Friday, 31 December 2010

Free downloadable ebook

I've put a link on the front page on my invertebrate site to a free ebook I've made on the characteristics of the various invertebrate phyla.

This is the first ebook I've made, and if it is a success I'll do more.

I've recently acquired a Kindle, so have been exploring the possibilities of the medium.

Now I'm off to prepare myself and house for Hogmany - the most important time of the year.

Lang may all your lums reek!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Harvestman with a mite on its back

Just added this image to the harvestmen page. I couldn't tell if this mite was a predator or just using the harvestman as transport. The harvestman wouldn't stay still long enough for me to try to knock the mite off, so I just put it back after I'd photographed it.

Ragged ringlet

Added this very ragged ringlet to the Satyridae page. Just shows how effective the eye spots are at deflecting attention of predators away from the body.

Black-tipped soldier beetle

Uploaded this beetle to the Cantharidae page. It is also known as the bloodsucker, but I've never heard of it biting anyone let alone sucking blood. I wonder how it got this name.

I took this photograph on a lovely sunny afternoon, and this morning I walked past the same spot. What a difference! It is below zero and under snow, but it is still beautiful. The snow makes it easy to see the roe deer tracks and all the other tracks too. The deer - I think - have been digging away the snow to get at the moss and lichen underneath. And on the golf course the moles are still active even in this weather. They burrow between the snow and grass and leave a groove cutting through the grass exposing the soil beneath. The poor greenkeeper must really hate them

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Old Bombus pascuorum worker foraging

Just uploaded this photograph of an old worker to the Pascuorum page. I can see that she is fairly old by the wear to the edges of her wings. I took it at the edge of the woods near a broken down old dry stone wall, and beyond that there was a grain field. This is a very typical pasuorum habitat.

Of all the six common bumblebees I believe this one is hardest hit by modern farming as it often nests in tussocky grass at the edges of fields. If the farmer cuts early for silage he will destroy the nests that have just become established. Cutting later will also do damage, but with luck a well populated nest can be repaired.

Huge icicles hanging outside my windows today, and no chance of getting the car out - not that I want to go anywhere. Luckily our gutters are still there even though we have icicles down the insides of them as well as the outside. My neighbour's gutters have come down. There must be a better way of doing the guttering so that it doesn't impede the snow sliding off the roof.

However it is not all bad. The snow prevents me from gardening, but I do curl up on the sofa with the dog and read. Last night I finished E M Delafield's The provincial lady in America. Hilarious like all the others

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sawfly in clover

Just uploaded this to the sawfly page. Another reminder on this freezing cold day that we once had warm weather. For a couple of weeks the clover in the fields were full of these adult sawflies. They moved around very lazily, and did not seem to care when I moved grass blades out of the way. It was warm so the lazy movement wasn't because they were cold.

Bombus hortorum photographs

The photograph above shows a hortorum worker in the typicla pose they take up when they are feeling threatened. In this case it was probably my camera strap waving around as I tried to get this photograph. She went back to feeding as soon as I backed off. The close up of the madibles below are of the same hortorum worker. It shows their sculpturing.
The photograph below is another of the same worker. I like this one because the light has managed to catch and show all 3 ocelli clearly.

It seems strange to be writing about these photographs taken on a sunny summer day when I am now sitting in front of a log stove and contemplating putting on my thermal gear to take my dog out for a walk in the snow which must be at least 50 cm deep in places. But today is also a beautiful sunny day, although it will start to get dark around 3 pm, and it is just above freezing. Never mind a brisk walk around the woods for an hour will give me an appetite for warm spiced bread in front of the fire when I come back.

