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Monday, 7 July 2014

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

These are all insects found in the veg patch during June. I think I have discovered more interesting mini things going on since I have been looking at and picking dill for the Swallowtails as I'm noticing every little speck and checking out what it is.

This first is a definite Good - our ladybirds which disappeared (seemingly to spend spring in the UK!) have reappeared. I first came across some eggs around the end of May on a small wild poppy that I was about to weed out, then the same kind of eggs on a dill leaf just close by. I didn't even know they were ladybird eggs at first; didn't really keep an eye on them and never saw any larvae, until just last week when I discovered a pupa right near where the eggs had been laid. And then I spotted a fully grown Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) on my spinach, still close to this same spot. And then my pupa eclosed.....

Ladybird eggs on dill (top) and poppy (right), and the pupa on the left.

Right place right time! I discovered it just after it had eclosed. These ladybirds are so
completely different when freshly emerged. It had a little walk on my hand then went off to let
its wings dry out for a while (photo bottom left). Oh and the red colour is the poppy
which I never weeded out in the background so rather pleased that I didn't!

Some hours later with dried out wings and the spots now starting
to be visible, making ID possible. The next day it was a bit
more orange and the following day it had gone.

An adult Seven-spot Ladybird. In my excitement to take some photos I didn't notice
it was eating an aphid (top right) which I obviously made it drop, poor thing.

I don't call many insects bad, but this one is. It's pretty but it is a serious agricultural pest. I have never taken a photo of one before because it's one of the few critters that I kill immediately. If you haven't guessed by now, it's a Colorado (Potato) Beetle. I've never had a bad infestation but I do keep my eyes open and look over my spuds every couple of days to check. They also feed on tomatoes and aubergines/eggplants as they are the same family as spuds, but here when I do find them, it's on my potatoes.

Colorado Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) running around on my gardening glove.

I do feel bad calling these True Crickets ugly, but they give me the creeps as they are too much like cockroaches for my liking! I haven't got this close to a living one before as I've usually only seen them dead or semi chewed by a cat. This one was trying to get away from me, I think, as it wouldn't keep still and was cornered up in a path between wall and wood edging.

True Cricket of the family Gryllidae.

And now on to a mix of critters. The following are not doing any real harm here although I'll have to keep an eye on what these bugs are up to when I plant out my winter brassicas! I found these eggs because, again, they were on dill and at first glance slightly resembled a tiny caterpillar so I had to check them out. A bit of research and I found that they were probably Shield/Stink Bug eggs, so I waited.... and sure enough they were. 

Now I can't be 100% sure, but right next to this dill is a load of Ornate Shield Bugs (Eurydema ornata), who seemed to migrate to the young emerging plants of nasturtiums when I took out last year's winter brassicas in the early spring. Nasturtiums are a brassica and often used by us gardeners as a companion plant which attract both blackfly (aphids) and the two Cabbage White butterfly species to lay their eggs on, in an effort to keep them off our crops. You can see from the photos that they have really damaged the nasturtium leaves, and I certainly won't be letting them do that to my kale!

Bottom left are Ornate Shield Bug (Eurydema ornata) nymphs on my nasturtiums
and the rest of the photos are eggs on nearby dill and just eclosed nymphs,
and a few days later one wandering off (bottom right).

Here are a mating pair of Ornate Shield Bugs (Eurydema ornata) and below
some nymphs at various stages of development (called instars).
You can see how sucked of sap that nasturtium leaf is!

Whilst picking blackcurrants I was getting covered in black ants which was a bit annoying, but I was very pleased to see a small Vapourer Moth caterpillar drop out of the bushes! These are one of the Tussock family of moths and are really cool, but I wouldn't want to touch one with those long bristles, so I am glad it didn't actually land on me. It has a little friend too, a young earwig!

Vapourer Moth (Orgyia antiqua) caterpillar and an Earwig nymph looking rather cute at this stage.

