The Glow Worm isn't a worm at all. It is in fact a beetle usually about 15mm in length in adult form. The Glow Worm starts life as one of a 100 or so eggs that develop into larvae. When they transform into an adult the female retains a larvae form whilst the male turns into a flying beetle. During the mating season the female climbs to the top of tall grass stems or lays on the ground on her back and emits a bright green glow from the last three segments of her body. This glow is about as bright as a green LED you'd find on electrical appliances. The males fly around looking for females glowing in the dark to mate with. Males do also have a very feint glow to the rear of their abdomen but it's no where near as bright and visible as the female's. The same is true for Glow Worms in the larvae stage. Even the eggs can emit a very feint glow on occasion. Glow Worms can be found from May - August with warm dry nights in June and July being the best time to see them from 10pm onwards. They are usually found in fields and along the edges of quiet countryside roads away from the light pollution caused by towns and street lights where the green glow can be easily spotted.
The glowing process of the female is a result of bioluminescence and the Glow Worm has total control over the glow emitted. It can be extinguished and rekindled at will. The Glow Worm produces a chemical called luciferin which when mixed with oxygen from the lungs of the Glow Worm results in the green glow effect.
The Glow Worm feeds mainly on small snails and has a neat trick up its sleeve to prevent the snail from retreating back into its shell. Before the Glow Worm attempts to eat the snail it administers an anaesthetic which renders the snail completely defenceless. It does this with a series of jabs using its tiny hooked mandibles that inject a small amount of this anaesthetic with each jab.
The Dark Bush Cricket is virtually wingless and grows to around 21mm and is common in England especially in the south. It can be found in many types of habitat including wasteland, long grass, brambles, bushes, woodland and saltmarsh edges. Adults emerge in June-July and are around until the winter. They lay eggs in rotting wood and bark which take about 18 months to hatch. They are very active and can be heard chirping all through the day and well into dusk.
Growing to around 20mm the Roesel's is one of 10 Bush Crickets found in Great Britain. They are easily recognised by the yellow stripe or collar behind their head. Each type of Bush Cricket makes its own unique call by rubbing its wings together.
Another native bush cricket and growing to around 21mm. These are usually short-winged but there is a rare winged form. They can be found in green or brown but all have a bright green underside. They have long hind legs and long antennae. They are found across the UK but are more abundant in the south of England.
Grasshoppers are from the same group of insects as crickets and locusts. They are found throughout the UK and frequently found in gardens.
The most common and widespread of UK grasshoppers and growing to a maximum length of 22mm. Although usually green or brown occasionally due to genetic mutation the female Meadow Grasshopper can come in an amazing array of colours including pink and purple. This is probably the most colourful example I've seen in the UK though. They are usually short-winged and flightless but occasionally in larger populations some grow longer wings and are able to fly. Those capable of flight can travel much greater distances.
Common Darter Dragonfly
A medium sized dragonfly growing to a length of about 45mm. They are often the last dragonflies to be seen in the UK and can often be found well into November. They are widespread across much of the UK and are also often found quite some distance from water. They will feed mainly on other flying insects that they catch with their sudden bursts of speed.
Black Darter Dragonfly
A small heathland and moorland dragonfly usually growing to a length of 29-34mm and commonly spotted in late summer across the UK. These are Britain's only black dragonfly. The males turn almost completely black with age but the females pictured above usually have bright yellow markings on the upper and sides of the abdomen which become browner with age. Both sexes have completely black legs.
This male Black Darter Dragonfly basks in the sun to dry its wings after being caught in a short rain shower. Its wings vibrate rapidly to warm the Dragonfly up and help the drying process.
Roman Snails (Helix Pomatia)
Also known as the Burgundy Snail, the Edible Snail or the Escargot. These are Britain's largest land snails reaching shell sizes up to 45-50mm in diameter. They are found on lime rich soil and chalk downland areas. The Roman Snail is thought to have been introduced to the UK as a source of food when the Romans settled in this country. This species has now suffered serious decline due to poachers as well as habitat loss. The numbers have been reduced so significantly that these snails can now only be found in three main areas in the UK: The North Downs, Chilterns & Mendips of England. Because of this Roman Snails have been afforded full protection by UK law since 2008: Natural England - Roman Snails pdf
Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis)
The press even warned us: "Poisonous ladybirds will bite humans"
There are over 200 different species of Hoverfly in the UK. Some as large as 20mm in length. Despite the striking yellow or orange / black markings these flies are completely harmless and do not bit or sting unlike the bees and wasps that they mimic.
Mining Bees (Andrena species)
Andrena is a large group of over 100 species of European Bees - the Mining Bees. These species of bee range in size from 4mm - 16mm in length. Mining Bees are solitary bees that live in burrows under the ground, usually in sandy soils. The species pictured above is the Andrena nitida. They are between 8-11mm in length and are usually seen in April or May but some sightings do occur in June. They are particulally fond of Buttercups!
