Introducing the Ant Woodlouse Platyarthrus hoffmannseggii. Growing up to a length of 5 mm (1/4 in), it is blind and spends all of its life underground. It is always nearly found in association with ants within their nests where they have a good relationship. The woodlouse is tolerated and is not under any threat, most likely because it acts as a house keeper for the ants, feeding on their ant droppings hence keeping the nest clean.
A fairly slow-moving woodlouse, and the darkish stripe along the back is the contents of the gut showing through the cuticle. It is widespread across southern Britain, less so and becoming much rarer further north.
Lifting a piece of bark in a garden border, the last thing I expected to find was a delightful Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris).
It remained where it was, frozen to the spot. I hadn’t got my camera, so I gently placed the bark back and went into the house to get my equipment. Thankfully, when I got back and lifted the bark a second time, he was still there.
It is the first time I have seen a Smooth Newt here, in fact, surpisingly, the first time since I was a boy back home in the 1970s., so this was quite an exciting find for me.
I found him at the opposite end of the garden to where my pond is located, but after their spring mating sessions in ponds they live the rest of the year away from water, hiding under rocks and logs in woodland, hedgerows or gardens, venturing out only at night to hunt inveretbrates.
The Smooth Newt is one of three native species to be found in the UK, and it is the commonest and the most frequently encountered of them all.
I really enjoy the autumn sunlight. It is less harsh and more gentle on the eye and the landscape it illuminates. The light was a at the back of these faded Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) fronds when I took the image.
Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis forma spectabilis) – As the land prepares for the winter slumber with October bedding in, the milder weather is keeping some indviduals away from their hibernation. It almost appears like spring has come early, with some spring flowering plants bursting into bloom. The world is so confused in more ways than one.
I have now recorded 999 species on this website, from plants to animals, fungi and even a cyanobacterium. I have stopped short of making this post ‘1000’ as the 999th species convinced me to use it as a marker milestone. Not surprising it happens to be an invertebrate, an arthropod, and an insect at that.
Attactagenus plumbeus is a member of the Curculionidae family which make up the weevils. What is so special about this species apart from its own uniqueness is is scarcity. Data gleamed from the NBN Atlas shows only 96 records between 1990 and 2020, and 151 records in total from 1890. The British nature conservation status is Nationally Notable B (species found in between 31 and 100 hectads – 10 km x 10 km square), making it nationally scarce. There are only 4 records for 2020, and 1 of these is mine. Native to Britain, not surprisingly it is very localised with a few scattered records across England and Wales, except the south-east of England, and is absent from Scotland and Ireland. It feeds on plants from the Fabaceae family, including species of vetch and broom, and is found in fields and meadows where the host plants can be found.
This attractive beetle is from a family called Chrysomelidae the leaf beetles. It is a fairly recent newomer to Britain, introduced in the 1990s and now established in most of England and Wales, and still expanding its range. It is considered a pest of Rosemary, Lavender, Sage, Thyme and similar plants, both the adult and the larva feeding on the foliage. It is the first time I have seen it here, and will have to see if it is a ‘pest’ as such. It is 6.7-8 mm long. The adults can be seen throughout the year, even during winter.
4 images here portaying this millipede. Growing up to a length of 25 mm (1 in), it has rows of dark spots along its sides. It spends part of its life cycle living in leaf litter, and the rest in rotting wood. Feeding on dead plant matter, it helps with recycling to great effect. It is fairly common and widespread throughout Britain, and is found in woodland and gardens. Double-click images to enlarge.
This was quite a pleasant surprise. I have been seeing frogs in the garden all year, and this was my first toad this morning. It was only a young one, but beautifully coloured, perched almost on the edge of one of my planters. Double-click to zoom in closer.
White-lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis) – Storm Francis is battering us here in the UK, and after the rain had stopped and with the sun coming out briefly, I popped outside and came across this little one on the side of my planter. Not everyones favourite, I know, but they have a beauty of their very own in colour and form. You do have to zoom in to see what I mean. I believe this one was eating algae or lichen.
