Saturday, 6 June 2015

30 Days Wild Day 6: Back Garden Bug Hunt!

I've been out and about today, viewing houses with my parents, so there hasn't been a whole lot of time for nature, however in the hour I had spare, I decided to go bug-hunting around our back garden. I am very lucky with the garden we have as it backs on to woodland and is pretty large, with lots of varying bushes, hedges and trees; plenty of nooks and crannies for insects to inhabit.

Being "Butterfly Awareness Day" today, I thought it would be a great opportunity to spot some butterflies but it was pretty blowy so I wasn't surprised that I didn't see any, despite the sun. I have actually noticed that butterfly numbers seem quite low in our area since last year and I'm wondering whether that could be down to the late summer we've had? Anyway, I didn't find any butterflies but I did spot a range of other creepy crawlies!

On the outside window ledge of our utility room, I found the remains of a yellow tail moth caterpillar caught in the web of this spider, who was feeding on the carcass. I don't know what type of spider it was, only that it was very small and had an especially shiny abdomen.

The various hedges and laurel bushes around our garden are especially popular spots for flying insects. The laurel is usually buzzing with honeybees, flies and hoverflies, like the one below. I'm fairly certain the second image is of a bee fly but I can't be 100% sure as it didn't stay still long enough for me to see the characteristic probiscis. It didn't look like a type of bumblebee to me.

Many of the laurel leaves had been munched and although I searched the underside of several leaves, I couldn't find any caterpillars lurking nearby. They've obviously been by in decent numbers but by now have most likely transformed into butterflies and moths.

A while ago, I dug a small pond in the garden. The property we live in is a rental so I was limited as to the size of pond I could go for. It gets used mostly by birds for washing and drinking although I have found a newt in there recently. Today, I lifted a few of the rocks to see what was living there. Among the few woodlouse and ants, I found this Flat-Backed Millipede.

This was the first I've ever seen of these millipedes so it was nice surprise but what was an even greater surprise was this small frog I found under one of the rocks! It very kindly hung around long enough for me to snap a photo before disappearing into the pond with a 'plop'. I've found a few toads in the pond over the past year or so, but this is the first frog. Not an insect of course, but certainly a bonus find!

Next, I had a peek inside our compost bin, somewhere I knew would be teeming with all sorts of insects. I tentatively lifted the lid and a pile of tiny, white eggs and worker ants fell from under the lip. It turns out they had built their nest right on the top edge of the bin! It was fascinating to watch the workers scurrying around to collect the eggs that had rolled away from the nest; a few had fallen into a nearby spider's web and one ant was tugging at them with pure determination. It really didn't take them long to collect all of the eggs they could and put them back in the nest. They have strength and a work ethic to marvel at.

On the side of the bin was this beetle. Now I'm working on pretty minimal bug knowledge so I am just assuming this is a beetle, based on the size and the fact it doesn't look like an ant. It was at least five times larger than the worker ants and the alternative answer would have been the queen ant, but I doubted whether she would be wandering off near the ground, doing her own thing as this beetle was. Please do correct me if I'm wrong! I'd love to know the exact species.

Of course, there were plenty of flies, honey bees and various bumblebees too. I never take the bees for granted, as I mentioned in a previous post.

Insects aren't really my area at all; as I said, my knowledge is very basic. This was a great opportunity to try and improve on that and pay attention to what is flying, crawling and wriggling around the garden everyday. It's extraordinary how much life is quite literally on our doorstep, if only we took the time to search for it.

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