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Friday, 26 September 2014

Autumn's here

At some point this last week we slipped into autumn. I'd assumed it was around the 21st but in fact the equinox was the 23rd this year. But it wasn't until this week that I was staring out of the window and realising that it was in fact looking quite autumnal out there, and felt even more so when I noticed the conkers dropping. I still pick up conkers and marvel at their tactile feel, even if it's been many a decade since I played a game of conkers! Anyway, this post is not at all about autumn colour or anything like that, but just a round up of the last week or so and the interesting things I have found.

I'm still watering my dry garden, although thankfully plants are not drying out quite so quickly now the weather has cooled, although certain veggies have no idea it's time to slow down; so long as they get sunshine they will just carry on growing!

Courgettes still think it's mid summer and the Aubergines which took a while to get going
have produced more fruit than I had expected! That's their pretty flowers top right.

Below are the two best of a bad bunch. I used my dslr and macro lens for this Buffalo Treehopper and managed to stuff up the focussing of every single shot. Grrrr! And it's the first time I've ever seen a Treehopper. This one is on a physalis stem and from what little I know about them, they are an introduced species from N. America and can be a pest on fruit trees. I've searched the physalis in vain since then but haven't found one again.

Buffalo Treehopper (Stictocephala bisonia) on a Physalis stem.

And then I came across my old friend, the Ornate Shield Bug on one of my purple curly kale plants. She'd been feeding on the leaves but that wasn't what I first noticed, it was the eggs she'd laid. I have to assume she's a she because she's the only one around. When the eggs hatch I am going to transfer the entire family to my nasturtiums because I really don't want my precious kale damaged!

Ornate Shield Bug (Eurydema ornata) with damage to her ? corium ?.
I'm not au fait with true bug anatomy!

In the collage below of the eggs, I did wonder about those two white ones, but the next day they'd toned down to a paler grey. However they haven't changed to black like the others so that's a mystery so far. I'm watching them every day to see what happens.

Ornate Shield Bug (Eurydema ornata) and eggs on curly kale leaf.

And..... I finally saw a not common round here Common Blue this year! A tatty old female flitting low over my lawn (yes that's my tatty old dried out lawn) and yes I did get shots of the underside of the wings to check the spots for ID purposes. None of the shots are much good for sharing, but I have much better photos from previous years so it doesn't matter.

A tatty looking female Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
and Wall Browns (Lasiommata megera).

Unknown solitary bees buzzing around and going in and out of holes on the sandy bank beside the pond.

The next buggy is one of my favourite critters - I'm pretty sure it's a Chestnut Weevil although there are some similar ones which bore into other nuts, all from the Curculio genus. They use that amazing snout which is called a 'rostrum' to bore holes in the developing nut in order to lay their eggs inside. This is what the larvae eat until they leave the nut in the autumn and spend the rest of their time as larvae in the soil, emerging as adults in late summer to repeat the cycle all over again.

Chestnut Weevil (Curculio elephas).

Chestnut Weevil (Curculio elephas). This one is a female, as she has a longer rostrum than the male.

Here's one of the larva of the Chestnut Weevil which I found perfectly formed but boiled to death!
I avoid cooking any chestnuts with obvious holes, but there are many which are damaged
that you just don't know about until you peel them.

There have been a fair few dragonflies around this month, many of them in the last ten days or so, but apart from one Blue-tailed Damselfly the only other species I have seen is this Spreadwing.

Western Willow Spreadwings (Chalcolestes viridis), not quite in the mating wheel
but either thinking about it, or after the deed.

It was exciting to find two new species of dragonfly that either I hadn't seen before, or hadn't seen here. I had seen a female Ruddy Darter elsewhere this year but the male is a handsome beast. 

A male Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum).

A female Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) who let me get close to her,
but still wouldn't come on my finger!

I was really pleased to discover this Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) dragonfly.

This week we have finally had the cooler weather suitable for sowing grass seed, so we've worked on prepping half the mound left by the septic tank works. Half was enough work but that's mainly because that's all that a whole roll of chicken wire covers (and we are not coughing up for another roll as they are expensive). Some grass had already grown in this space so I went along chopping it back and removing weeds whilst my OH raked lightly and removed buckets worth of stones yet again. Then he sowed the seed, raked lightly again and we relaid the strips of chicken wire to keep the cats off (and hens!) and then I lightly trod it all down. And finally, watering with a light spray so as not to disturb the seed. Twice a day. 

And then I let the chickens out because I knew it was safe from their scratching. However I had forgotten about the seed on the surface until I saw them pecking at it! I'll have to keep them in their run until the grass germinates now but hopefully that won't be long, and once we have a swathe of green we can move the chicken wire and work on the other half.

Oh, and the Law of Sod dictates that, even though we have not seen a mole or vole in this main area of lawn for many a year, of course one has discovered the mound....... just as we've sown seed! Aaaaarggggh!!!

Marleen looking for yummy grass seed!

