Hummingbird hawk-moths

I’ve grown fond of a pair of hummingbird hawk-moths that make twilight trysts to our garden. They’re quite a sight, as their wings beat (vibrate) at such a rate that they are almost invisible… if that’s not a contradiction! In fact, the only way I was able to see what they actually look like was to take a photo.

Hummingbird hawk-moth on Laurentia 'Indigo Stars'

Hummingbird hawk-moth on Laurentia ‘Indigo Stars’

One managed to fly into my kitchen – pretty scary as it darted around at speed knocking into surfaces – and then it disappeared, only to re-emerge three days later, flying slow enough for me to catch it and release it outside. Though it was interesting to see the moth up close, I didn’t take any more photos. I was just relieved it had survived, and the goal was to set it free.

These moths are always on our Laurentia ‘Indigo Stars’ plant – and I’ve read that they prefer flowers on the blue/purple colour spectrum. Why, I wonder? The hummingbird hawk-moths I see are probably always the same ones, as this website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Macroglossum_stellatarum) says that they return to the same flowerbeds at the same time of day because they have a good memory. They emigrate from southern Europe and North Africa to the UK, and use their long proboscis (seen curled up in the picture above) to eat nectar from plants such as buddleia and honeysuckle while hovering in mid-air. Allegedly they are sometimes mistaken for actual hummingbirds, but I really don’t see how, unless there are larger ones out there…

Dock bugs

I’m amazed by how much you can notice in a small garden when you’re looking for it. Today I discovered that we have at least four dock bugs living on and around our sorrel, which is no surprise as it’s one of their favourite foods. And I believe sorrel is of the same plant family as dock – presumably, the dock bugs’ love of these plants has led to their name. Seeing four leads me to believe that there are even more of them lurking beneath the leaves, which is fine by me.

Dock bugs on a dead leaf

Dock bugs on a dead leaf

Coreus marginatus (dock bug) nymph on a chive head

Coreus marginatus (dock bug) nymph on a chive head

These bugs (above) aren’t fully developed – they’re ‘late instar nymphs’ of the coreus marginatus (dock bug) apparently.  All those I saw today are this sort of age – not sure precisely how old this makes them. I’ve read that they let out a nasty smell when feeling threatened. Thankfully, they didn’t seem to be…

I also saw the corizus hyoscyami once again on the same plant, and this is the latest incarnation of the nymph:

Corizus hyoscyami 'final instar' nymph

Corizus hyoscyami ‘final instar’ nymph

Vapourer moth caterpillar

Vapourer moth caterpillar

Vapourer moth caterpillar

A friend asked me to post one of their insect images on here – and as the insect in question is this striking caterpillar, how could I refuse? Its markings and tufts look haphazard, and make it seem equally beautiful and sinister. I believe it’s probably the caterpillar of a Vapourer moth, otherwise known as the Rusty Tussock moth (Orgyia antiqua). Found between May and September in the UK, these caterpillars especially like to feed on deciduous trees and shrubs. Despite its scary-looking tufts and tubercules, I don’t think this is one of the poisonous Tussock moth species. I wouldn’t try to find out, though! Does anyone know whether it’s poisonous, or if its hairs are an irritant?

One day on…

…and the unidentified creature (see yesterday’s blogpost) has morphed into this:

nymph of corizus hyoscyami

nymph of corizus hyoscyami

undersidechnymph

I think it’s the same bug, anyway. Its new guise leads me to believe that it’s the nymph of the corizus hyoscyami – you can see the adult version of this in yesterday’s blogpost. This makes sense, as the adult is always lingering near it.

Corizus hyoscyami is from the Rhopalidae family of scentless plant bugs, and feeds on plants. The young nymphs appear in August/September, which tallies with when I spotted this one. The bug has a year-long lifespan, and is mainly seen from April to October on sand dunes and in gardens. Apparently it smells of cinnamon and the Dutch call it the Cinnamon Bug, but I didn’t notice any smell!

For similar bugs, check out this link: http://www.britishbugs.org.uk/gallery/heteroptera/Rhopalidae/rhopalidae.html

Coastal bug inland

I love finding unusual bugs, especially when they’re in our garden, as it means our tiny yet crammed patch is appealing to wildlife. I just wish I knew what all our flowers are, as it would make identifying insects a lot easier.

Corizus hyoscyami

Corizus hyoscyami

Underside

This bug, corizus hyoscyami, seems to have got lost. I’m sure I’ve identified it correctly, and apparently it’s usually found in sandy areas and near the coast. However, we live almost next to the spot that’s named the centre of England, far from the sea.

Not sure what the plant is that it’s on, but it’s attracted quite a few insects, including this one:

What is it?

What is it?

I’d love to know what that is, if anyone has any ideas? I tried to get a decent photo of it for 20 minutes or more, but it seemed to know when I was pointing the lens at it and kept hiding.

Meanwhile, I tried to take a photo of an unusual wasp-type creature that flew past, but it was too quick. I’m almost certain it was a horntail (giant wood wasp – basically a big sawfly), because of its distinctive shape and colouring. Never seen one before. It’s another unexpected find, as I wouldn’t say we lived anywhere near a pine forest.

Garden spiderlings

European garden spider, Araneus diadematus

European garden spider, Araneus diadematus

A portrait of young insects seemed appropriate for my first blogpost, so here are some spiderlings of the European garden spider (Araneus diadematus), also known as the Cross spider and Diadem spider. Common to the UK, these creatures weave the classic orb web of popular imagery and when they lay their eggs, stay with them for the rest of their life – dying in the autumn before the eggs eventually hatch in spring.

It’s apparently rare to be bitten by this type of spider, and its bite is harmless to humans, but if the male of the species doesn’t approach the female with caution, it could become her lunch!