Monday, 5 October 2009

Common Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius)

This is the most likely animal to be the adult of those cute yellow larvae that hide under cuckoo-spit froth on plant stems in the spring. There are a number of similar species, but this is by far the most common. There is some variation in colouring, from pale brown to dark, even stripes. This photo shows the sucking mouthparts (like a built in straw) that indicate that it is a true bug. They have powerful legs that allow them to hop into the air for long distances when alarmed.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

22-Spot Ladybird (Psyllobora 22-punctata)

22-Spot Ladybird (Psyllobora 22-punctata), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

This ladybird is probably the most striking of them all. Although cutely tiny (it is sitting on a blade of grass), the yellow colouring is unmissable even from some distance away. A brighter yellow that the 14-spot ladybird, with more and better defined spots.

Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

A foreign invader that is significantly larger than our native species and is currently considered a threat to them due to competition. It can be tricky to identify as the markings vary from this orange/red with black spots to completely black, but the size is a give-away. There have been a few in the garden over the last year or two, but not too many... yet. I still seem to have plenty of native species of all shapes and sizes.

Beetle (Oulema melamopa)

Beetle (Oulema melamopa), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

An attractive small ground beetle, with a black head, red thorax and green/black metallic abdomen/wingcases. I was lucky to spot this one as they are very fast and eager to vanish into the undergrowth.

Flea Beetle (Phyllotreta nemorum)

Flea Beetle (Phyllotreta nemorum), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Flea beetles are much as the name suggests. They are tiny beetles that jump like fleas. They have obviously thickened back legs for jumping. Many are pests of crops like turnips and potatoes, but I've never noticed any problems with the several species in my garden. This one is particularly attractive. Usually they are a uniform black or brown, occasionally with some faint markings, but this species has these lovely clear stripes.

Rosemary Leaf Beetle (Chrysolina americana)

Rosemary Leaf Beetle (Chrysolina americana), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

When I spotted this beetle on some variegated sage, my first thought was how exotic it looked. It is surprisingly large and I love the oil-on-water colouring and lines of dimples. Sadly it flew away (an impressive sight) and I haven't seen another in the garden to date.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Fly (Rhingia campestris)

Fly (Rhingia campestris), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

When I first spotted this fly enjoying Ajuga nectar one spring, I had to give it a double-take. At first I thought it was two flies mating, but on closer inspection I realised that it had this extraordinary and distinctive protrusion in the front of the head. Unmistakable and easy to identify.

Drone Fly

Drone Fly, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

A beautiful example of mimicry. This is a fly, but it looks a lot like a bee to avoid getting eaten. It has no sting. The single pair of wings coupled with haltares (balance organs under each wing not clearly visible in this pic) and the eyes give it away. This is actually one of the hoverflies, and is very acrobatic in ways that bees generally are not.


Fly, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

I am unsure of the species of this nondescript grey, red-eyed fly, but I was thrilled by the photo opportunity presented by its choice of resting place.


Fly, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Not sure in species on this one, but it has a lovely yellow abdomen and deep burgundy-red eyes.

Mating Flies

Mating Flies, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Ah, the cycle of life. I see these tiny flies all the time in the summer, usually sitting right at the tip of blades of grass as this pair are, presumably waiting for a mate. Notice how much smaller the male is than the female.

Greenbottle Fly (Lucillia caesar)

Greenbottle Fly (Lucillia caesar), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Everyone is familiar with greenbottles and bluebottles, your standard summer flies that buzz around the living room windows. What we typically overlook is how beautiful these insects actually are. The metallic green colouring is amazingly in sunlight, and contrasts nicely with the deep red compound eyes.

Speckled Green Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) - Female

Speckled Green Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) - Female, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.
Identification via Chinery / McGavin / Marshall & Haes.

Speckled Green Cricket Nymph (Leptophyes punctatissima)

Speckled Green Cricket Nymph, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.
Identification via Chinery / McGavin / Marshall & Haes.

These crickets are a common sight in my garden from mid-spring. This is an immature individual. This one was drinking from a rain droplet on the leaf.

Speckled Green Cricket Nymph (Leptophyes punctatissima)

Speckled Green Cricket Nymph, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.
Identification via Chinery / McGavin / Marshall & Haes.