Now this is an interesting situation I have been watching over the last few weeks. This is a groundsel plant, a weed that I'd normally hoe off, but it is one of the host plants for the Cinnabar Moth so once I'd seen the moths flitting about the veg patch I had to leave some of these weeds here. Now many more groundsel is springing up and nearly all of them have at least one caterpillar on. Some seem to move off in search of fresh food, but many stay put and this plant below is now almost defoliated, but with dozens of caterpillars still on it. They are cannibalistic when there is not enough food. I have moved a few of them onto other groundsel plants and some onto ragwort which is another one of their host plants, but they curl up when you touch them so are not easy to transfer as they fall off! Can you also spot the brightly coloured bugs on the plant?

Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) supporting two species of insect.

This bug Melanocoryphus albomaculatus also likes feeding on Senecio species;
strangely enough a bug that is more at home around the Med area and is a lover of
hot dry places. Dry it can find in my garden though hot only sometimes!

I'm finding plenty of eggs so not all these Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae) caterpillars are going
to make it to adulthood as there is not enough food to go around.

And here are the adult Cinnabar moths, but .... I found them like this, dead.
They were obviously in the act of mating but what happened I have no idea!

Now these following bugs were found whilst picking raspberries, so technically outside of the veg patch but who cares! They are Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus) nymphs, and I was so happy to find them as I've never seen them before. They are so incredibly cute.

Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus) nymph on raspberry leaf.

More nymphs of Coreus marginatus including a younger nymph which was much darker
and sizewise seemed to be about 50% antennae, bottom left!

And now I'll finish with a few insects from my Pollinator Meadow, although the self seeded Phacelia next to it is actually occupying what will be my leek patch later on.

All kinds of bee love Phacelia but I've never yet figured out why this bumble bee on the right
has black pollen sacs, I've seen this a few times before and they look like big wax balls. ??

Coreopsis lanceolata in the Pollinator Meadow attracting all kinds of insect.
This is a N. American plant but many of the seeds in my original packet of seed
'for pollinators' included N. American species mixed with natives. Our bugs don't seem to mind!

Top left: Rose Chafer Beetle (Cetonia aurata).
Top right: Common Red Soldier Beetle (Rhagonycha fulva).
Bottom: I think the same (unknown) solitary bee, with possibly a female Oedemera nobilis.


  1. That Dock Bug is a pretty awesome fellow :)

    1. It is, isn't it Carl? Yet the adults are not spiky at all - have a look at a pic of one. Just plain brownish. :-)

  2. Well! What a full blog entry this is...such a variety and lots to be envious of! Well done on spotting the tiny dock bug nymphs, I recently saw my first of the year too and those darker ones are tiny aren't they. Love those Eurydema bugs. I usually see plenty but this year, not one as yet! The Melanocoryphus albomaculatus again is not one I have come across, will have to check that out to see if it is to be found anywhere locally.
    The ladybird is special looking so fresh and it's a joy to witness this for the first time. You have got some great picture too btw, are these natural light? All in all, another superb set of images and interesting read. Just have to...feel compelled to add though ;-) Shame on you killing the Colorad beetles! Killing....anything is a sin. And calling those crickets ugly? Tut, tut Mandy! I can see I need to work on you in this area LOL ;-)

    1. Ooops! Colorado is what I meant of course ;-)

    2. Thanks JJ - I know it's long but I can't help finding interesting bugs! And I found those dock bug nymphs just the day after I'd commented on your blog about never having seen any! What a coincidence. :-)

      The Melanocoryphus albomaculatum isn't found in the UK although there is a similar one called Melanocoryphus superbus found in the Channel Islands. Albomaculatum has been moving northwards in recent years from the Med area so is still not common up here in the north. Give it another ten years and they'll have crossed the channel probably!

      I was amazed by the ladybird as I'd never seen that before. As for killing bugs.... if you find a Colorado Beetle in the UK you have to report it to DEFRA. I bet they'd kill them! Some things just have to go - it's them or my spuds. I squidge aphids too. :-p And I love bush crickets, but the other ones are ugly!!!

      As for the photos, yes the only ones I took with flash (indoors) were the dead Cinnabar moths. My SX50 (bridge camera) has more DOF than a dslr so is pretty handy for bugs but you don't get the great details that you get with a dslr and macro lens and flash.... but I can't have that lot out with me in the garden all the time like I do my now very dusty and grubby SX50. ;-)

    3. Well thanks for this lengthy reply Many-I wasn't implying that your update was too long BTW...the longer the better I say! Thanks for that info too-saves me looking it up ;-) Don't even get me started on DEFRA! Yes, they WOULD kill them ;-(

    4. Oh Bu***r! 'Mandy'...what's wrong with me today?

    5. lol I am like that every day so don't worry! :-)
      But just imagine how long this would be if I didn't collage the photos..... I would send everyone to sleep!

