Saturday, 25 June 2016

Six-Legged Centrefolds

I have a soft spot for 'bugs'. I used to collect them as a child, filling jars and tubs with whatever I could find so that I could study them at close quarters. In my twenties I was given a digital camera for Christmas... looking for subjects to photograph I began to capture bugs once again, replacing jars and tubs for ones and zeros.

Though I find all invertebrates fascinating, some are more eye-catching than others. Perhaps they have enigmatic lives or elaborate structures, ornate designs or impressive weaponry. This week I've been out and captured some of my favourites on the patch.

Sexton or burying beetles have a habit of burying small carcases, they have a fantastic sense of smell and are attracted to carrion:

Scorpion flies are so named because of the bulbous terminal sections of their abdomen that the males hold over their back. However, despite their appearance they're completely harmless to humans and are loathe to take live prey; they can often be found removing insects from spiders' webs.

Ruby-tailed wasps are among our most strikingly marked insects, giving them the name of jewel wasps. They're also referred to as cuckoo wasps due tho their habit of entering the nests of solitary bees and laying their eggs in them. The larvae emerge and predate their hosts eggs and grubs.

Before this week, banded demoiselles were the only species of odonata I'd found on the patch this year, so I was pleased to find this male common damselfly...

...and this drab form female common damselfly. The strange light is due to the photograph being taken at the start of a thunderstorm. I suddenly found myself in the middle of a meadow with a 6' carbon-fibre tripod and thunderclouds overhead. Not the safest place to be!

Butterflies-wise, today saw me add three more species to the patch year list: meadow brown, ringlet...

...and this large skipper. 

Amazingly for such a common butterfly, this is a patch first for me. I soon caught up with another. The hay meadows of Richard Fife's farm are maintained organically and as such the wildflower diversity is much greater, giving me confidence that I may catch up with some meadow species I'd given up on, like common blue and small skipper.

I was beginning to make notes of the flowers found here before I was caught out in the storm. Clover does especially well, and the farm is the only place where you can find ox-eye daisy in any numbers (this one is hosting another scorpion fly):

Meadow vetchling is found here and nowhere else (that I've discovered)...

...and the hedgerow roses are a joy to behold. The flowers of these northern dog rose are nearly six inches across!


I've become slightly obsessed with flowers and butterflies (or the lack of) and so popped across to a site I know a few hundred yards outside my patch in Great Langton. Aside from the railway line embankment, which is now monitored endlessly for trespassers, this is the only site I know locally for common blue.

The ground is covered in moss, not grass, which allows plants found nowhere else to flourish. Self-heal is everywhere...

...and eyebright grows in huge swathes...

Purple cranesbill breaks through the margins (here with miniature fly)...

...and there are even local super-rarities, like this Biting Stonecrop. I'm toying with redrawing the boundaries of my patch next year to include less of Thrintoft and more of Great Langton!

PS. The Blogger network does a terrible job of rendering detail and colours in the thumbnails of pictures, so please click to view the image gallery for full res photographs.

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