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European / Western Honey Bee  (Apis mellifera)

The workers gather the nectar for the production of honey. On average, a 450g jar of honey requires 1152 bees to travel 180,246km and visit 4-5 million flowers. That's 156km per bee!

The Honeybee is the only species of bee that dies after stinging. Its sting gets trapped in its victim and is ripped out of the bee as it attempts to flee. The Honeybee's sting is attached to other internal organs and the removal of the sting causes the Honeybee survivable damage.













Bumblebee   (Bombus sp.)
There are around 19 different species of Bumblebee and 6 species of Cuckoo Bumblebee found in the UK. They are generally black with varying degrees of orange, yellow or white coloured bands. These are social bees and live in nests underground usually consisting of around 200 specimens. The queens hibernate underground and emerge in spring. They quickly set about finding a suitable nesting site such as an abandoned mouse hole. The queen initially lays around a dozen eggs which hatch to provide her with a colony of workers. The workers gather pollen and nectar which is stored and used to feed the next batch of young. At the end of the season new queens and males will emerge and mate. The rest of the colony will die off over winter but the new queens will hibernate and emerge the following spring to start the cycle again.

Bumblebees are not aggressive. Only the females are capable of stinging but will only do so if threatened. The rumour that Bumblebees die after stinging is not true. This is only true of Honeybees. Bumblebees can sting repeatedly if necessary but very rarely do. 


LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3    LINK4



Solitary Bee   








Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus)

The Stag Beetle is largest terrestrial beetle in the UK and their numbers are in decline. Their status is classified as 'Nationally Scarce". Males can be found up to an impressive size of 75mm and very occasionally even 90mm, although 45-60mm is more usual. Stag Beetles spend most of their lives living underground as a larvae. This can be for as long as six years feeding primarily from rotting wood from decaying trees and bushes. When they finally emerge as a beetle they live for just a few weeks in which their sole purpose is to find a partner to mate with. Like many of our wildlife species the Stag Beetle is thought to be in rapid decline and is now a protected species. It is commonly believed that the main reason for this decline comes from loss of habitat. This is largely due to over managing sites and the 'tidying-up' of dead wood and rotting trees that provide food and home for these magnificent creatures during the larva stage. Another reason for their decline is a recent increase in the umber of Magpies and Crows, which both prey on adult Stag Beetles. Domestic cats are also responsible for a huge number of Stag Beetle fatalities.


These beetles are instantly recognisable due to their size. They are uniformly black in colour with chestnut coloured wing-cases. Females can sometimes have maroon coloured wing-cases. The only species that the females are sometimes confused with is the much smaller Lesser Stag Beetle. The larvae of the Stag Beetle is a creamy-white colour with a light brown head and grows to a length of up to 80mm.


It has often been thought that Stag Beetles eat very little or do not feed at all once in the adult beetle form. In studies Stag Beetles have been observed eating over-ripe fruit, nectar and tree sap that can be drunk rather than eaten. Research has shown that Stag Beetles are attracted to ginger. It has also been observed in the wild that Stag Beetles may on rare occasion feed on snails. One has been filmed lifting up a snail and repeatedly smashing it against the ground. The Stag Beetle was then observed to drink up or eat the liquids that ran from the broken snail shell.



Stag beetles are usually only seen flying once the sun has set. The best time to see them in flight is on warm, humid evenings during late May - July from 9pm - 10:30pm. They are clumsy fliers and are usually only seen flying if the conditions are right. Their distinctive silhouette, slow and clumsy flight, and large size makes them easily distinguishable from anything else. It is believed that male Stag Beetles will fly up to 500m looking for a mate. Females tend to fly close to their egg-laying site in the hope of attracting the males attention, and don't often fly more than 20m from that site. Females also release pheromones to attract the males.




Male Stag Beetle

How can you help Stag Beetles? Because Stag Beetle larvae feed entirely on rotting wood, the best way to help them is to provide a log pyramid in your garden with the bottom of the logs buried 50cm beneath the soil. The PTES has provided information and tips on this page:  Helping Stag Beetles

Or you can download their excellent help-sheet here:   Helping Stag Beetles pdf.




There are many old myths and folk-stories that surround Stag Beetles. Stag Beetles have also been known as billywitches, oak-ox, thunder-beetles and horse-pinchers.

Because Stag Beetles are often seen in warm, humid, and stormy conditions, in British folklore Stag Beetles were feared as it was believed that they had the power to summon thunder and lightning storms. It was also once believed that Stag Beetles flew around with hot coals in their jaws setting fire to buildings!