When very young these crickets are extremely darkly and densely spotted, but this reduces with each moult until they are primarily green with faint spotting. They are a nightmare to photograph well because as soon as you get close they instinctively turn their back. Sneaky techniques have to be used to make them face the camera, which don't always work :)


Bumblebee, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

This was one of those lucky shots, capturing this lovely bee on approach to a penstemon flower, tongue out ready. They love to tunnel deep into these tubular flowers to reach the nectar and getting covered in pollen as they do.

Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum)

This bee collects fibres from woolly stemmed plants to line its nest.

Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

This very large bee was drying out after some rain. I took advantage of its wooziness to get some smashing photos, and it even crawled onto my hand before flying off.

Honey Bee

Bee, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Harvestman (Leiobunum rotundum)

There are several species of harvestman in the UK. They are often mistaken for a spider (they are related), but there is no 'waist' and they do not produce either silk or venom. Their eight very long legs look ungainly but they can move surprisingly fast through foliage. Those legs are vulnerable, however, and I often see individuals with one or more legs missing, as with this one. I always think they look rather alien when you see them face on, with their eyes close together up on that ridge in the centre of the head.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Garden Orb Spider (Araneus diadematus)

The stuff of nightmares for some, I find this photograph beautiful. You can see close up the amazing architectural structure of the spider, and I especially like the ball joints in the legs. This extremely common spider can reach a body size of 16mm or more. The colouring varies from dark brown to oranges, but there is always a pale cross-shaped mark on the abdomen. It spins the traditional circular web and is usually seen sat in the centre awaiting prey. The eight eyes are arranged as a central group of four, with two pairs further round each side of the head.

Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) Nymph

Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) Nymph, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.
Identification via mountainashe (Ashley Wood) from Wild Things / Chinery / McGavin.

My beloved grasshoppers. I love them. The adult of this species is large (15-25mm) and highly variable in colour from browns, rusty reds or oranges, greys and greens. I get all variations in the garden, but especially the red and browns. It is recognisable by the sharply angled keels on the top of the thorax and the furred underside. This nymph is just starting to develop wings; tiny little flaps on the thorax at the moment.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Beetle (Strangalia maculata)

Wasp Beetle (Strangalia maculata), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

I spotted this guy the year after I created my first log pile, and to my delight this large insect was climbing out of it. Given their larvae live on rotten wood, I'm hoping that means they are breeding in the garden. I've never seen one of these before, and it took me by surprise when it flew across the garden to bask on an ivy leaf. What a wonderful, striking example for my first sighting of any long-horn beetle ever.

Invertebrate Species Found So Far...

This is the list so far of invertebrate species that I have identified in my garden.


  • Orthoptera

  1. Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus)
  2. Speckled Bush Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima)
  • Coleoptera

  1. Thick-Legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis)
  2. Wasp Beetle (Strangalia maculata)
  3. 7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata)
  4. Rove Beetle (Several species)
  5. Flea Beetle (Aphthona flava) and others.
  6. Rosemary Leaf Beetle (Chrysolina americana)
  7. Beetle (Pterostichus cupreus)
  8. Pollen Beetle (Meligethes aeneus)
  9. Vine Weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus)
  10. Weevil (Anthonomus pomorum)
  11. Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)
  12. Beetle (Lagria hirta)
  • Diptera

  1. Greenbottle Fly (Lucilia caesar)
  2. Common Housefly (Musca domestica)
  3. Fleshfly (Sarcophaga carnaria)
  4. Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)
  5. Spotted Cranefly (Nephrotoma appendiculata)
  6. Cranefly (Tipula oleracea)
  7. Mosquito (Culiseta annulata)
  8. Fly (Sepsis fulgens)
  9. Robber Fly (Several species)
  10. Hoverfly (Melanostoma scalare)
  11. Brindled Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus)
  12. Hoverfly ( Sphaerophoria scripta)
  13. Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)
  14. Pale-Footed Hoverfly (Platycheirus albimanus)
  15. Thick-Legged Hoverfly (Syritta pipiens)
  16. Hoverfly (Scaeva pyrastri)
  17. Hoverfly (Myathropa florae)
  18. Lesser Banded Hoverfly (Syrphus vitripennis)
  19. Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax)
  20. Large Narcissus Fly (Merodon equestris)
  21. Fly (Rhingia campestris)
  22. Chironomid (Chironomus luridus)
  • Heteroptera

