013

Tuberolachnus salignus

While coppicing willows at the Wildlife Trust’s Pavenham Osier Beds reserve, SP990552, on Tuesday (19/11/13) we encountered large quantities of large aphids on the stems.

I’ve just keyed these out as Tuberolachnus salignus.

There is a nice write-up about this species at which ends with “This large aphid is very distinctive and there is nothing else like it, so if it doesn't have a large thorn-like process on its back then it is not T. salignus”. These do have the large spinal tubercle, so the ID seems OK?

If you read that article and also this one there seems to be a mystery as to where these aphids go for a third of the year. And, no-one has ever found a male of the species apparently, or found out what the thorn is for...

It established itself at Rothamsted about 10 years ago according to this article:

Sunday, 1 September 2013


The form of Small Copper with little blue dots caeruleopunctata was evident at Mowsbury Hill today.

Meadow Grasshoppers

To continue the grasshopper theme, again at Mowsbury Hill, here's some photos of Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus. I've no idea what is supposedly parallel, so can't help with a mnemonic for that.

This species has reduced wing lengths, slightly so in the case of the male, but greatly so in the female, rendering her essentially flightless. (There is a long-winged form that occasionally shows up, allowing dispersal of the species). I quite often see nymphs (the immature stages) of other species identified as Meadow Grasshoppers, because their short stubby wing buds have been misinterpreted as the adult wings of this species.

The shape of the pronotum helps with identification, in this species the front half is essentially parallel sided, but flares outwards in the rear half.

Like other grasshopper species this one has several different colour forms, a couple demonstrated here by the females.


Male (note the dark "knees" of the rear legs, a help in identification):

(Photos taken 03/09/13 retimed in the blog to bring grasshopper photos together)

Common Green Grasshopper

Another grasshopper species that can be found at Mowsbury Hill, Common Green Grasshopper, Omocestus viridulus. Here's a female. There must be males there too but I haven't spotted one yet. Will add a picture later when I've found one.

Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers

More scrabbling in the undergrowth, this time for Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers at Mowsbury Hill. This species may be found in long grassland over much of Bedfordshire and is not restricted to marshes.

These pictures show some of the colour variation. (Colouring doesn't really help much with ID'ing grasshoppers as several species have several colour forms).

This species' scientific name is Chorthippus albomarginatus, the second part meaning white-edged, which presumably refers to the white stripe along the wing edge in the female, not unique to this species though, so not a reliable characteristic. The male rarely has a white stripe.

The shape of the pronotum (the saddle-like covering of the thorax) is a help with identification in grasshoppers, in this species the front half has parallel sides and then it may be parallel or only slightly flared  outwards in the rear half. (Meadow Grasshopper flares out more).

This species is less hairy than the similar Field Grasshopper. (The pronotum of Field Grasshopper is quite differently shaped too - deeply pinched in the middle).

Females are larger and chunkier than the males. Males have proportionately longer antennae.



Monday, 26 August 2013

Mottled Grasshoppers

Visited Cooper's Hill today specifically to photograph Mottled Grasshoppers. Here's one of each gender:

I'd never thought about it before but this photo of a singing male shows that they stand on the front four legs while stridulating, the rear feet coming completely off the ground. Males have clearly clubbed antennae


Cooper's Cat

While scrabbling around at ground level stalking grasshoppers at Cooper's Hill I spotted this gorgeous 6-7mm long caterpillar on a grass stem.

Melissa kindly ID'd it as an Oak Eggar. Thanks Melissa!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Rowney Warren Wasp

Bramble patches are always worth a good stare. This wasp had been feasting on ripe berries and wasn't flying anywhere, just sitting on a leaf looking rather content. (That's blackberry juice not blood!) I think it's a Vesupla vulgaris though separating from the similar V.germanica is always a bit tricky, balancing features against each other to see which way the decision tips.

Basking Slow Worm

There is a population of slow worms at Rowney Warren but they aren't always easy to find. On this occasion though it was a warm but overcast day and I wandered off-piste to where I'd found one basking a couple of years ago and instantly found this one doing exactly the same. I hadn't realised how long they can be - this one seemed to go on forever.

I think this is a female (dark flanks, narrow head, thin dorsal stripe, significant tapering below the vent)?