In Germany the Stag Beetle was associated with Thor, the 'god of thunder' and there was a myth that if you placed a stag beetle on your head, it could protect you from being struck by lightening !


The female Stag Beetle is similar size in size to the male but lacks the large mandibles. They also have a smaller, slimmer head.


REPORT YOUR STAG BEETLE SIGHTINGS

Due to the increasing rarity of Stag Beetles in the UK, the PTES are asking for all Stag Beetle sightings to be recorded using one of these links   LINK   LINK2

It is also believed that Stag Beetles don't seem to be reaching the same size that they once grew to. 

When submitting your sightings it would be helpful to measure your Stag Beetle's total body-length and submit that with your records.





 


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Lesser Stag Beetle  (Dorcus parallelopipedus)

The Lesser Stag Beetle looks quite similar to a female Stag Beetle at first glance although they are considerably smaller in size reaching a maximum length of around 32mm with 25mm being the usual. There also flatter and blacker than the larger Stag Beetle.  Another way that the two species can be separated is by looking at the number of spikes on the middle of the 3 legs on the tibia – Stag Beetles have 3 spikes but the Lesser Stag Beetle has just 1 spike.

Both species are found in similar environments of woodland and gardens with large trees and both species also feed off decaying wood and plant matter in larvae form. The female (pictured above) and male Lesser Stag Beetles are also similar in appearance. The male does have slightly larger mandibles which are set further apart than the female's. The male also has a broader head.



The Lesser Stag Beetle lives for over a year unlike the larger Stag Beetle which lives for just a few weeks.




 


Damselfly

In Great Britain and Ireland there are about 20 species of damselfly commonly found.







 

Large Red Damselfly    (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)
 








 The Garden Snail 

The Garden snail is found all over the UK. They have a taste for green plants and are considered as garden pests by most gardeners. Garden snails are hermaphrodites which means that they are equipped with both male and female reproductive organs. Although they are cable of mating with themselves they usually mate with a partner. In periods of very little or no rain the snail can seal the entrance of their shell with a crusty mucus and go into a state of suspended animation until the rain returns. This state can be maintained for several months if necessary.










 


Ladybirds

The Ladybird is a great friend to the gardener. They are carnivorous and feed on greenfly, small catapillars, mites and various other garden pests. There are 42 different species of Ladybird here in the UK. The most common is the seven-spot Ladybird.



The Ladybird starts life as part of an egg cluster fixed to a leaf. The black larva hatches just 3-4 days after the eggs are laid. The larva usually turns into an adult Ladybird within 3-4 weeks. A single Ladybird may consume as many as 4000 aphids during its lifespan.



 

Rosemary Beetle  (Chrysolina americana)

The Rosemary beetle is considered to be a garden pest that feeds on the foliage and flowers of various aromatic plants including: rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme and some other related plants. They usually grow to 6-7mm in length and can be found throughout spring, summer and autumn.



Black Weevil  (Liparus coronatus)

Weevils are a large group of small beetles from the Curculionoidea family, which has around 50,000 species! This Weevil above is believed to be the Black Weevil (Liparus coronatus).  A weevil often found around cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). Larvae feed on the roots, while adults usually occur at the base of plants. This species is more commonly found in the southern half of Britain. Weevils can be very plant specific and some will only feed on one type of plant. In some countries Weevils are considered a pest and have to be exterminated. Some of these nuisance species feed on grain, or rice, both in the field and in storage by farmers.

 



Vine Weevil  (Otiorhynchus sulcatus)
Vine Weevils are a pest to gardeners. The adult beetles feed on the leaves of plants whilst the grubs feed on the root system slowly destroying and killing the plants. This particularly affects plants grown in pots and containers. Treatment of the soil with microscopic pathogenic nematodes (Steinernema kraussei) is a safe and effective way to control Vine Weevils and protect plants in the ground and in pots.





Green Nettle Weevil   (Phyllobius pomaceus)
These small weevils grow to around 9-10mm and can sometimes be found in abundance on nettles which they feed upon. They are covered in tiny oval-shaped scales. These scales are blue / green in appearance but are easily rubbed off and under the scales the body-shell of the weevil is black. This means that this species can vary quite considerably in appearance from bright green to mostly black with a few small turquoise patches depending on the age of the weevil. Some can even have a coppery / purple tinge to the green scales. The larvae spend are found beneath the soil feeding on nettle roots.