  1. Blackfly (Aphis fabae)
  2. Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina)
  3. Common Green Capsid Bug (Lygocoris pabulinus)
  4. Damsel Bug (Himacerus mirmicoides)
  5. Grass Bug (Stenodema laevigata)
  6. Bug (Dicyphus epilobii)
  7. Bug (Capsus ater)
  8. Dock Bug (Corius marginatus)
  9. Ant Damsel Bug (Himacerus apterus)
  10. Ant Mimic Bug (Myrmecoris gracilis)
  11. Flower Bug (Capsodes gothicus)
  12. Common Flower Bug (Anthocoris nemorum)
  13. Leaf Bug (Notostira elongata)
  14. Common Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius)
  15. Jumping Plant Louse (Psyllopsis sp.)
  16. Horned Treehopper (Centrotus cornutus)
  17. Leafhopper (Hauptidia maroccana)
  18. Sage Leafhopper (Eupteryx melissae)
  • Lepitoptera

  1. Scarlet Tiger Moth (Callimorpha dominula)
  2. Plume Moth (Emmelina monodactyla)
  3. Plume Moth (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla)
  4. White Plume Moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla)
  5. Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma luteum)
  6. Large White Butterfly (Pieris brassicae)
  7. Nettle-tap Moth (Anthophila fabriciana)
  8. Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)
  9. Small White Butterfly (Pieris rapae)
  10. Silver Y Moth (Autographa gamma)
  11. Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)
  12. Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)
  13. Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)
  14. Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
  15. Garden Carpet Moth (Xanthoroe fluctuata)
  16. Speckled Wood Butterfly (Pararge aegeria)
  17. Meadow Brown Butterfly (Maniola jurtina)
  18. Moth (Syndemis musculana)
  19. Moth (Pyrausta purpuralis)
  20. Double Striped Pug Moth (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata)
  • Hymenoptera

  1. Rose Sawfly (Arge ochropus)
  2. Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana)
  3. Ichneumon (Ichneumon suspiciosus)
  4. Wool Carder Bee (Anthidium manicatum)
  5. White-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)
  6. Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius)
  7. Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)
  8. Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum)
  9. Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
  10. Mining Bee (Andrena sp.)
  11. Mason Wasp (Ancistrocerus nigricornis)
  12. Black Garden Ant (Lasius niger)
  13. Red Ants (Myrmica rubra)
  • Odonata

  1. Variable Damselfly (Coenagrion pulchellum)
  • Neuroptera
  1. Lacewing (Micromus variegatus)
  2. Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea)

  • Collembola
  1. Springtail (Orchesella villosa)
  2. Globular Springtail (Sminthurus sp.)


  1. Garden Orb Spider (Araneus diadematus)
  2. Wolf Spider (Pardosa lugubris)
  3. Spider (Enoplognatha ovata)
  4. Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus)
  5. Female Crab Spider (Misumena vatia)
  6. Foliage Spider (Clubiona terrestris)
  7. Jumping Spider (Heliophanus cupreus)
  8. Jumping Spider (Heliophanus flavipes)
  9. Green Orb Spider (Araniella curcurbitina)
  10. Harvestman (Leiobunum rotundum)
  11. Harvestman (Odiellus spinosus)
  12. Harvestman (Opilio parietinus)
  13. False Widow Spider (Steatoda grossa)
  14. Daddy-Long-Legs Spider (Pholcus phalangioides)
  15. Red Spider Mite (Tetranychus urticae)
  16. Large Jawed Orb Spider (Tetragnatha montana)
  17. Crab Spider (Xysticus cristatus)
  18. Spider (Araniella cucurbitina)
  19. Spider (Steodata nobilis)
  20. Crab Spider (Philodromus dispar)


  1. Common Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus)
  2. Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)
  3. Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare)


  1. Garden Snail (Helix aspersa)
  2. Snail (Oxychilus cellarius)
  3. Yellow Slug (Limax flavus)
  4. Garden Slug (Arion hortensis)
  5. Amber Snail (Succinea putris)
  6. Netted Slug (Deroceras reticulatum)


  1. Earthworms (Lumbricus terristris)

There are many more, especially flies and a few spiders, that I do not yet have an accurate identification for.

Horned Treehopper (Centrotus cornutus)

I was hugely excited to find this chap. One of only 2 species in the UK, this large (10mm) treehopper is very distinctive. The pronotum is long and curves back over the abdomen, and bears 'horns' on either side. There really is nothing else like it.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Buff Ermine Moth (Spilosoma luteum)

Dense white/cream fur on the thorax with black legs and head make this a distinctive and beautiful moth. The wings are white or cream with a clear line of small spots running diagonally across the forewing, as well as others scattered more randomly. This one was resting for the day on a leaf in a secluded part of the garden, and was woozy enough to be cooperative in the sitting still stakes.