Speckled Bush-cricket

A male Speckled Bush-cricket singing from a bramble at Old Warden Tunnel. I could see the two vestigal wings rise and go blurry as they were rubbed together but couldn't hear anything. A bat detector would have revealed the song though. I once tracked down a bush-cricket in my garden this way.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Volucella zonaria

A walk around Great Wood and Little Wood in Ravensden today was largely uninteresting but I did have my first encounter this year with the splendid hoverfly Volucella zonaria, this one being rather nicely marked. The "chestnut brown" markings referred to in the field guides are rather more orange in this beast, but I've decided that it isn't the rather similar Volucella inanis (hopefully correctly).

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Dolichovespula sylvestris

To complete the black-and-yellow theme of today's visit to Wilstead Wood here's a representative, but not very good, photo of a Dolichovespula sylvestris social wasp which by far was the dominant social wasp active in the wood today.

Figwort Sawfly

There were quite a few of these impressive figwort sawflies (Tenthredo scrophulariae) in Wilstead Wood today, unsurprisingly hanging around the figwort plants.

Alder Moth caterpillar

I've been offline too long, largely due to computer problems, hopefully now fixed (but I've thought that before). Anyway, to resume a hopefully normal service, here's a nice find from Wilstead Wood today, an Alder Moth caterpillar, but on Hazel. Spectacular and bizarre.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Playing Dead

Had that primeval feeling you get when you spot something significant out of the corner of your eye, in this case a grass snake and only about four feet away, half hidden in the undergrowth. Took several photos, watching flies walk all over it, including on the eyes without any movement. I concluded it was dead so moved in closer for a better look, but it wasn't dead, just pretending, and slithered off quickly! Judging by its large size I'm guessing this to be a female.

Peacock Pupa 2

The Peacock pupa photographed three days ago is almost ready to hatch.

One of its friends has already hatched and flown away this morning - a perfect day for your first flight!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Glow Worms

Just returned from revisiting the Mowsbury Hill location where I saw glow worms last year. There were only two and both were receiving the attention of males, so they were no longer interested in putting on a glow-show, hence this rubbish picture, which was the best! Was able to photo males though, which are winged and look very different from the females. They have huge eyes, presumably to help spot the dim glow of the females. Females stop glowing after mating so I nearly left it too late to see them!


Insect photography wasn't going well at Old Warden Tunnel, so I switched to something a bit easier...

...but why is the sun always on the wrong side?

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Peacock pupa

A peacock pupa about a week into its transformation...

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

BIG day out in Chicksands Wood

Here's just of few of the species found by the Beds Invertebrate Group today in Chicksands Wood:

A female Cyclosa conica with the stabilimentum showing across her web, ID'd by Ian. (In shade under trees. I could have done with my tripod).

 A female Volucela inflata (the star hoverfly of the day according to John who identified it):

A goat willow leaf after a colony of sawfly larvae had largely finished with it. (There are still a few along the bottom edge):

 A Common Groundhopper (Tetrix undulata):

A longhorn beetle found by Peter, eventually keyed out by me as Stenocorus meridianus, initially thrown by its diminutive size into thinking it was something else.

A micro moth which will probably have to go to David for determination, tentatively assigned to the genus Syncopacma:

 Sawfly larvae, now identified as Craesus latipes (thanks to Ian for obtaining the ID) on a birch sapling:

A fly, identified as Calliopum simillimum [Lauxaniidae] by Alan:

 A picture wing fly, Urophora jaceana agg [Tephritidae], which would require dissection to ID to species (and then with difficulty). Thanks again to Alan for the ID.

Thanks to my BIG friends for their company, discoveries and expertise.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Vestalis on musk

A Bombus vestalis cuckoo bumblebee on a musk thistle on the old platform in Willington station. She will, if things go to plan, find and take over a Bombus terrestris nest, killing its queen and getting the terrestris workers to raise her own young, which will be only males and females - no workers, so the nest will then die out. Not all bumblebees are hard workers!

Note: Ian Beavis has informed me that he believes this to be a male because of the length of antennae and non-smokey wings.

Blue-tailed damselflies

Blue-tailed damselflies making more Blue-tailed damselflies in Willington:

Three Dragons

Large dragonflies have been slow to appear and I doubled this season's tally in one day in Willington:

Black-tailed Skimmer: (Female (or possibly immature male) so didn't have a black tail, and wasn't skimming)

Four-spotted Chaser: (Had eight wings spots and wasn't chasing anything)

Southern Hawker: (Wasn't selling anything, but it was south of Watford Gap)