LINK 1      LINK 2


Green Nettle Weevil   (Phyllobius pomaceus)








Hornet Robberfly  (Asilus crabroniformis)

These ugly-looking beasts are Britain's largest true fly at over an inch in length. Despite their scary appearance that resembles a hornet, they are completely harmless to humans. Their Latin name actually means "hornet-form". The Hornet Robberfly sits perched on vegetation waiting to spot movement from above or below. They will readily feed on beetles and grasshoppers seen below, as well as launching themselves into the air to catch flying wasps, flies, and other flying insects. They quickly grab hold of their prey with their long powerful legs and then land with the victim in their grasp and proceed to drink the creatures bodily fluids with their piercing mouth-parts.




The female Hornet Robberfly lays her eggs in manure from horses, cattle or rabbits. The larvae which take three years to mature and transform into flies, are believed to feed on Dung Beetle grubs found living in the ground beneath dung piles. The specimen above was photographed on a wetland site in Kent. It had a body-length of 32mm, and had a total body-length including front legs of 38mm. 
My finding of this rare species was promoted by Bexley Wildlife on their webpage:  Britain's "Largest" fly, the Hornet Robber - Found at Thames Rd Wetland





One major threat to Hornet Robberflies is the use of insecticides. In particular Avermectins, which are used for worming cattle, also unfortunately kill off the dung beetles the Robberfly larvae prey on. 










European Hornet    (Vespa crabro)
The European Hornet is the largest eusocial wasp found in Europe and North American. Adult females grow up to 35mm in length, but males are more likely to be around 23mm. 
The sting from the Hornet is not regarded as any more dangerous than the sting of the Honeybee, but the Hornet's venom contains acetylcholine which causes humans to feel far more pain than the sting or either a wasp or a bee. Despite their bad reputation, European Hornets are not an aggressive species and they usually only sting if they feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed. Hornets are usually reluctant to sting humans and will often bite as a warning before stinging.

Read the fascinating Hornet Life-cycle here:     Hornet Life-cycle




16mm Rove Beetle found under a flowerpot in my garden in SE London / North Kent.
Rove Beetle   -  (family Staphylinidae)
There are around 4000 species of beetle in the UK and the Rove Beetle family, Staphylinidae,  accounts for 1000 of those beetles. Often referred to as "Staphs" for short, Rove Beetles get their name because it is common for them to be constantly on the move. Rove Beetles have small wing cases and long slender bodies. They are fast moving and agile hunters, ranging in size from 1mm - 30mm depending on the species. Although predatory some species will feed on carrion and decaying vegetation.





28mm Devil's Coach Horse Beetle found under a rock in my garden in SE London / North Kent.
Devil's Coach Horse Beetle   -  (Ocypus olens)
The Devil's Coach Horse Beetle is the largest and most formidable predator of the Rove Beetle family found in the UK and usually grow to a length of 28mm and occasionally 32mm. These carnivorous beetles are usually found in woodlands, hedgerows and gardens amongst leaf litter or under logs where they hide away during the daytime. At night they actively hunt down their prey and feed on a variety of slugs and other insects that they come across. Prey is seized by their powerful jaws and subdued by the beetle's strength and aggression. When disturbed the Devil's Coach Horse Beetle raises its tail in a defensive stance similar to that of a scorpion. However the Devil's Coach Horse Beetle has no sting in its tail. This stance isn't a bluff though as these beetles can give a painful bite if handled.

Adults can be found from April to October. Adults sometimes overwinter buried beneath the soil if the weather isn't too severe. The scientific name Ocypus olens (olens means smell) is given due to the foul-smelling liquid secreted from the rear and the mouth of the Devil's Coach Horse Beetle if it feels threatened. These beetles have small wings hidden away under their wing cases but they rarely fly.

LINK 1    LINK 2    LINK 3


18mm Ground Beetle (Pterostichus cf melanarius) found under a rock in my garden in SE London / North Kent.
Common Black Ground Beetle   -  (Pterostichus melanarius)
A uniformly black Ground Beetle commonly found in gardens, parks and grassland and often in flooded meadows. Only the ends of the legs and antennae showing some brown colouration. Usually growing from 13-18mm in length. Hibernation usually occurs in larval form. Very similar in appearance to Pterostichus niger and Pterostichus nigrita.



Ground Beetle






Earwig   (Forficula auricularia)
The Earwig is a small ground-dwelling insect with pincers at the rear of their abdomen which they may use to defend themselves if handled. They are mainly nocturnal vegetarians but will also eat carrion and other small insects. Earwigs possess wings but rarely fly. They are usually found hiding under items such as logs and flowerpots in gardens.







 

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