Common Earwig (Forficula auricularia) – The title is not a misspelling, but it is from Old English meaning ‘one that wiggles in your ear’. These slender insects do love to crawl into small dark crevices, so somebody sleeping on the ground may indeed have the unpleasant occasion to have one wiggle in one’s ear, but it is surely a myth that they burrow through the ear drum to lay their eggs in your brain! Those pincers at the rear look rather nasty, but they are mainly used in courtship and defence. Earwigs appear to be virtually wingless, but the hind wings are partly concealed beneath the outer, modified forewings. They in fact rarely fly. They feed on almost anything, from various plant material to aphids and other small insects, and scavenge from dead matter. Best keep your ears plugged when lying on the ground, if you happen to do so.
I always have these in the sheds, and garage, and they will also appear in the house. I leave them be in the sheds beacause they are not hurting anyone there or causing any bother, but in the house they have to go outside. If you do see one of these and get too close to it whilst it is dangling upside down in its web it will vibrate quite madly, a way of confusing and putting off predators. It is non-native to Britain, most likely arriving here in imported goods, but it has now become well-established over the past 30 odd years.
3 in 1 – not an oil, but what looks like a juvenile Isotomurus sp. of springtail on the left, a juvenile Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber) on the right, and an unidentified tiny snail just off centre. All in the space of a about one 3rd of your little pinky nail.
Rhyzobius chrysomeloides – Yes, believe it or not, not al ladybirds are brightly coloured and have spots, some can be quite inconspicuous like this one. It is small, very small, at 2.5-3.5 mm (about 1/8 in) long. It is a fairly recent discovery, first found in Britain as recently as 1996, on a pine tree on a motorway embankment in Surrey. It has been steadily spreading northwards ever since.
Around teatime today around a dozen Goldfinches flocked around my bird feeder, something I have never seen before, as I normally get 2 or 3 of them visit. This young one decided to have a look at my pond and came face-to-stony-face with this fellow. In the end it must have thought all was okay and decided to have a brief swim.
If you check your roses now you might find these gregariously chomping away on the leaves. It is possibly one of 2 species of sawfly Arge pagana or Arge ochropus, and it is hard to tell which in the early instar stage. But if you can find the original egg scar on the stem you will know what species it is for sure. If it has a double row of cells it is Arge pagana, and a single row determines Arge ochropus. From my own past experience, unless you get a whole army of these chomping larvae they won’t seriously damage your rose. Sometimes the birds will grab them for protein.
Wood-carving Leafcutter Bee (Megachile ligniseca) – I adapted an old bird box into a bee hotel about a year ago, and I am quite pleased we are now taking in guests. And I am very pleased to see this species, which is fairly uncommon, with only 2 sightings recorded in South Staffordshire. It typically nests in dead wood, including old fence posts, and sometimes in cavities of man-made items including bee hotels. In the last 2 images one of them shows the final finished stopping of the cavity, where one egg has been planted towards the back, stocked with pollen and nectar for the larva to feed on when it hatches. It will spend winter in there all snug with a full larder. The last image shows crabapple leaves where the female bee has been harvesting the leaves. Look how perfectly she cuts them. Today she was working on a 3rd tube. How busy and industrious is she? And all in 30 degree+ heat!
Simocephalus vetulus – I really needed a microscope to capture this very peculiar freshwater life form, so apologies in advance as this is not as clear as some of my other images, as I was really trying to attempt the impossile with a camera, and handheld to add. But I wanted to show you something you may have not seen before.
This semi-transparent microscopic organism is actually a crustacean, which also includes crabs and lobsters. It feeds by filtering small phytoplankton (microscopic marine algae) species from the surrounding water. It is found in freshwater environments like small ponds, ditches, and canals. It is known as an early colonist of newly constructed ponds, or after disturbances in established water bodies.
I have now photographed and uploaded 500 different species of insect to this site. Try to take in these facts about insects, they are quite astounding to comprehend:
There are more than 200 million insects for every human being living on the planet.
There are between 1 and 10 quintillion (can you imagine that number? I can’t) insects which are surrounding us in almost every environment on Earth.