  3. Baby things are cute no matter the species it seems :-) Great shots of the ladybird eclosing- never seen that before, only the nymph and the empty case afterwards!

    1. Hi CT and thank you! I just wished I'd seen a ladybird nymph to have the whole lifecycle in my photos above! :-)

  4. Wow....Fantastic blog post! I'm very impressed with your knowledge of all these critters. Although the Dock was definitely the cutest, my favorite pics were of the Lady Beetle. I often see casings left over from newly emerged beetles but have never seen the new beetle. very cool!

    Finally... I really loved the collages. They made for a beautiful presentation and as someone who only participates in Social Media via her phone, it meant less scrolling ;-)

    1. Thanks Marianne! I had way too many photos to not collage them and even so, still loads of photos. But there is just so much going on here if I was to share via facebook or even G+ I would be posting 5 photos a day. I prefer doing it like this to make it more coherent AND it take a lot less time! I loved finding that ladybird/bug, that was such a treat. :-)

  5. A fabulous blog post just oozing with so much info and beautiful macros. My ladybirds became very elusive by the middle of May but I'm so glad that I got to see the life cycle photos here.

    1. Hi Rosie and thanks for visiting - guessing your mentorship might be over? Will be great to see you blogging again! Hope you do find some more ladybirds but not mine, I want them now, it's my turn! ;-)

  6. Great blog Mandy. The death of the Cinnabar Moths is intriguing............

    1. Hi Stephen and thanks very much. I have wondered about those moths, what if one died and the other couldn't free itself..... doesn't bear thinking about!

  7. Wow Mandy were do I start, and post.
    Never new that about the Ladybird, so thanks for the photos, quite like it to stay yellow, looks amazing.
    The True Crickets are creepy, we had Cockroaches in the house as a kid.. hated it..
    Found my first Cinnabar caterpillar at the park to day(Good Tick) and have been looking out also for a Dock bug after seeing one on JJ blog, you are so right they are cute.
    Just shows you how important "weeds" or flowers in the wrong place, are for insects.
    Amanda xx

    1. Thanks Amanda! The ladybird being yellow was a huge suprise to me - love learning these new things. Cockroaches totally freak me out and I wonder sometimes whether I would find them less scary now I am interested in bugs .... and would I want to take a photo of one. Probably not!!
      Glad you found a cinnabar cat and I'm sure you'll find a dock bug soon - they seem to like my raspberries. I haven't looked on dock! :-)

  8. Yes those Crickets are ugly aren't they Mandy, I don't like those Colorado Beetles either.
    You have taken some amazing shots of everything though.

    1. I'm glad you agree Roy! Thanks very much. :-)

    2. Colorado potato beetles can be a real trial, but I can tell you a funny story about them. Many years ago, when I was a summer student working at the Agriculture Canada biocontrol lab at the Experimental Farm, I heard this anecdote. My boss, Dr James Kelleher, told me this one.

      He had decided he wanted to have a look at what insects might parasitize potato beetles locally (Ottawa, Ontario). He had a row of potato plants put in, and gave instructions that no pesticides were to be used. Weeks passed, and no beetles turned up. He was out patrolling his row again one day, and saw one of the workers bent over the plants. He asked what the guy was doing. He promptly got an earful. "Some damn scientist said we're not allowed to use insecticide on these plants, so I've got to remove all the damn beetles by hand!"


    3. Many thanks for your comment, Alison. I enjoyed reading that story! :-)

  9. I think you've crossed the line Mandy. Changing from interested photographer to knowledgeable git :)

    Brilliant set of photos and info (now that I've found a quiet time to get to your blogs - Irene's out and the little stream of visitors has dried up) Going to have to go out with a big magnifying glass.

    1. Noooo I don't want to be a knowledgeable git! I would rather be an interestING (not ED) photographer..... lol. Thanks Nick, and I see you have already been out with your magnifying glass by the pond finding interesting things. :-)