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Thursday, 8 May 2014

Brightly coloured bugs and a far from Dingy Skipper

I discovered a new Shield Bug on my Purple Sprouting Broccoli recently. They were already mating and seem to have appeared overnight as I'm in there cutting the stems for the chickens most days (we have had enough of the darn stuff). There are now about a dozen of them and they are Ornate Shield Bugs which guess what, like to munch on brassicas. Well these PSBs are coming out very soon to make way for tomatoes and courgettes so I'll have to try to find them a home somewhere!

Ornate Shield Bug (Eurydema ornata) mating and munching on Purple Sprouting Broccoli.

Ornate Shield Bug (Eurydema ornata) on the broccoli head.
They are very shiny and hard to photograph even when it's cloudy!

A very shiny photo but which clearly shows the damage they are causing to the leaves.
Not a problem on this particular plant as we don't eat the leaves, but you wouldn't want them on your cabbage.

Graphosoma lineatum - the Striped Shield Bug.
Normally seen on Dill and Fennel but here it's posing on Golden Oregano nearby.

Another commonly seen red and black bug in spring is this Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata).

I've shown this caterpillar before but this one was big and I found it munching on my Festuca Glauca, in a spot where it was difficult to get a photo. As soon as you go near these caterpillars though they curl up into a ball! It must be their defensive mechanism; I guess showing their bright colours side on like this makes them look more scary looking to predators?

Drinker Moth caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria).

And now some that are not colourful themselves, but they were on brightly coloured flowers.......

A Honey Bee on a Dandelion.

I don't often see jumping spiders on leaves; they are much easier to spot on compost bins and
the duck shed wall. Here's one on Golden Oregano. The pale pedipalps indicate that it is a sub-adult.

Very common at the moment is the Heineken Hoverfly (Rhingia campestris).
It has a little friend in the picture.

Normally I'd have binned a photo like this but this is the only one where I have
the Hairy-footed Flower Bee's (Anthophora plumipes) actual hairy foot on display!
Also I think it's quite funny, like it went splat on the flower!

Several times I saw this very handsome looking bee amongst my kale flowers and finally got some captures so I could look it up. I was happy to discover that it is Melecta albifrons, the Cuckoo Bee of the Hairy-footed Flower Bee.  Cuckoo bees are so named because just like the cuckoo bird which lays its eggs in other birds' nests, so do these bees. They leave all the hard work of gathering pollen and making a burrow to lay their eggs in to Anthophora plumipes! Their larva will hatch out and eat the stored pollen intended for Anthophora plumipes, pupate and then emerge from the nest the following spring.  Some Cuckoo Bees will also eat the larva of the host species but I haven't found any specific reference to this regarding Melecta albifrons. One would assume that even if they don't, the larva of the host would die due to having nothing to eat.

More info about Cuckoo Bee behaviour:

Melecta albifrons, the Cuckoo Bee of the Hairy-footed Flower Bee.

Melecta albifrons.

A small fly having a wash on a Forget Me Not.

I found this beetle on a watering can and persuaded it onto my hand.
It is Rhagium bifasciatum, the Two-banded Longhorn Beetle.

My most exciting find this last week was a lifer! A new butterfly to add to my list. This is a Dingy Skipper and I found it in a woodland clearing (not at home). It's got beautiful markings on its wings and there's nothing dingy about it!

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages).

OK not a bug but it's colourful! Another out of the kitchen window shots.
Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).

And finally..... I found some eggs on my Bronze Fennel. I was really hoping they might be Swallowtail butterfly eggs..... and they are! So here goes with Swallowtail Raising Year 3 - this time right from the egg stage. Might I even see a butterfly actually eclose this time? If you haven't followed my blog for long then you will have missed all the action from previous years found on my 6 part (so far) series entitled "Raising Swallowtails".

Egg of Old World Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon) on Bronze Fennel.


  1. Aren't you exaggerating showing us two pics of your hands, Mandy? :-))) Yes, I'm on to you, it's a kind of selfie blog here! Although I'm stunned to see this bug's life at the Moorhen domain! That jumping spider is soo cute. Had to look away from those pyjama bugs, got up at 04.30hrs, so there was a risk of falling asleep;-)
    Enjoyed it, Mandy and good luck with the Swallowtails!

