A buzz in the undergrowth

For me, the most exciting thing about spring is that the warmth brings with it the insect life. Slowly the air and the undergrowth start moving again, breaking the stillness of winter and I find myself easily distracted, wherever I am, my eyes darting around like a chameleon as minute movements in my peripheral vision attract my gaze. My attention is all too easily diverted when there are interesting invertebrates around. Just last week, while we were working on the wall at Smallcombe Vale cemetery, I spent a good 15 minutes trying to take pictures of some of the residents we had uncovered from between the stones.

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An orange ladybird with white spots (Halyzia sedecimguttata)  – the first I remember ever seeing and definitely my favourite ladybird so far.

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A Jumping bristletail – These insects are of the order Archeognatha (previously Thysanura along with silverfish) and are some of the most primitive insects. They can live up to more than 4 years, much longer than most adult insects and they continue to moult even after reaching sexual maturity which is also unusual. They have a more primitve jaw structure and display short articulated styli (rudimentary limb-like projections arising from abdominal segments) thought to be vestigial limbs giving testimony to their crustacean ancestors.

I also went to some lengths to save a Devils coach-horse beetle from the jaws of a playfully exuberant (though much more fearsome from the eyes of the beetle no doubt) puppy at Bushey Norwood the other day before pointing my camera at it and making it the subject of my own form of harassment. Poor creature – but at least it hadn’t become a dog snack.

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Devils coach-horse beetle (Ocypus olens), saved from the jaws of a playful puppy – At about an inch and half long, these guys are pretty big, as are their mandibles – they have long been associated with superstitions about the Devil, hence the name – and you can see why, they’re mean looking beasties.

I’ve been seeing many more bumblebees that are ready to start laying; warming up on sunny logs and searching for the best places to nest on the woodland floor. And the first Brimstone of the season graced us with its presence as it fluttered around the lower branches of a great conifer in the cemetery.

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A tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) warming up on the trunk of a beech tree and preparing to search for a new nesting site by pumping her abdomen to help raise her body temperature and pump more oxygen to her flight muscles.

And while the snowdrops are still standing strong, more and more spring flowers are starting to appear; the first wild garlic flowers that will soon cover the floor of Smallcombe and Fairy Wood, wood anemone, primroses and lesser celandine freckle the grass banks in the cemetery and another species of anemone (I think a Balkan anemone) is beginning to blanket the layers of leaf litter around the compost loo in Fairy woods turning the ground from orange to green.

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An island of purple and white Balkan anemones (Anemone blanda) outside the compost loo in Fairy Wood

The Balkan anemone is thought to have been planted  by the Mallet family who originally owned the estate that Fairy Wood used to belong to, along with many other non-local flower species such as cyclamens, spring squill and hellebore that have already been sighted among these trees.

Fairy Wood is already supporting a very rich floral display and is attracting a wealth of invertebrate life  – and it’s only just begun!

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A stink bug I found lounging in the sun amongst the wild garlic –  Fairy Wood

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9 comments

  1. clarepooley33 · March 30

    Fascinating insects! I now know where to come when I can’t identify a bug I’ve found! All your photos are excellent, Alice. Thank-you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ntbathskyline · March 30

      Thank you very much for you kind words. I really am still just practicing with the camera so it’s lovely to hear such positive feedback. Glad to be able to share some or what I love with people who appreciate it 😊 thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    • ntbathskyline · March 30

      And, yes, please do come to me with anything you might find. I’m really not an expert, just an enthusiast that is trying to learn – but I am certainly keen to help identify anything 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Murtagh's Meadow · March 30

    Last summer the kids and I saved a devil’s coach horse beetle being harassed by a group of teenage boys! A lovely informative post. You work in a lovely place:-)

    Liked by 1 person

    • ntbathskyline · March 30

      Great that you stood up for it. Its always good to hear about other people protecting the lives and welfare of our minibeasts. They are more than often sadly misunderstood and treated with disdain. Thank you. yes, everyday i feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work where I do. So glad you enjoyed the post, and that I can share my love for the smaller things in life with others 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Judith · March 30

    Beetles, bees and shield bugs often catch my eye but I’ve never paid any attention to bristletails. After your introduction to these easily overlooked mini beasts, I’ll look more closely in future!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ntbathskyline · March 30

      It’s the first one I’ve ever taken any notice of. I see silverfish everywhere (once thought to be very close relatives of bristletails – though this has changed a bit), however, bristletails seem to be much more elusive – but perhaps I have just not been looking in the right places. It is not usual for me to be digging around in the tumbled down stones of an old wall. Glad to have been able to introduce you as well. They’re pretty awesome looking little creatures!

      Liked by 1 person

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