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European / Western Honey Bee  (Apis mellifera)

The workers gather the nectar for the production of honey.








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.




 


Green-veined White Butterflies

One of Britain's most widespread butterflies with a wingspan of up to 52mm.




Damselfly

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







 

 Speckled Wood Butterfly 

The Speckled Wood Butterfly is an average sized butterfly with a wingspan of up to 50 - 56mm. It is found right across the country and is especially common in woodland. It is often found in more shady areas and on overcast days when most butterflies are not found. The Speckled Wood feeds on Aphid honeydew, which is a sugary secretion left by Aphids as they feed on plant juices. The caterpillars feed on various grasses and are not considered as pests by gardeners.



1) Comma Butterfly

2) Peacock Butterfly

3) Ground Beetle  -    Abax Parallelepipedus 

4) Violet Ground Beetle

 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.



 

 Gatekeeper

The Gatekeeper is found across the southern half of the UK. It is a medium sized butterfly with a wingspan of 37-48mm and can be seen from the end of July until the middle of September.



Common Blue  (Polyommatus Icarus)

The Common Blue is found right across the UK with the exception of Ireland. It is a small butterfly with a wingspan of 29-36mm and can be seen from the end of May right up to the end of September.





 

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.






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. 








Elephant Hawk Moth  (Deilephila elpenor)
In the UK the largest of our native moths are the Hawk Moths. There are around 2500 different species of Hawk Moth in the world and several of those are found in the UK. One of our most colourful is the Elephant Hawk Moth. These large and brightly coloured olive-green & pink moths are also quite distinctive as a caterpillar too. The Elephant Hawk Moth gets the "elephant" part of its name from its ability to withdraw the front part of its body like a trunk. If alarmed they can retract their head, the front of their body including the front six legs, back within their body. This makes the section of their body that has the large eye-markings look like a large head with big eyes. This can give the caterpillar a snake-like appearance and confuse and sometimes deter a would be predator. These caterpillars are usually brown in colour but are also less frequently seen in green as well.



Elephant Hawk Moths are usually seen from May to July, and the caterpillars are usually seen from July until September. The caterpillars feed on Willowherbs, Bedstraw and Fuscia plants. The adult moths feed on nectar. Towards the end of August - September the caterpillars are fully grown. At this stage they come down to the ground and leave their feeding plants. They now wander off looking for dry leaves, bark, loose soil and low vegetation to hide and pupate in. Here they will stay until the following May when they will emerge as an adult moth. Once buried in loose soil and leaves the caterpillar secretes a sticky fluid through its skin, as seen in the bottom-left image above. This quickly hardens and within a few days becomes a hardened pupa. The bottom-right image above shows the pupa just a few days after the caterpillar left its feeding plants. It already resembles a moth inside the cocoon.





Square-spot Rustic Moth  (Xestia xanthographa)
A common moth throughout the UK, with a wingspan of 32-35mm. Drab brown in colour, with one or two square spots on each wing. The caterpillars are nocturnal and grow to around 30-35mm in length, feeding on grass and other low vegetation. The caterpillars continue to feed through the winter, and in May they dig a hole in the ground and pupate. The adult moths emerge and take to the wing from late July to the end of September. These moths are attracted by both light and sugar, and are easily caught in light traps.






Reed Dagger Moth   -  (Simyra albovenosa
The caterpillar of this moth is considerably more colourful than the adult moth which is a dull white colour. It is confined mainly to the SE of England but is also found at other coastal and river valley sites across the country. The caterpillar feeds on reeds and other plants found in marsh type habitat. Adult moths have a wing-span of 32-40mm and are seen from April to late September from two broods.





Cinnabar Moth   -  (Tyria jacobaeae)
Both the caterpillar and the moth of this species are brightly coloured and easily identified. The caterpillar has black and orange stripes, whilst the moth is black and red. These caterpillars are vivacious eaters and feed almost entirely on yellow-flowered Ragwort plants. These caterpillars have tiny hairs on their body that release a mildly venomous toxin into human skin when handled. This toxin usually causes no more than an itchy or painful rash to anyone handling the caterpillar, but according to Wikipedia, more serious symptoms including asthma, osteaochondritis, dermatitis, haemorrhaging and even renal failure have been attributed to direct contact with this caterpillar! 













Small White Butterfly   (Pieris Rapae)
A common and small - medium sized butterfly with a wingspan of 32-57mm. This and the Large White Butterfly are often both referred to as Cabbage White Butterflies in the UK. This species can be found in pupa form right throughout the year. It is found as a caterpillar from June-October and in adult butterfly form from May-September and is not considered to be quite as destructive by gardeners as the Large White Butterfly.







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 often reluctant to sting humans and will often bite instead of stinging.

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






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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