Darting, Buzzing, Jumping and Pouncing, It's all happening out there!
Once upon a
time, there was a woman who was rather scared of 'Creepy Crawlies' and buzzing
whizzing things. She was even more scared of spiders...
Close up, the insect world is incredibly beautiful - each has evolved into a little masterpiece to fit it's place in the natural cascade and has a purpose.
These are one of the larger hoverflies which appear and are fast in flight, but often seen sunning themselves or nectaring on brambles, elder or umbelliferae flower heads (hogweed, wild carrot etc). I began to see these from early June onwards and there are still quite a few about. At first glance they look like a Bee, however they are actually bee mimics and various forms imitate Buff-tailed, White-tailed and Red-tailed bees. Their eggs are laid in wasps' or Bees' nests where there is a colony and the larvae feed mostly on the debris in the nests, acting as little 'Dustbin' bugs although they do sometimes also eat their host's larvae.
Garden Cross Spider (Araneus Diademaus)
June or sometimes late May, I'll have begun to see damselflies emerge - this
year they were few in numbers, however I did see some Common Blue damsels and
whilst out one afternoon I saw this rather handsome male Large Red Damselfly.
These are quite common around slow moving water, which fits with the
little streams and ditches around the perimeter of the fields I walk.
Broad Bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) F
More recently, a few more dragonflies have appeared - Migrant Hawkers around the edges of the field and in the garden, where they dangle in the jasmine and on the far side of where I walk, where there is new tree planting and in the little 'rides' Southern Hawkers can be seen patrolling at speed up and down the clearways between the trees.
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Hawker (Aeshna cyanea)
Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)
One little Bee has long puzzled me though, the tiny little ones which I see feeding in the thistles, common and tufted vetch - there have been an abundance of them this year! In the meadow where I walk, it has been a very good year on the wildflower front, from swathes of tall and short buttercups early on, a beautiful and plentiful display of Spotted and Common Meadow Orchids, Greater and Lesser Stitchwort to a good array of Common Hogweed, tall thistles, huge clumps of Common and Tufted Vetch and all this bordered by banks of Brambles. There has been plenty of choice for nectaring insects.
Funnel Weaver Spider (Agelina labyrinthica)
Part of the
area I walk around is given over to growing cereal crops and throughout the
summer months, suspended around stems of oats or wheat, or amongst the grasses
along the edges of the field, are sheets of spiders web which are formed into a
funnel shape by their resident. These are the Funnel Weaver spiders.
Now that I have realised that spiders are mostly harmless to us ( and these are!) I take some delight in peering down the funnel to see a rather fearsome looking arachnid peering back at me! On some of the larger and more elaborate funnel webs, I have sometimes counted up to half a dozen or so residents in various corners of the construction - the intricacy of which never ceases to amaze me.
Wasp Spider (Agriope bruennichi)
The Wasp Spider's web is quite unique, in that the centre is full of silk zig-zags. There is some speculation as to why, however, one theory is that the silk reflects ultra-violet light, which in turn attracts prey to the web. The main part of their diet is grasshoppers and in the location where I found this Lady, there were certainly no shortage of these or some fairly large crickets.
Cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera)
The males are very territorial and can be quite aggressive. Once they have mated, the females lay their eggs in old wood or bark crevices and the youngsters then do not emerge again for another eighteen months. Next time you are looking at an old log, just imagine how many minibeast youngsters it is home too!
Speckled Bush Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima)
Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)
Sometimes they just seem to be on lookout for a mate or protecting their 'patch' or others, they pause and munch their way through a tasty morsel. There is a bank of brambles that I visit - it is in a sunny spot and enjoyed by many small 'buzzies' which I've then seen a Darter perched eating - an excellent hunting ground! They do lay their eggs in water, as other dragonflies do, however, these can often be seen quite some distance from water, around field margins and woodland rides.
Damselflies and Dragonflies are all most active during the warmer parts of the
day - the little powerhouse they have on their back needs to warm up
properly before they get flying, so sometimes, being perched is a warming
up exercise - I recall a couple of years ago, just after the field had been
harvested and ploughed, on a warm morning, there were a huge number of males
and females all basking on the clumps of soil absorbing the warmth.