Buff-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)

Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

I found this worker bumblebee still drowsy early one morning, so it was willing to sit still and 'pose' for me. The light wasn't ideal, but I was still delighted with this shot. A large species of bumblebee (Worker: 10-16mm, Queen: 18-20mm) that has deep yellow/orange fur on the 'collar' and 2nd abdominal segment. The tail is usually white in workers and more ginger/buff in the queens.

Flesh-Fly (Sarcophaga carnaria)

A very common but attractive fly, with bright red eyes and large feet. The abdomen is a muted chequered grey and black. They breed, as the name suggests, on the remains of dead animals and are therefore strongly associated with spreading disease. Unusually they do not lay eggs and are in fact viviparous - the female produces live larvae.

Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui)

A large butterfly (wingspan 55-60mm) with striking orange, black and white markings. The underside has equally striking, if less colourful, patterning. It is not resident in the UK due to the cold winter but new individuals arrive from southern Europe in the spring.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina) Nymph

A very common large (12-14mm as adult ) shield bug (Family: Pentatomiae). The nymphs begin almost totally black and each instar becomes progressively more green and shield shaped. Darkens to brown in late autumn before it hibernates.

Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

A very common large (10-15mm) hover-fly with distinctive additional thin black stripes on the 3rd and 4th abdominal segments. The hovering really helps when trying to capture one in flight, although they do tend to dive around a lot. A bit of patience and I managed to get this shot, which I am delighted with.

Long-Bodied Hover-fly (Sphaerophoria scripta)

A long, slim (10-12mm) hover-fly. The abdominal stripes are variable but it always has a horizontal stripe on each side of the thorax. In the male ( as this one is) the abdomen is noticeably longer than the wings, which makes them a distinctive and attractive hover-fly.

Tree Damsel Bug (Himacerus apterus)

A large bug (8-12mm) with good mottled brown camouflage colouration. The wings are usually shorter than the abdomen. It feeds on small insects and mites, typically on deciduous trees. This one made a good attempt at feeding on me. It sat on my hand for a few minutes and then stabbed its mouth parts into my fingertip. I can vouch for how strong and sharp they are! I just had a small red mark for an hour or so and it was a teeny bit tender, but my the evening it was all gone.

Sick of the 'Dumbing Down' of science

Feel the need for a short rant. Sorry. These are a few of my irritations that I need to get off my chest.

'Minibeast'. I hate that word. Its a generic, catch-all that seems to include everything from micro-organisms to mice, depending on who uses it. I was supposed to use it when teaching. I think not. Why can't we at the least teach 'invertebrate' and 'vertebrate', and preferably some basics about the difference between an insect, a spider, a woodlouse, a snail. Clumping them all together is just stupid. We don't talk about 'maxibeasts' and clump fish, birds, mammals etc together. In fact some 'vegetarians' make a clear distinction between fish and other vertebrates.
When I hear documentary programs and textbooks using this word I shudder.

Some specific recent annoyances:

  • The One Show, BBC1. 'Bug Week'. Yet they featured cockroaches, moths, ants.... Why do we have to take the American slang 'bug' to mean all arthropod invertebrates? Its as accurate as, for example, having a 'Butterfly Week' and featuring grasshoppers and beetles. 'Bug' is a taxonomic term meaning an insect with sucking mouthparts, from Order Hemiptera. Wouldn't hurt to use the word 'arthropod', or even 'invertebrate'. No harder to remember.
  • Bang Goes the Theory, BBC1. Frying up some scorpions as a demonstration of how nutritious they are, fine. Calling them insects when you are a biologist is unforgivable.

I don't mean everyone has to learn the latin names for animals and understand all the details. But a bit of accuracy would be nice.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

My New Blog

I've finally got around to creating a blog so that I can share my invertebrate discoveries. I adore sitting on the ground out in my wildlife garden for hours, just watching. The sheer amount of life that visits my garden or calls it home is incredible. Don't get me wrong, I also love the birds and mammals that visit too, I just have a passion for, well, little things.

I'm only going to post my very best or most interesting photographs here. If you want to see more, please visit my Flickr photostream (Link to the right :)