    1. Thank you Jan! I only showed my hand in the last photo because the SX50 couldn't focus on the egg! I do like taking pics of bugs on me. :-) Plenty of bug life here now and I like your new name Pyjama Bug!
      Didn't you follow my instructions to look at the previous post with the baby moorhens? Shame on you! You only have to click 'Older Post' at the bottom of this post, it's not hard..... :-)

  2. Wow what a great set of bugs , especially the shield bugs. It would be worth growing veg to see some of these insects. Your photos are good for I.D very clear, some of the books I have the photos are bad.

    1. Thanks Amanda! I do have to battle some of the 'bad bugs' on my veggies though as I want them to eat myself! I have an insect book which is brilliant for teaching me about different insect families and pretty good for ID for some things, but for bees and damselflies I really need good photos from all angles, also the difference between male and female. But they can't fit all that in one book or it would be an enormous great big thing! :-)

  3. Fantastic captures, Mandy! Very enjoyable read :-)

    1. Thanks very much Marianne! Glad you liked it. :-)

  4. These make me want to buy an SX50. Great set Mandy.
    The bugs are so colourful and obviously hungry for veg. I reckon that's why you grow them really. :-)

    I'm still trying to chose a new lens that will get me reasonable macros. Don't want a specialist lens, but one that will double for portraits too.

    Pleased to see you slipped the mistletoe shot into the set.

    1. Nooooooo don't buy an SX50, Nick. As a general purpose camera it sucks. I'm really unhappy with it for regular photos like landscapes, flowers etc as it's just so pixelated and lacks any clarity whatsoever. It's strength is the megazoom (but even then it's not sharp). It also is good for butterflies so I would not be without it, because I can zoom in on them and it has good DOF due to sensor size. But there are loads of other cameras even P&S ones which can do reasonable macro.

      Half of these photos are with my dslr, I wonder if you can tell the difference?!!

      I'd suggest a 50mm lens, absolutely fantastic for flowers (and presumably portraits), and you can then buy Kenko extension tubes and get macros - although you'll need a decent flash for the macros. Takes a lot of getting used to though and I still stuff up with tubes - need to be using them all the time I think!

      Oh and one 'mistletoe berry' is turning brown so I think something is imminent.... watch this space! :-)

    2. For some reason I can't zoom in on the blog pictures, so it's not that easy for me to tell the DSLR from the Canon. Which just goes to show that you don't need a fancy camera if the actual image is 3x4 inch on a laptop. I really notice the difference when I organise pictures to be printed or crop images.

      I've been chatting with a local friend who advocates 100mm over a 50mm - for two reasons:

      1 You don't have to be an inch away and scare some things off as you move in.
      2 You don't immediately shade the light from the subject - which means a ring flash thingy is a must.

      Any thoughts?

      The lens I'm looking at has the nearest focus of about 11 inches.

      Keep an eye on that brown mistletoe.

    3. Nick - I didn't know you only looked through a laptop. All pictures look good on a small screen! On a big monitor there is a huge difference. :-) You can't zoom on blog pics but you can click on them to make them full screen, but on a laptop that probably won't make any difference!

      Agree about the lens but I hadn't realised you were thinking of spending that much. I've heard good things about that Tamron lens and I tagged you on G+ on someone's picture because he has just got this lens.

      Not sure what is happening with my eggs as they are all going brown indoors but the ones outside are still yellow. :-/

    4. Laptop screen is 15x8 inches so not tooooo bad. But if I can't zoom then most pictures look reasonable.Got fed up years ago of sitting upstairs in the cool with a desktop. I'd be divorced if I spent half the amount of time I do in another room.

      Don't know much about eggs. Perhaps missing sunlight - too dry (perhaps they need misting occasionally) - or . . . ???

    5. Hmmmm I am that one upstairs in a cool in winter room getting shouted at. ;-)

      I'm less worried about the eggs as some of the outside ones are brown now too and there are far fewer out there, so something must be eating them. Never mind, if nothing happens I'm sure to find some of the caterpillars later on. :-)