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Sunday, 21 December 2014

December insects and fungi

Even in December there are still a few insects about. A bit of sunshine and even when it's cold there will no doubt be a few flies and other creatures about, and after three years of bug hunting I know the best places to look to find a few insects during the winter months on a sunny day. This hoverfly I found one morning in earlyish December and it seemed rather chilled (as was I), so it allowed me the chance to take many photos of it, as it was too cold to fly off!

Hoverfly (or Drone Fly?) with another teeny fly sitting 'chilling out' (ho ho) on a Calendula.

It may be an Eristalis species but I can't spot any markings on the abdomen so not sure.

And another view - nice to have one sitting fairly still for a change!

Another common bug I can usually find in the depths of winter is the Firebug, of which there are tons in the garden. These photos are all taken near the base of a lime tree (Tilia, not the citrus fruit), one of their favoured spots as they eat lime seeds. They will huddle together in amongst the lichen on the tree, and in the grass at the base of the trunk, and come out when there is a bit of warmth to sun themselves.

Family group of Firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus) near the base of the tree, where there was
a long clump of grass for shelter (that's what the bits of strawlike grass are which
I couldn't remove for fear of disturbing them).

A little fly came along for a moment. I don't/can't do this kind of fly ID!

Showing how they mass together in amongst the lichen - presumably they keep warm like this.

If you are spider phobic then quickly scroll past the next two photos!

Somebody with very long legs left some of them behind after a moult in the ivy.

Even after a -2c frost, there were still a few Wolf Spiders sunning themselves on the wall of the
duck shed! Not the greatest of photos but I prefer to post the ones of now rather than
cheat with better pics taken during the warmer months.

Not very in focus but I found this large slug about 5 foot up on
my Silver Birch tree; and it was moving quite quickly too!

It's been several years since I saw a bubble blower so had a good watch of this fly
sucking the goo back up then blowing the bubbles back out again. Non bug lovers find this
sort of thing gross but I think it's really fascinating and great fun to watch!

I've come across clear bubbles as well as coffee coloured bubbles like this.
There is much speculation as to why they do this - and it's not just flies either.
I've seen (and got an image of) a harvestman blowing a bubble too.

Now on to the fungi. I don't find the most exciting or pretty of fungi at home but these next three photos are of something which I'm told is a kind of Coral Fungus, which I've never noticed before. Loads of it came up in an area where several pine trees are growing. I have no idea of what any of the other kinds of fungi are but if anyone knows, I am happy to be enlightened. Bugs are much easier to ID. :-)

Coral Fungus just starting to appear in amongst the leaf litter.

It starts off like this with tall spiky bits.

Then bushes out and now you can see why it's called Coral Fungus!

And this I have absolutely no idea - it's on an ivy covered fallen rotting apple tree. Any ideas?

Little fungi growing out of a tree stump.

Another kind of fungi growing from another tree stump, and top right was a large white 'shroom
growing under a conifer amongst the needles.

This was the most handsome fungi I found, but I'm stumped by the strange red thing ??
(bottom right) which was growing right near it. It's near the base of a long ago chopped down
Thuya tree (the one that's covered in ivy and ivy flowers which I featured recently).

I haven't been getting out very often with my camera, not only due to health reasons but also because this time of year the weather is often pretty miserable. I am trying to have some walks around the garden and get a bit of fresh air and exercise though, even if I don't take a camera with me. I've only got one more zap to go (out of 28!) tomorrow evening and then I guess I can collapse in a heap. Oh hang on, I've been doing that for weeks now..... well at least I won't have to get up nearly every day to go to the bloody hospital!!

I've been told the radiation burns (nasty and I'm not grossing anyone out with the details) will probably last about 3 more weeks but won't get any worse.... but I never thought to ask how long before the effects of the chemo leave my body. Having seen the results of my weekly blood tests I'm surprised I can even stand! I guess it's something I can google though. It would be nice to get some energy back and do a few little jobs outside before my op which will be around February. I still need to prune my currant bushes - I really don't need to have twice as much fruit next year and this year's is still in the freezer!

I intend to get another short post in before Xmas, so not wishing you happy anythings just yet. :-)


  1. Fantastic bug photos, Mandy! And you got some SLIME MOLD! That's what that white stuff is. If you catch some when it's first forming, it has little legs! I think you might have seen molds move before but if not, check this out:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us :-)

    1. Thanks so much Marianne - now at long last I've seen a slime mould! Checked it out this morning and it's still there but now just a black powdery mouldy thing. I guess it had already done its moving around by the time I found it on the leaf! :-)

  2. Great close up shots, especially the yellow flower. It's such a lovely vibrant colour for this time of the year. I wouldn't want to see the spiders any closer though, not with all their eyes and fangs! :-)
    I'm glad you're almost there with your treatment. I hope you start to feel better soon.xx

    1. I usually warn people when I do a spider only post, Deb! But sometimes sneak in the odd one or two here and there.... these are very small spiders so you are lucky I didn't get any details. :-) Thanks very much. xx

  3. Thank goodness you've only got one more zap to go - you've been through the mill ... Lovely photos as always. xx

    1. Thanks very much Sandra and have a great Crimbo! And yes, I'm so looking forward to the end - thankfully they phoned and brought forward my ridiculously late 8.50pm appt to 7.15pm. Woohoo!

  4. Hi Mandy, like the bubble blowing fly shots, looks good on the blue patina wood - I think that's estate agent speak for flaky paint :-D.

    Good you are now just one more treatment to go, and hope your energy is back soon.

    1. Hi Ian and thanks! The wood is actually the blue colour that shows in one of the spider shots - think it was a combination of sun and flash that made it look so washed out in the other pics. It's the front wall of the duck shed and I painted it blue about 9 1/2 years ago so it's pretty weathered now..... but looks good as background to various bugs. :-)

  5. Stunning photos yet again. It is an interesting time of the year, thrilling when you find something. I didn't realise firebugs ate lime seeds, that explains why there are so many at the lane end of the garden. I must go and inspect the Russian's lime tree next time we have a sunny day.

    I'm glad your treatment is coming to an end, what a relief that must be. I wish you some sunny days so that you can get your camera out into the garden and that will hopefully lift your spirits.

    1. Hi Debrazzaman - Firebugs also eat Mallow seeds but I find many here all congregating around the lime trees as we have 5 trees. Maybe they make a hidden larder of seeds but I've not come across that yet. Bit of mixed cloud and sun forecast from Xmas Day onwards so hopefully I'll get a chance to get out with camera. Thanks very much! xx

  6. I read that bit about the slug too fast and then I thought there's no way Mandy has a 5 ft slug in her garden lol Fabulous macros as usual and I had never heard off a fly blowing a bubble before :) Good news about the zapping coming soon to an end.

    1. God forbid, I wouldn't have any plants left if I had a slug that size! Thanks very much Rosie. I've posted some bubble blowers on G+ in the past but that was quite a few years back now. :-)

  7. Hi Mandy, here's hoping you start to get your strength back soon and well enough to enjoy Christmas.
    I just love the bubble blower fly, not heard of this fly before, great photos.
    I will take this chance to wish you and your family Happy Christmas and look forward to seeing your posts in the new year.
    Amanda xx

    1. Hi and thanks Amanda! I think a lot of 'ordinary' flies do this. I couldn't be bothered to try to google and find the link which explained all the theories as to why they do this!!
      Thanks for your Xmas wishes and I'll be over to your blog to wish you the same as I had a quick look this morning but didn't get a chance to say anything. xx