Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bronze Shieldbug - A quick change of clothes

A final instar Bronze Shieldbug Troilus luridus nymph was sitting on a willow leaf at Priory CP on Sunday, so I brought it home to take a better picture. Two days later it is now an adult and looking considerably different! (It still has the final segment of the right antenna missing though). I'll take it back to Priory tomorrow when I go to work.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Macrosiphoniella millefolii

What may be a county-first according to Alan Outen, Macrosiphoniella millefolii feeding on Yarrow. Found near Roxton on 17th August 2014

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Wasp Spider season

It's Wasp Spider season again. This one was at Sandy Smith NR yesterday.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Terellia longicauda

Worth looking around the flowers of Woolly Thistles for the distinctive fly Terellia longicauda which lays its eggs in the head, here at Mowsbury Hill. (longicauda translates roughly as "long tail"). Alan Outen thinks may be a first county record.

Here's a hopeful male hangling around too:

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Palomena prasina?

On an oak leaf near Wilstead I spotted this clutch of eggs on 14th July. Bernard and Sheila suspect they may be Palomena prasina the Green Shieldbug.

On 20th July this is how they look now. Can't help but call them "minions"! (Created from a photo stack using CombineZP).

Glad I photographed them when I did because only about 6 hours later this is how they looked:

And nearly 20 hours later they are now in a huddle. No idea why they are doing this rather than feeding. Maybe time will tell. (Yes they are still alive as I've gently prodded a couple).

(I've now googled this behaviour and found this link which suggests they may do this until they turn into 2nd instar http://abugblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/bug-babies-leave-their-siblings.html which may take a week or more).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Odynerus spinipes

This female Odynerus spinipes wasp was busily provisioning her nest today at Sandy Smith NR. Like most species of solitary wasps this one has a very narrow view of what it considers suitable food for its young, in this case, weevil larvae. The nest cavities are inside the soil behind the vertical face on the left but this genus (Odynerus) builds an elaborate curved chimney over the entrance hole but we aren't sure why as other genera manage perfectly well without one. There must be some advantage to justify the expenditure of time and energy required to make it.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Speckled Wood life-cycle

A butterfly fluttering around its larval foodplant is always worth watching to see if it is a female looking to lay eggs. At Mowsbury Hill LNR on 26th April a female Speckled Wood (with larger light patches than males) was hopping from plant to plant at ground level. After she moved off one patch of grass I looked for an egg and it was easy to find on a blade of grass. It appeared to the eye rather whiter than it appears in this photo. About the size of a grain of salt it's amazing to think this was manufactured inside a butterfly and will itself become a butterfly in a few months, the second of probably three broods this year.

On 5th May this was the newly-hatched 1st instar larva, about 3mm long:

On 7th May it is now a 2nd instar larva and about 1mm longer:

Having now travelled to Dorest and back with me(!) it has surprised me by pupating overnight (23rd-24th May). The caterpillar seemed much too small and the pupa is tiny, only 12mm from end to end! I have my fears that it may have been infected by something - time will tell. Here's the newly formed pupa with two white features of "something" inside.

Much to my surprise the pupa seems to have progressed normally and is nearly ready to emerge (3rd June):

And the final product, released at Mowsbury Hill (3rd June) within a few metres of where the egg was laid 38 days earlier. I'm astonished that a normal-sized speckled wood could emerge from a pupa that seemed about the right size for a small heath, and that it could transform from a caterpillar to a butterfly in only 11 days. I'm glad that I still find some things wonderful!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Moleskin and beyond

Some other sightings on Sundon Hills and Sharpenhoe Clappers:

A female Common Blue waiting for a large cloud to clear:

A fragrant orchid always looks better with an insect on it, in this case a Sphaerophoria(?) hoverfly:

What I always think of as a "mint moth", Pyrausta aurata:

A cluster of emperor moth caterpillars on bramble:

White heleborine underneath beech:

Grapholita pallifrontana - 2

I did go to Sundon Hills today to look for Grapholita pallifrontana and was successful this time, finding this one on the path along the foot of Moleskin. I suspect this will be confirmed to be a new 10km square for the species.

But to make a liar of me this one actually was sitting on wild liquorice rather than alongside it:

Saturday, 31 May 2014


I found a small patch of Adder's-tongue at Mowsbury Hill today, a plant that I'd never seen there before, though there are previous records.