Insects account for well over half of all of all multicellular species.
Insects come in around a million different variants.
Around 479 million years ago insects appeared on the planet, long before the dinosaurs, and long before us.
Insects developed flight 400 million years ago, which means they had total air dominance for more than 150 million years.
Insects have survived 5 mass extinction events.
So there we have it: The Earth belongs to the insects. And they will be around long after we have gone on our way. So enough text … and now for some photos I have taken of these amazing and most fascinating six-legged creatures:
For those that may be interested you can visit my Insects page ‘here’.
Meconema thalassinum – This is a male with long curved cerci. It is around 12-17 mm (5/8 in) long, excluding the long antennae. It is fully winged, but this cricket is a silent one and has no song. It was attracted to the light of my moth trap and the 2nd I have seen in the past 3 years.
Last night I spotted the moon low on the horizon and noticed how large and red it was. I missed the full moon of August a few days ago, and according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it is sometimes known as the Sturgeon Moon, the name likely given by both colonists and Algonquian-speaking people in northeastern North America, as sturgeon are native to both Europe and the Americas.
Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) – I caught this one intially taking a few sips of water from my birdbath. I was looking through my patio window, and thought to myself I bet I won’t have time to swap over lenses, will I? I had my macro lens on, and I half expected the bird to fly, but it didn’t. So I swapped over the lenses and took a few shots through the glass. My lens is only 300 mm max, so I needed to get closer, which meant opening the patio door. The bird is surely to fly now! I was slow and quiet, and the bird was still there, perched on the edge of the birdbath, apparently taking a nap? I managed to get within a few feet of it before it finally realised I was there and flew to the back fence.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) – In a large field close to the river these birds hide in the tall grasses. I have seen them a few times now, and one can easily pass them by without knowing – unless you stray too near them, and then they take flight on their wide arching wings. This is a juvenile.
Normally you would find these elongate plant bugs in dry grassland, but I had around half a dozen of them around my moth trap the other night in the backyard. They are quite small at around 5-6 mm (1/4 in) long.
I have just uploaded the 200th species of moth to A Nature Journey, and when you consider there are around 2,500 species in Great Britain that is but a drop in the ocean. Anyway, here are selection of moths, some you have seen before, and some perhaps you have not.
If you wish to visit the moths page you can journey from ‘here’
The last day sundown of July was quite something special. From my backyard I cannot see the sun itself set as it slips behind a wooded hill and neighbouring houses. Yet last night the way the lowering sun reflected its dying light off the clouds it was almost like a 360 degree sunset. The sky in the image was taken facing the east.
I am always taken by clouds, and the different types and layers that decorate the sky, and how the changing light interplays with all these elements. Sometimes it is like peering out the window of our world with fresh, clean eyes, making a connection with the cosmos that stirs the emotions perhaps on a primitive level. After all, that window out is the very same window that humankind has been looking through from the dawn of ages. And maybe, just maybe, it is that recognition that we are a part of something much bigger and that sense of ‘feeling’ and connection that trully makes us human and what and who we are.
Dicranopalpus ramosus agg. This one was all stretched out on my shed wall waiting for a snack to land in its lap. It was a crafty devil as it made its place near a light source waiting for night fliers which might be attracted to it. This is not a spider, but a harvesmen, and no, it does not bring in the crops end of season. It has one leg missing, it is a female, and is a fierce hunter which prays on other invertebrates. Note the excessively long, forked pedipalps pointing forwards. You can see them from now until October, resting on low vegetation, walls and fences.
Steatoda nobilis – A first for me, and discovered in my bathroom, and narrowly avoided a toothbrush been hurled at it in the early hours by a startled family member. A distant cousin of the Black Widow, this is the largest of the 3 false widow spiders found in Britain, and the most notorious. This is the only non-native species of Steatoda, which was originally from the Canary Islands and Madeira, and it was first recorded in Torquay, Devon, in 1879. It is believed to have been imported with bananas, and it established a stronghold in the South West, particularly Devon. However in recent years Britain’s warmer climate has meant the spider has survived the winter in larger numbers, and it has been able to breed and spread northwards.
