Archive of posts with the category 'Insects'

Signs of spring?

We’ve had a few days of warm weather and the garden is bursting in to life. One of my favourite sights at this time of year are crocuses. I love the fact that these early flowers give a splash of colour and provide nectar to the first insects to appear after winter. I also saw another early butterfly, following on from the Red Admiral I saw in January, I saw a Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)... Read on

First butterfly of 2010

I saw my first butterfly of the year today; one of those moments an entomologist looks forward to every year. It was a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), a species that overwinters as an adult. I think the warm weather brought out this individual a bit earlier than usual. Hopefully this is a positive sign that we’ll have a good year for butterflies. Read on

Another new butterfly in the garden

Whilst clearing up some of the vegetable beds this afternoon I noticed a butterfly species new to the garden. I saw a single Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) feeding on the flowers of the Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) growing in the margins of the pond. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a photo of the butterfly but I did take one of the Fleabane flowers: Common Fleabane flowers Read on

Summer work and summer chafers

I’ve now started work on the raised beds and steps closest to the house. I’m planning to build the beds out of fence posts and deck boards. We’re also going to clad our “feature sleeper steps” (estate agent speak) since they ooze tar when it’s warm weather and so we can’t sit on them. We could just buy pressure treated ones but it seems a shame to get rid of these ones so cladding with... Read on

Harlequin pupae

We’ve had the Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) present in or garden for some time. this year I’ve seen even more adults than last year and we’ve lots of pupae in the garden: Pupae of the Harlequin ladybird Read on

D,E,F – Damselfly, Eft and flowers

Whilst working on stage 2 of the testudarium today I had plenty of time to look out for interesting things in the garden. The first things I spotted was the first damselfly of the year. This is a Large Red damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), it was probably a female and had only recently emerged from the pond as it was rather reluctant to fly (which meant photographing it wasn’t too tricky): Whilst clearing a bit of... Read on

First Rose chafer of the year

I was doing a bit of weeding today and unearthed a Rose chafer (Cetonia aurata). Our garden attracts quite a few Rose chafers each year and we often have the grubs in the garden too. I assume this adult had developed in the garden as a grub and then pupated underground before being unearthed prematurely by me. Read on

First newt of 2009

Today I saw my first smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris) of 2009 in the pond. In factIi saw at least three separate newts. This is earlier than the first sighting last year. I also saw several water measurers (Hydrometra stagnorum) around the pond margins. Unfortunately we’ve not got any frog spawn in the pond this year (yet). I was hoping that the lack of spawn was due to the cold weather during February and the frogs... Read on

Late green manuring… again

We had some good weather this weekend so I took the opportunity to put another coat of paint on the back of the house and also tidy up the veg plot a bit. I dug up the shrivelled remains of the beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn… all have been a disaster this year. I’m not sure if it was just the weather (a bit cold and very wet) but we’ve had very little out of the... Read on

The harlequin arrives!

I knew it was coming but it doesn’t make its arrival any less welcome. Yes, the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) has finally arrived in my garden. I thought I saw one individual last year but wasn’t 100% sure. This year there’s sadly no doubt: The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) - succinea variant The harlequin ladybird arrived in Britain in 2004 and has been spreading rapidly ever since. The ladybird out competes with our native ladybirds... Read on

Emperor's visit

Whilst having lunch next to the pond we noticed this fantastic Emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator). The dragonfly was next to its nymphal exuviae so had obviously climbed out of our pond. Emperor dragonfly drying its wings having emerged from the nymphal skin I also noticed this horse-fly (Tabanus sp.). The larvae of horse-flies live in damp soil so I suspect this one could’ve originated from the mud surrounding the pond. Adult horse-fly We’re also now... Read on

A good year for water measurers?

When we first built the pond in 2005 one of the early visitors was a water measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum). I assumed it came in on a plant but could easily have flown to the pond. Over the last two years I’ve only seen one or two a year. They run across the surface film and feed on mosquito larvae which they spear from above with their mouthparts. However, over the Bank Holiday weekend I saw... Read on

A new butterfly in the garden

I’m always pleased when we get a new butterfly species visit the garden. I was especially pleased to see this individual. It’s a Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) and although it’s quite common it’s a very welcome visitor to our garden. Apologies for the poor photo but it insisted in feeding at the top of our Rowan tree and this was the best I could manage. Read on

First damselfly and dragonfly of the year

The weather has been quite warm this weekend (residents in the UK will note that this is unusual) and this has encouraged some of the damselfly and dragonfly nymphs in the pond to emerge and make their final moults. This was the first damselfly we spotted this year. It’s hard to tell what species it is until they’ve had a chance to develop their adult colours but I almost positive it’s a large red damselfly... Read on

Rose chafer larvae

Beetle grubs may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m always amazed by them. I was emptying out one of the large plastic flower pots in the garden and found ten large larvae of the rose chafer (Cetonia aurata). We often get a few adults of this large and attractive beetle in the garden each year. They are particularly fond of the blossom on the rowan tree. I moved all the larvae to a... Read on

Bugs, green manure, seeds and bluebells

It was a warm day today and it obviously brought out some of the early spring insects. There were many solitary bees buzzing around our daffodils. They looked like mining bees to me so I suspect they’ll be looking for bare patches of earth to dig burrows in too. I also spotted this adult green shield bug (Palomena prasina) crawling along the branches of my loganberry: Having now received my veg seeds for 2008 I... Read on

First butterfly of the year

Today I saw the first butterfly of the year in the garden, it was a Small white (Pieris rapae). The butterfly was flying round the agricultural mustard that I planted as green manure on the vegetable plots. The agricultural mustard has also started to flower, apparently you’re supposed to cut it down before it flowers but the flowers are great for bees and butterflies that are out and about in spring. Read on

Has spring sprung?