And now I will catch up with everyone's blogs. I've been in reading mode on my Kindle recently and spent less time on my computer. It was nice for a change. :-)


  1. Wonderfully written and illustrated, as always! Love the tree hopper and his name! It does look just like a little buffalo:-)

    Thanks for sharing your garden adventures!

    1. Thanks very much Marianne! The treehopper is an amazing critter and we only have a few native ones in Europe so I'm pleased this one of 'yours' resides over here these days! :-)

  2. So many lovely things in this post I don't know where to start. I'll have to open it in another window so I can read it again while commenting!
    The Buffalo Treehopper is marvellous- never seen one of those so I can understand your excitement. I love the Ornate Shield Bug too- could those white eggs possibly belong to flutters? Hard to see from the pic whether they were different to Miss Shield Bug's babies-in-waiting. Hooray for the common blue and I'm envious of your wall brown as I haven't seen one of those this year. And as for that little weevil- I love them too, their bodies look just like little brown nuts :o)

    1. Thank you CT. Do you want a laugh? I saw the Treehopper again yesterday - but it was in a position that was difficult to get a photo and I was shading it from the sun - so I put my finger out for one mad moment thinking I'd get it on my finger for a photo shoot like I often do with bugs.... only for it to hop off into oblivion. Duh! It's not called a hopper for nothing. :-)))

      Those eggs are part of the shield bug's eggs as they are all attached to each other, but still a grey/white colour compared to the others. It's odd. I have no idea when they will hatch but I've looked every day for 3 days now so will keep you posted! I see Wall Browns from time to time but suddenly there are quite a few of them around (or one is around all over the place). Lots more sunshine forecast so cross fingers on the flutterby front. :-)

  3. Great photos as usual.
    I don't have chestnuts but do have walnuts and we have had larvese in a lot of them this year, looking very like the one you have there. Must try a photo for ID, but it won't be as good as your's!
    You have inspired me to get out bug hunting again...when the rain stops.

    1. Hi Debrazzaman and thanks! I haven't found any grubs in walnuts, thankfully! My hubby brought me a handful of walnuts from the orchard yesterday - hadn't even occured to me that some might be dropping already. I still can't get my head around it being autumn..... :-)
      We could do with some of your rain here but not the amount you had that I saw on your blog - that was something else!!

  4. Great photos Mandy, have never seen a Buffalo Treehopper, aren't they stunning little things so cute as is the Chestnut Weevil , still have not seen its mate the Dock Weevil..have been looking too.. The eggs of the Ornate Shield Bug area great find... lots of great finds in this post :)
    Amanda xx

    1. Thanks Amanda - was really pleased with the B. Treehopper and keep looking on the physalis for more of them! You'll find your Dock bug soon, I'm sure (or at least next year). Nearly all the ones I see are on my raspberries or blackberries so maybe look for them in bramble patches where there is still fruit? Worth a try. :-)

  5. Love the old Plymouth Rock Mandy, a colourful favourite.

    1. Gosh I had to look that up, Roy - thought it was a local name of one of my bugs! ;-)

      She's a North Holland Blue but they look identical to the Plymouth Rocks, don't they?! Cheers Roy. :-)

    2. Just testing Mandy.
      No seriously I can't tell the difference, but had not heard of North Holland Blue.

    3. hehehehe! I don't normally go for 'breeds' and at the markets here they don't often have much choice, but sometimes I want something different from the standard red layers!

  6. A bit slow getting around to commenting this time Mandy and so most of the things already said here I agree with. The Tree-hopper is great-don't THINK we get the green ones here-pretty sure there are only two species but might be wrong about that. Very green over that ornate shieldbug too! And to have the eggs is even better-well done you on finding and photographing...then sharing with us.

    Those damselflies are very delicate looking and colourful-ours seem to be long gone now, at least I haven't seen any lately.

    Nice to see the wall brown too-haven't seen one all year, seen lots of walls, but no wall browns ;-)

    You should keep trying with the dragonflies. I found one fairly late in the day and so it was quite docile and did manage to have it land on my hand ;-)

    Finally...that Marleen's a good lookin' bird isn't she ;-) Is that an alternative spelling by the way?

    1. Hi JJ and don't worry - no obligation to comment at all you know! I know life gets in the way..... :-) Anyway thanks for commenting!

      Maybe this Treehopper doesn't occur in the UK? I know there are only 2 native species in Europe and this one which is an import. I did see it again and I don't know if you read my replies to other comments but I tried to move it to somewhere where I could get a better pic but of course (duh!) it hopped off, never to be seen again. I got to see that damselfly again the other day and got closer photos but haven't had a chance to sort through them yet. I will keep trying with the dragonflies and damselflies because an American FB friend keeps posting photos of them perching on her fingers which I am very envious of.

      My last 4 hens I've named after facebook friends (be afraid.... be very afraid ;-) ) so as she is a Dutch bird I named her after one of my Dutch friends - and it's pronounced Marlane. :-)