Seen throughout the year, and strongly synanthropic (living closely with human beings) it is most commonly found in and around commercial premises, including conservatories, public toilet blocks, garages and sheds, and in peoples homes.
Over the years the Noble Black Widow has suffered hyped and inaccurate media claims and became notorious as a ‘killer spider’ causing harmful bites to humans. Although it can bite, it is usually in response to a threat, and it would be no different from a bee or wasp sting for the average person. That is not to say that some people may suffer an allergic reaction to a bite, or it may become infected. The false widow is one of only a dozen breeds of spider in Britain with powerful enough jaws and strong enough venom to pierce human skin and cause a reaction. The chance of a spider bite in Britain is very much less than a bee-sting or wasp-sting – or even of a dog bite – and the consequences are generally less severe. To note, no one has ever died of any kind of spider bite in the UK and the number of reported bites from spiders in general is minimal.
So if you do happen to see one on your bathroom floor, place a small plastic pot over it to contain it, slip a piece of cardboard underneath, and kindly evict it to the outside world.
WordPress have recently added a landing page when clicking on an image, so to view enlarged, click back off the landing page, click again, and another click will get you even closer if you are feeling brave today.
To note, after querying this with WordPress and how it may affect photographers and artists, or anybody with an image focused blog, the boffins are looking at ways of adding a zoom when in the landing page area to save on all that finger clicking.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) – This butterfly has been quite a close companion in the garden over the last few days. It never strays far when it takes fight, and appears to have got used to me and hardly moves when I approach it. One of my summer favourites.
Andricus foecundatrix – Another gall which forms on oaks. The asexual generation of the Artichoke Gall Wasp (Andricus foecundatrix) is responsible for causing these galls which grow from Pedunculate Oak (Quercus robur) or Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) leaf buds. Also called the Hop Gall, a single larva develops within the gall to maturity in August, when it falls from the tree for pupation to take place during the winter. In spring the adult wasps emerge to lay eggs in oak catkins, from which the sexual generation will eventually emerge.
Knopper Gall (Andricus quercuscalicis) – These odd growths on the acorn are caused by a tiny wasp called Andricus quercuscalicis. It has quite a complicated lifecyle, so please stay with me. The agamous (asexual) generation develop within the galls on the acorns of various oaks including Pendunculate Oak (Quercus robur) and Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) as larvae. The galls fall from the trees in late summer, and the adult gall wasps will emerge the following spring, although some may remain within the galls for up to four years. Eggs are then laid in Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) buds which result in tiny cone-shaped galls on the male catkins. It is here the sexual generation develop, and when they become adults the cycle repeats itself.
White Water-lily (Nymphaea alba) – Nymphaea is Latin, which comes from a Greek term possibly referring to nymph or nymph-like, of a mythological supernatural spirit of nature, often described as a beautiful maiden associated with water, which would be very befitting for this delicate aquatic plant.
Rubus idaeus – This image just goes to show how you can pass by so much without really noticing things. I discovered Rasberry today, growing wild off a narrow dirt pathway leading but a short few steps to the river. It was almost hidden by brambles and nettles, and shaded under willow, but here we have it. First time seeing it after 27 years of walking around here! Must have had my eyes closed half the time.
Silk Button Gall Wasp (Neuroterus numismalis) – On your travels have a look out for these clustered on the underside of oak leaves. Each gall contains the larva of the wasp. The last image shows what the top of the leaf looks like.
Common Frog (Rana temporaria) – I found this one hiding under a rock near the garden pond. It was smaller than my little fingernail. As you can see it still has its tail, but its limbs are developing, and it can hop a short distance, although a little clumsily. Early days yet.
Yellow Corydalis (Pseudofumaria lutea) – This low-growing plant with its golden yellow flowers is the 100th species to be added to A nature Journey. A non-native species originally from the Alps, I discovered it growing from a local canal bridge. It likes to grow between the degraded mortar in old walls, or between the cracks and paving. Naturally, it grows between limestone rocks.
You are more than welcome to visit my Wild Flowerspage, where you may find all 100 featured species with photographs and text.