Wednesday, 9 June 2010

False Widow Spider (Steodata grossa)

False Widow Spider (Steodata grossa), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

These spiders are large, shiny and long legged, and can look a lot like dark brown versions of the famous Black Widow. They look a bit intimidating and they can bite people (I gather its no worse than a bee sting), but only the very biggest can pierce skin and even then you'd really have to annoy it. They like living in sheltered outdoor places, such as behind stacks of old pots which is where most of mine seem to be.

Springtail (Orchesella villosa)

Springtail (Orchesella villosa), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.
Identification by Frans Janssens.

These are awesome tiny, furry-looking animals which have a little flap under their belly hinged at their rear end, like a tail folded under. They can use this to catapult themselves into the air when alarmed. I can always find them under pots or trailing foliage - anywhere shady, dark and damp.

Speckled Wood Butterfly (Pararge tircis)

Speckled Wood Butterfly (Pararge tircis), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

These butterflies are an uncommon visitor to my garden but a very welcome one. Their simple brown-and-cream colouring is beautiful and understated.

Young Leafhopper

Young Leafhopper, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.
I adore these tiny insects, who are very cute and have awesome antennae. Easy to miss as they sit on blades of grass, they can hop with tremendous force when alarmed.


Bee, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Bees are awesome. This one has clearly been busy as its hind legs are encrusted with yellow pollen. Unlike flies, bees have two pairs of wings, but these can be hard to see. This bee is looking a bit tatty in the wing edge department.


Fly, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

There are so many species of fly, it is hard to pin this one down, but it has an attractive yellow and grey abdomen. I love this photo as the fly contrasts beautifully with the lime-green euphorbia flowers on which it was feeding.

Brindled Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus)

Brindled Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

I've got huge numbers of hoverfly species that enjoy my garden in the summer, but this one is my favourite. It has attractive banding with a central line on the abdomen, and wonderful yellow and black stripes on the thorax, unlike most other species. It looks a bit like it has a footie shirt on :)

Garden Snail (Helix aspersa)

Garden Snail (Helix aspersa), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Whilst I, like all gardeners, fight an endless war against slugs and snails, I actually love them too. They are amazing, simple, but successful animals, and I love watching them all on a rainy morning making their way around the garden. Their textured skin is amazing, and the feel of that muscular foot as it ripples over your hand is unique. And baby snails are utterly squee-worthy. I won't kill them, and I figure they have as much right as anything else to be in the garden, so I've learnt to grow stuff they don't eat. Much easier and kinder than the unwinnable battle to eradicate them.

Jumping Spider (Heliophanus flavipes)

Jumping Spider (Heliophanus flavipes), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

I admit it, I have a massive soft spot for jumping spiders. They are tiny hunting spiders, so they don't spin webs but instead have huge forward facing eyes for spotting prey, judging distance and leaping onto it. They are staggeringly feisty - you get near one and rather than running away, they typically turn round and rear up at you threateningly, waving their front legs around. This species is almost entirely black, with paler legs and almost day-glo pale greeny/yellow palps which make it easy to spot and identify.

Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)

Woodlouse, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Ah, the ubiquitous woodlouse. Or 'baker' as my mum calls them. Relatives of crabs and lobsters, they lurk in large numbers anywhere that is dark and damp, eating dead and decaying plant matter. Lift any stone, pot or dead branch on the ground and underneath will be woodlice. Hundreds probably. Their eyes are wonderful and look like something you'd see in a fossil, like a trilobite. If you're lucky, you may find one with tiny weeny baby woodlice nestled all over her belly. There are a number of different species of woodlouse in the UK, some more obviously different than others. I believe this is a 'Rough Woodlouse'.

Mosquito Larva

Mosquito Larva, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

The humble mosquito. Fortunately, the female (who is the one that bites) don't like me too much, so I don't get those annoying itchy bites very often. Whilst the females will lay their eggs in any standing water, and I often find them in trays or buckets I've left outside, this larva was found in a garden pond belonging to a friend. There were hundreds of them, all trying not to be eaten by newts. They hang just beneath the surface with a breathing tube like a snorkel from their rear end. When startled, they twist and wriggle and dive down deeper for a few seconds.

Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus) Male

Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus) Male, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

I love Zebra Spiders. They are officially my favourite spider. Small, black/brown-and-white, furry and feisty, they are always patrolling the edges of my plant pots and my outdoor table looking for prey. They don't spin webs but rather use their huge eyes to hunt for and pounce on prey, often much bigger than themselves. The huge jaws on this one show this is a male. They are primarily used for 'jousting' and sparring with rival males.

Parasitic Wasp ( Gasteruption jaculator) Male

Parasitic Wasp ( Gasteruption jaculator) Male, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Not your conventional yellow and black, ruin your picnic type wasp. However the tiny waist, eye shape and two pairs of wings are dead give-aways that this is indeed a wasp. It has an unpleasant but effective way of guaranteeing that its young will have food; it lays its eggs in another creature, usually a caterpillar, and when the eggs hatch they eat said caterpillar from the inside out. This is a male, as it has no ovipositor (egg laying tube) on the end of the abdomen.

Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) Nymph

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

Every summer my garden rings with the sound of 'chirrp chirrp chirrp' as these sculpted insects sing for a mate on sunny days. The first 'babies' in the spring is always a time of celebration for me, and I adore watching them grow up, gradually getting bigger and developing wings. Getting good photos can be surprisingly hard, as they have a habit of turning away whenever you get close, or hiding round the other side of a stem. The light catches their eyes in such a way that they appear to have a pupil, making them cutely (if falsely) expressive - mostly shifty and up-to-something. :)

14 Spot Ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata)

14 Spot Ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

A small, native species of ladybird, but not one easily overlooked, as the bright yellow and black colouration stands out on most plants. It eats aphids like other ladybirds and is a welcome visitor to my garden. As the name suggests, it has 14 spots, 7 on each side, although these can be variable in size and shape, and it has a yellow spotted panel behind the head unlike many ladybirds where this structure is black.

Honey Bee

Honey Bee, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.