Bombus lucorum mating

The photograph below was sent in by Nurturing Nature, and shows a male and queen Bombus lucorum mating.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Bumblebee nest box plans

I've succumbed and made a page of very simple plans for nest boxes using flowerpots and other stuff. It is so sad that people spend a fortune on commercial nest boxes, that often have unsuitable or no nesting materials, then site them in the wrong place and get so disappointed. Even if they do everything right their chances of success are only 25% at best. And this is why I've tried to keep away from this subject. There is no house hunter more picky than a nest searching queen. Her des. res. is dingy tunnel leading to an abandoned mouse/vole nest complete with nesting materials as well as poo and smell of urine. Not a beautifully crafted pine box stinking of glue and pine resin stuck on the end of a pole.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bombus hortorum photgraphs

These three photographs were taken in July, and I have just now got round to processing them. The one above was taken in the woods by a path. The path is near the edge of the woods, and this patch of scabious is nearly always full of bumblebees, hoverflies moths and butterflies.
The photographs above and below were taken in the garden. I planted a lot of lavender in the garden as I love the smell and it is so good for bumblebees, moths and other insects. In the past week I've been trimming the lavender, and even then it is a pleasure as when you cut it you are rewarded by the lovely smell. A couple of days ago I was turning the compost bins - not a job I enjoy - but the recently cut lavender stems still smelled so nice. I have one more bin to do. We have 3 bins in all, and it is amazing how quickly they fill up.

In the photograph below the worker is foraging on Viper's bugloss. I didn't plant this flower. It just grew, and I let it grow to see what it was. Well, it was wonderful. I cannot recall a time when it did not have a bumblebee on it. Hortorum and pascuorum used it most, but little pratorum workers managed to squeeze into the flower too. So it is perfect for the longer tongued bumblebees. I am hoping it will self-seed for next year.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Six-spot Burnet moth, Zygaena filipendulae

Just made a new page for the Zygaenidae. I found this six-spot one morning after a day and a night of heavy rain. It was soaked and could hardly move. I took it inside and after an hour or two it seemed to recover, so I took this photograph and let it go onto some lavender. I planted some birdsfoot trefoil (the caterpillar's foodplant) last year, so I hope to have more burnets next year, though I haven't seen any eggs or caterpillars so far.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Molanna angustata, Adult caddis fly

Just added this caddis fly to the Molannidae section of the caddis fly pages.
The weather has turned mild and the woods were full of flying insects today. Mainly flies, but a few moths. There are still hoverflies in the garden, but no bees of any kind. Queen wasps have taken to the log sheds to hibernate. I keep uncovering them as I bring in logs to burn. They just lie, uncovered on the underside of a log, looking like they are dead.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

10 spot ladybird

I found this little 10 spot crawling over one of my tomato plants on a sunny July morning, so quickly grabbed my camera and took this photograph. By tapping the leaf I managed to get it to stop moving long enough to get this shot. Then I left it to get on with things. This year I had 3 different species of ladybird in the garden, but none in any great numbers, and never nearly enough to eat my huge number of aphids. Last year there were very few ladybirds. Perhaps next year there will be more.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Bombus sylvestris, the Forest cuckoo bumblebee

Found this cuckoo bee at the side of the road that runs along the wood last month.

Bombus lucorum male

I found this male dead in the garden. Apart from the tip of one of his antennae he looked undamaged, so I have no idea how he died. Anyway the photograph show the far greater amount of yellow hairs on the males.

Female scorpion fly

I've just added this image of a female scorpion fly crawling over my hand to the Scorpion fly page. I caught her in July. I had been trying for days to get a good photograph, but couldn't. They are quite nervous insects, and as soon as they detected me would fall into the vegetation - usually a whin bush - and I could never find them. So this one I caught in my net and took home. Then I got her to walk over my hand. She seemed remarkably docile. Perhaps it was the bright light, as they are usually in shade or dappled shade. Anyway, I put her back in the afternoon and was determined to get a male to photograph his tail, but try as I might I couldn't find one. There were plenty of females, but no males, though I'd seen some the previous week. All through August I tried to get a male, but couldn't. So perhaps the males are only around for a short time in June and early July.
I'll try again next summer.
We have had our first snow today, so there will be few live insects to be photographed from now on. I'll just have to make do with by backlog of photographs and the dead ones I've been collecting to photograph during my walks with the dog. I have a little box of corpses on my desk (goodness knows what my cleaning lady thinks), many of which I need to identify. Most of them I find at the side of the road, so I assume they've been hit by a passing car. Some are not even dead, and when I get home I find they are very much alive. These I quickly photograph and let go once they can move properly. Others I find floating in puddles. I found a queen ant one morning in the dog's water bowl in the garden. I thought I could detect some movement, so I put her on a tissue and left her for a day, but she was dead.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Araniella curcubitina

I took this photograph way back in July. The spider was on bracken and was busy wrapping up a small fly when this butterfly blundered into the web. It was touch and go for a while whether the butterfly would manage to escape, but as it fluttered its wings became stuck to the web, then the spider moved in and began wrapping it up. Although the spider has a red patch just above its spinnarets it is incredibly difficult to see unless it moves. As its fat, round body suggests it is in the orb-web family of spiders.