Ichneumon Wasps (Amblyteles armatorius)
There are many species of Ichneumon Wasp in the UK. This is a parasitic wasp that doesn't possess a sting, so is harmless to humans. They grow to a length of around 15mm excluding the antennae. These wasps are regularly seen during the summer, particularly in June, in hedgerows, woodland edges and clearings, and roadside verges, as well as areas of dense vegetation such as brambles. They feed on nectar and pollen as adults. These parasitic wasps lay their eggs in caterpillars, which are eaten from the inside by the wasp larvae once they hatch.
Ichneumon Wasp (Gasteruption jaculator)
Another Ihneumon Wasp. Some species of Ichneumon Wasp are sexually dimorphic, meaning that both sexes are quite different in appearance. With some species the males can be yellow and black whilst the females can be orange / red and black.
Fly Agaric / Fly Amanita (Amanita muscaria)
A commonly encountered and easily recognisable fungi found across Britain. Although potentially poisonous these mushrooms are often consumed by man for their hallucinogenic properties.
Shore Crab / aka European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas)
The Shore Crab is predominantly a shore or shallow water sea crab but can be found in water as deep as 60 metres. It is the most commonly found crab on the shore of British and Irish coasts. The carapace (shell) usually grows to 60 - 90mm (occasionally larger) across and the crab has well developed and powerful pincers. Colours can vary enormously and include magenta, brown, orange, white, and green. In the UK 95% of adult Shore Crabs are orange/brown with just 5% being found in bright green like the specimen photographed above. These crabs are an invasive species and can pose a threat to new ecosystems where they will feed on almost anything that they can catch. They are also commonly seen fighting amongst themselves and during these fights it is not unusual for pincers to be broken off and lost. Smaller pincers often grow back to replace missing ones.
Swollen-Thighed Beetle / Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis)
The Swollen-Thighed Beetle gets its name from the larges bulges on the thighs of the male beetles. The females do no have these bulges. They are also known as Fat-Legged Beetles, False Oil Beetles or Flower Beetles. Feeding on pollen this 10mm beetle can be found in flower meadows and gardens across southern England and Wales and much of Europe. One distinguishing feature is the noticeable gap between the wing cases on the back of the beetle. Swollen-Thighed Beetles are often seen as in this case on the Bindweed flower where their bright green colour makes them very obvious against the bright white trumpet flower. The green body often has parts on the back with a coppery sheen under certain light. These beetles do not harm plants so they are considered as a gardener's friend.
Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria)
A medium / large sized moth with a wing-span of 52-65mm. These moths can be seen flying both day and night in countries across Europe during July - September in gardens or hedgerows or on cliff-tops. Originally in the UK the Jersey Tiger Moth was only found in the Channel Islands and occasionally in Devon and Cornwall (hence their name) but over recent years they have extended their range in the UK and have been recorded in SE London and North Kent since 2010. This specimen was photographed on the SE London / North Kent borders.
Despite the number of Tiger Moths declining significantly in the UK over recent years the Jersey Tiger Moth has managed to expand its range and has increased in numbers in parts of Southern England.
Tortoiseshell Butterfly (Aglais urticae)
As the old saying goes, "One man's trash is another man's (or butterfly's) . . . basking spot! This Tortoiseshell Butterfly enjoys the April sunshine.
Black Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus)
There are 8 species of Oil Beetle native to the UK and all are now BAP Priority Species and in serious decline. Until recently 5 species were believed to be extinct but 3 species have since been re-discovered. They are still absent from many counties and in Kent Oil Beetles are now considered extremely rare with few recent sightings. This Black Oil Beetle is one of two specimens I found on the South coast of Kent.
This is a large and harmless species of Beetle, growing to a total length of 30-40mm. Telling the different Oil Beetle species apart can be very difficult without good clear photos and the two most frequently encountered species, the Black Oil Beetle and the Violet Oil Beetle are particularly similar. They are black in colour but some may appear as violet or turquoise. Females are usually larger and when gravid the female is considerably larger with a very swollen abdomen containing hundreds of eggs. Males also have a very distinct kink in their antennae which the females lack.
Oil Beetles get their name from their ability to produce a very bitter tasting fluid from their knee joints when disturbed. This deters many would-be predators. After mating the female Oil Beetle lays her eggs in a small burrow in the soil. This can be around 1000 eggs. Upon hatching, the larvae, known as triungulins, quickly climb up vegetation and make their way to the top of flowers. Here they wait for visiting Solitary Bees gathering nectar. The triungulins are dependant on finding a suitable bee quickly and when one lands on their flower they use their hooked feet to grab hold of the bee. The bee then unwillingly carries the tiny beetle larvae back to its nest. Once inside the bee's nest the triungulins then start to feed on the bee's eggs, pollen and nectar supplies. Here they will remain until they pupate and emerge the following year as adult Oil Beetles. With the decline in wildflower-rich habitats and subsequently the decline of Solitary Bees, the Oil Beetles have been seriously effected as they cannot complete their life-cycle.
This mating couple clearly shows the huge difference in size between the male and female Black Oil Beetles.
Black Oil Beetles can usually be seen on sunny days in spring and early summer in meadows, coastal grasslands and clearings and verges of woodland. Here they feed on both leaves and flowers of several wild plants including buttercups and dandelions.
All Photographs on this page were taken using the Canon 40D / Canon 7D cameras and the Canon 100mm 2.8L IS, and the Sigma 14mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle lens.