Grapholita pallifrontana

Now is the time to be looking for the rare micro moth Grapholita pallifrontana, which is a UK BAP Priority Species. Here's one of three that I found today at Mowsbury Hill LNR. They sit on top of foliage, usually alongside, rather than on, wild liquorice its larval food plant throughout much of the day so are fairly easy to spot once you get your eye in. They do a wonderful gyratory dance when they notice your presence.

I checked most of the known liquorice sites two years ago and found the moth at all but one. That was Sundon Hills, where there is much liquorice along the foot of the scarp westwards from Moleskin. I'd be surprised if the moth isn't there. Worth looking if you are in the area. Records to David Manning of course if you find it.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Broad-bodied Chaser

A female Broad-bodied Chaser at Sandy Smith NR, one of two hunting in the proto-woodland.

Sandy Smith NR

At Sandy Smith NR the Bee Orchids are just coming into flower:

What appears to be some sort of "Thrift" on steroids - much larger than normal sea pinks. A garden escape?

An Aquilegia, another a garden escape?

Large Skipper

Large Skipper is now flying in Bedfordshire, here seen at Sandy Smith NR:

Common Twayblade

Graham's favourite (Common Twayblade) at Old Warden Tunnel.

Crab Spider

This sawfly should keep this crab spider going for a few days. (Old Warden Tunnel).

Honey Bee swarm aftermath

The Honey Bee swarm at Old Warden Tunnel has moved on, but the makings of a honey comb remain on the branch where it rested. They didn't move to the split ash as there is no sign of them there.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Priory Country Park

A quick evening visit to Priory Country Park following the rain was reasonably productive:

A male scorpion fly (only the male has the "scorpion" tail). It is possible to determine the species by looking at this tail, but I didn't try on this occasion.

A fresh Mother Shipton day-flying moth, unwilling to pose where there wasn't a grass-stem shadow playing across it :-(

A lot of beetle grubs (Dock Beetle?) turning a dock into a skeleton.

An arty shot of a Small Tortoiseshell caterpillar feeding on nettle, one of many seen in one patch.

A roosting mayfly trying for a second day as an adult(?)

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Mowsbury Hill LNR

I've often thought that Mowsbury Hill LNR would be a suitable place for Grizzled Skippers as there is a lot of the larval foodplant creeping cinquefoil there, and the structure is nice in places. Today I saw a fresh-looking one east of the driving range, the first record for the site. Let's hope it leads to the species establishing there.

Old Warden Tunnel

On Saturday it was great to find four Dingy Skippers at Old Warden Tunnel where they had first been seen last year, but there were fears that grazing by sheep may have eaten off the eggs they had laid. Here's a couple seen this year intent on creating more:

There was also a Honey Bee swarm in an apple tree in the cutting which I bravely approached in order to bring you some video:

Purbeck, Dorset

I know how boring holiday snaps can be, so here's just a few highlights from a four night trip to the Purbeck area of Dorset last week. With so many National Nature Reserves in that area there's little need to wander far once there. In the order encountered...

Female (top) and male (bottom) Wall Browns. A rare sight in Beds now but Walls were the most commonly encountered butterflies during the week. Just as difficult to closely approach as ever.

Early Spider Orchids, mostly gone over. This is a very localised species in Britain and Purbeck is one of its hot spots, here on its south coast.

Early Purple Orchid(?), maybe. Unlike in Bedfordshire where these are woodland species these were encountered in open grassland in Durlston NNR which makes me worried about my ID?!

As you know I rarely notice birds, but there were so many Stonechats around that I couldn't really ignore them, not that I'm really equipped to photograph them.

Possibly the Burnet Rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia) flowering within a couple of inches of the ground requiring muddy knees to smell, the scent subtle but delightful. Durlston NNR.

A female Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) at the RSPB reserve at Arne, one of Britain's largest spiders.

The Heath Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sylvatica) in the dunes at Studland. The only one I saw so lucky to get this close. I met an entomologist who said they'd only just emerged that week.

There are quite a lot of wood ants on the heathlands which I'm presuming to be Formica rufa(?) here devouring an unfortunate caterpillar.

A rather splendid Field Maple on the path from Studland village to Old Harry Rocks (a very pleasant walk).

Sundew at Great Ovens Hill heathland which boasts all six native reptile species, none of which was seen! I didn't know it at the time but there are several sundew species, this one, of which there were many hundreds, I suspect to be the Oblong-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia)?

And this may be another one, Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) which was also present and I only photographed because I thought it looked 'different'.

Finally, a mystery! Along the same wet path on the edge of the heathland as the sundews was a large patch of "this". Any suggestions what this is please...?