An exciting day in the garden today. We’ve now got five crocuses in bloom (four yellow and one purple) and they’re really cheering up our view of the garden. Also, for the first time, I saw a robin (Erithacus rubecula) in our garden. I’m a huge fan of robins as they don’t seem that bothered by people, eat loads of slugs and they have a fantastic song. Seeing one in our garden for the first... Read on

More birds in the garden

I cleaned out the bird’s peanut feeder this weekend and also replenished the seed feeders. We still don’t have a vast number of birds visiting the garden but the numbers are increasing. Regular visitors now include wood pigeons (Columba palumbus), collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto) a male blackbird (Turdus merula) and most recently we’ve been visited by a wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). Apparently wrens are the commonest breeding bird in the UK but due to their size... Read on

Caterpillar update 5

All is not well with the large white caterpillars (Pieris brassicae). A large number of the caterpillars did not pupate and seemed lethargic. The reason for this lethargy is now clear. Many of the caterpillars have been parasitised by the Braconid Wasp (Cotesia glomerata L.). The pupae of these wasps are now breaking out of the bodies of the caterpillars – all of which are still alive. There are roughly 20-30 parasites within each host... Read on

Too wet, even for pond skaters

The weather has been awful this weekend and it seems that the torrential rain was even too much for the group of pond skaters (Gerris lacustris) that live in the water butt. Here they are sheltering on a leaf that’s blown into the water butt and is floating on the surface. I must admit, I thought that pond skaters left the water in winter and hibernated well away from it. These individuals are adults (they... Read on

Caterpillar update 4

It’s been a pretty awful weekend in terms of the weather. We’ve had really heavy rain, gale-force winds and even hail. However, it’s been a good weekend for the large white caterpillars (Pieris brassicae). Many of the large caterpillars have left the food plant and are obviously looking for a place to pupate. I spotted this one climbing up the side of the greenhouse. Looking round the greenhouse and the nearby fence I found a... Read on

Caterpillar update 3

The larger of the large white caterpillars are still feeding well despite the cold weather we’ve had over the last week or so. Unfortunately some of the smaller ones definitely didn’t survive the sharp frost. Interestingly enough many of the dead caterpillars are still clinging to the cabbage despite being killed by the frost being several days ago: However, amongst the large white caterpillars I did spot this unusual caterpillar. This is the caterpillar of... Read on

Caterpillar update 2

This morning’s hard frost may have been beautiful but I don’t think it was great for the large white caterpillars (Pieris brassicae). I think the large caterpillars should be OK despite them looking pretty cold: However, I think the frost may have been too much for the less developed individuals. I’ll keep and eye on them and report on progress but they don’t seem to have done as well as the others. Read on

Caterpillar update

A few days ago I mentioned a very late brood of large white caterpillars feeding on my cabbage. The caterpillars appear to be doing OK despite the cold weather so I’ve taken a picture of their progress. There is still quite a range of sizes but some are late instars now and should be able to pupate before the weather gets really cold. Read on


I’m taking a day off from the greenhouse build today, mainly because I need some help with the next steps as they can’t be done by just one person (and V is at work). Anyway, I had a wander round the garden as it’s really sunny and quite warm for October. Despite sowing my green manure late, the plants seem to be coming up well. If it stays reasonably warm for a bit longer then... Read on

Oxford Bee Company nest in use

I’ve had an Oxford Bee Company mason bee nest in the garden for a couple of years now. This year it’s been used for the first time though. Strangely enough it’s been used by leaf cutting bees (Megachile sp.) rather than the mason bees though: The leaf cutting bees and mason bees still prefer the bamboo canes in the other insect nest habitat I have though. Read on

Newts and bugs

Despite the cold weather there are still a few cold-bloodied creatures that are active in the garden. Whilst tidying up around the edge of the pond today I found a young smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris). I’m not sure if they’re called Efts after they’ve left the pond but this newt was only 3cm long so will definitely have been one of this year’s brood. I’ve also been noticing a few other young newts remaining within... Read on

Grey dagger moth caterpillar

Today I found this fantastic Grey dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta psi) on the small-leaved lime tree in the garden. These caterpillars eat leaves on many different trees and shrubs including birch, hawthorn and lime (two of which we have in the garden). Grey dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta psi) Read on

Speckled wood

Over the last few weeks we’ve been getting a few different species of butterfly in the garden. We’ve had an orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines), a few small whites (Pieris rapae) and today, for the first time, we had a speckled wood (Pararge aegeria tircis). A photograph of a female orange tip butterfly in the garden on the 28th April 2007: Read on