Eristalis tenax, drone fly, rat-tailed maggot

Well, we are back from our hols in Japan. Tired and fatter. Japanese food is sooooo delicious.
Added this image of a Drone fly to the Hoverfly page. There seem to be 2 spellings for its Latin name, but I have chosen Eristalis tenax as this one seems to be the most common.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Vapourer moth caterpillar

I've just added this moth, the Vapourer to the website pages, Lymantriidae. These are commonly known as the tussocks, and looking at this caterpillar it is easy to see why.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The shieldbug Picromerus bidens

This boring looking bug eats poisonous caterpillars and other nasties that the birds can't manage, so I love having it in my garden. It is quite hard to see on twigs, which is where I usually see it. then I move it to my brassicas to eat the cabbage white caterpillars.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Strangalia quadrifasciata

This is beautiful beeltle is Strangalia quadrifasciata. For a couple of weeks in August you could see quite a few of them feeding on cow parsley and ground elder in sunny spots, then they were gone. While they were feeding they were quite docile and very easy to pick up, but quick to fly if your shadow passed over them. I took this one home to photograph for my Cerambycidae page before taking it back in the afternoon

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bombus hortorum worker warming up

I photographed this Bombus hortorum worker warming up on a stone in my rockery a few weeks ago. The rockery is south facing, so catches any sun there is. This year the stones have been covered in bees, hoverflies and butterflies, all trying to get a little warmth in this miserable summer. Today all that are left are some very ragged Bombus pascuorum workers and males, and hoverflies. It has been a very bad year for most bumblebee species in my garden, but a very good year for Bombus hortorum. Perhaps that is because the queens emerged later and missed the early good weather that was followed by deep snow.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Grey Dagger, Acronicta psi caterpillar

Just added this image of a Grey Dagger caterpillar to the Noctuid moth page. I stood on this little caterpillar as I walked across the lawn, luckily I did not kill it, and put it on a blackcurrant where it started to feed. I have no idea what it was doing on the grass as there were none of its foodplants nearby.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Snout

This moth is called the Snout, what a wonderful name. I'd seen it a few times, but had never been able to get a photograph until it landed on some grass, as it usually retreated deep into a bed of nettles.

Bird predation of bumblebees

Just added this image to the predation page. I found this lucorum queen way back in May. She was just lying on the pavement, her whole abdominal contents neatly removed. Since then I've seen a few more like this. It seems that some species of tits have learned to rub the sting off and dig out the contents. It must make fairly tasty eating if she has a full honeystomach.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

2 spot ladybird

I've seen far more ladybirds in the past couple of weeks than I have the whole summer, and I think it was the same last summer. This one was on my tomato plants, but there are no aphids there yet, so I took her off, photographed her and put her on my peppers where there are plenty of aphids, worse luck.

We have a sponsor!

Flowers by post in Jersey have agreed to sponsor the bumblebee web site for a year, perhaps this will lead to a few more suitable sponsorships, as before the the only offers I had were from pest control companies. I could do with a new computer, and I'm trying to have the courage to break away from Microsoft and go for a Linux operating system. However my stepson swears by his Mac, so I am not sure.

Adult stonefly in the Nemouridae family

Added this image to the stonefly page. I was trying to show the "double ladder" down the wings. Not easy when it kept moving. But when it stopped to clean its antennae I managed this.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Bombus pratorum worker warming up

Added this image of a pratorum worker warming up on a bit of bare ground in my rockery. It was a cool day with cloud and some sunshine, but a cold wind from the north, so the south-facing dark ground was considerable warmer than the surroundings. Note how she has flattened her body to the soil.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Soldier and sailor beetles

Last month I photographed both of these beetles. The Grey sailor beetles was scrabbling around in a buttercup flower, and probably eating the pollen, and is a sun lover.
The Yellow-tipped malthine is the opposite. It prefers shady locations, and I only spotted it because of the yellow tips to its wings.

Now both are on the Cantharidae page.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Adult stonefly

Over this summer I've seen many stoneflies, even some in the garden. Before I'd olny seen the little needle flies in the garden, but this year I'm seeing the bigger species too. This one I found in the woods though, there were loads of them. It was hard to get it to stay still long enough to take this, and you can just make out the "double ladder". I've added it to the Plecoptera page.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Bumblebees and hedgehogs

I've had a few emails about hedgehogs breaking into bumblebee nests recently. All nests have been above ground, and only one was destroyed completely. From the hedgehog's point of view a bumblebee nest in the open must be a very tempting morsel with juicy grubs, and honey and pollen to follow. I imagine it is impossible for a bumblebee to sting a rolled up hedgehog, but I should think a hedgehog snout would be a very easy target. This year I've seen far more hedgehogs than I usually see, and this is after one of the severest winters this generation. Perhaps there is a shortage of other, easier to get at foods, or perhaps people are more vigilant where bumblebees are concerned. Hard to tell. Also hard to tell people that have watched the progress of "their" bumblebees for months that the destruction is "natural". So hedgehogs have been added to the predator page.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Tegenaria atrica

Found this mature female Tegenaria atrica while emptying my compost bin last month. I do not know how I didn't squash her. Anyway I certainly ruined her web, so I took her photograph and added it to the Aglenidae page then put her in my cold frame where I could do with her help.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Ringlet butterfly

Added this image of a ringlet to the Satyridae page. There are still a few flying around, but they are now looking very tattered.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Dark arches

Just got round to adding the dark arches I found in my greenhouse one June morning to a new Noctuidae page . It has been such a busy summer - I don't know when I'll catch up!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Sawfly saw

Just added this image of a sawfly saw to the sawfly and wood wasp page. The woods and fields are full of saw flies today, all the same species. They just sit lazily on the heads of flowers.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Grey dagger, Acronica psi

Just added this to my Noctuidae page. Got up at 4 am in the morning with the dog to find this on the wall of the house about a month ago. Being me I rushed in to get the camera and took this photograph, and all without my glasses!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Male bumblebee hind leg

Added this photograph to the leg page to show the difference between a male and female bumblebee hind leg - the male has no pollen basket. It is sometimes the easist way to spot a male.
Saw my first male of the year 2 weeks ago, a pratorum male as usual.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Ramshorn snail eggs

Added this photograph of some ramshorn snail eggs to the Freshwater snails page

Monday, 26 July 2010

Ghost swift moth

Been falling behind with adding my images to the web site as I'm just taking too many. Added these 3 today of the Ghost swift moth, Ghost moth, Swift moth - seen all 3 of these common names quoted! Earlier in the year my garden was full of these cocoons, so I took one in to hatch it out, and then once I'd done that I identified it, and realised that I'd photographed the caterpillar earlier in the year.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Carrion/burying beetle

Just added this photograph of Oiceoptoma throracica to the carrion/burying beetle page. I had never seen this beetle alive before, and unfortunately the one I found was dying.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Common white wave

The woods seemed to be filled with this little moth a few mornings ago, it is called the Common white wave, and it certainly was common. I never knew just how pretty it was until I took this photograph though. Perhaps I'll pay more attention to the smaller moths now.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Click beetle larva

Added photographs of click beetle larva to Click beetle page. Unfortunately my garden is full of them.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Pine weevil

Added the Pine weevil to the weevil page. This weevil has lovely yellow hair-like scales on its wing cases.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Bombus impatiens page

Created a new page for one of the most common north American bumblebees, Bombus impatiens. All of the photographs on this page have been sent in by visitors to the site. Including this lovely photograph of a worker licking up honeydew.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Bumblebee eyes

Info on bumblebee eyes and the wavelength they can see is on this page

Monday, 21 June 2010

Chiton anatomy

Just added this drawing of chiton anatomy to one of the mollusc pages.