Sunday, 26 August 2012

Buddleia beauties

14 Small Tortoiseshells, 8 Red Admirals, 2 Commas, 4 Peacocks, 1 Painted Lady, 1f Brimstone on buddleia on Meadow Lane, east of Priory CP. Here's just a couple of these species to enjoy...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Dangerous Liaison

What is going on here between these two spiders, possibly Araneus quadratus, at Sandy Smith NR? There's a good explanation in Wikipedia HERE.

This is a compilation from several failed advances over a few minutes. After he was finally successful, the male instantly dropped into the grass below to avoid being eaten and the female returned to tending her web.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Wasp Spider

A large female Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi at Sandy Smith NR, with the unusual zig-zag stabilimentum woven into the web below. An entrussed prey is at her side. Thanks to Sue and Liz for alerting us to their presence.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Painted Lady

Came home from looking for interesting wildlife in the north of the county to find my first Painted Lady of the year waiting for me in my own garden...!

Roesel's bush-cricket

Sadly my ears have aged to the point that I can no longer hear the wonderful electrical crackling sound made by male Roesel's bush-crickets rubbing their wings together. All I could hear of this one was a bit of a rattle when I got about two feet away. Enjoy it while you can!

Stictoleptura scutellata

Several of these longhorn beetles were flying around meadowsweet along the bridleway through West Wood today. I knew that I'd not seen them before and tried to ID them in the field using Brian Eversham's key to the Beds, Northants and Cambs longhorns that I carry in case of emergencey [sic]. It came out as Stictoleptura rubra which I knew to be wrong as I'm familiar with that species.

Reference to the two 2007 British Widlife articles on longhorns by Andrew Duff when I got home suggested an ID of Stictoleptura scutellata which was confirmed by Andrew himself when I posted photos on the beetles-britishisles forum.

I'm not aware of any previous Beds records for this species, but someone may have seen it here before...? There aren't any Beds dots on the NBN Gateway, and it would be the most northerly record if there wasn't one for Sherwood Forest in 1869.

The key will need a tweak to add in this extra BCN species.

Brimstone Colouring

Shoot enough pics of Brimstones flitting between flowers and you will eventually get some upper-surface shots, not normally seen because they always settle with wings closed. Here's a study on their colouring:

Male. The upper forewing is more deeply coloured than the rear.


In reflected light female (left) and male (right) appear rather similar.

Males appear a deeper yellow when the light is transmitted through those two upper layers:

Females appear more green in transmitted light.

All shot in West Wood today.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Episyron rufipes

One of those frustrating days today when you trudge around and don't see much, and when you do see something the camera doesn't quite focus on what you want, or the exposure is off, or ...  Here's the best of a bad bunch.

At Cooper's Hill a female spider-hunting wasp, Episyron rufipes, checks that her nest hole is ready for its victim:

The prey which had been previously caught, immobilized and stashed in nearby heather was then dragged backwards to the hole. (No photos of the dragging as the focus was all over the shop).

Then the hole was filled in with a lot of kicking-in of sand using the front legs. The blur isn't entirely my camera shake as the wasp was dashing around and the sand particles were moving at quite a lick.

Hope to do better next time I'm out.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

When Bee Wolves attack

You may have seen Philanthus triangulum (the Bee Wolf) flying honey bees to her nest, well this is what happens earlier (with the inevitable blade of grass ruining the pictures). The first photo in the sequence was taken about 10 seconds after the wasp attacked the bee (I was slow into action) and the final photo 36 seconds after this, when the wasp flew off with the bee. The sting was inserted for all of this time, seemingly somewhere beneath the thorax. The flip from inverted to verted(?) flight was out of frame.

There was a lot of "mouth to mouth" action that looked like kissing but this may have been the wasp trying to get a grip on the bee's tongue, which it did for a little while.

The action took place on the permissive path along the southern edge of Stone Lane Quarry. I hung around the area in case she considered this a successful hunting ground but never saw her return.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Migrant Hawker

A pale (recently emerged) migrant hawker hanging-out by my garden pond, on purple loosestrife.

Check your nettles

Found the Comma caterpillar resulting from the egg laid on 21st July (See HERE). It was only a couple of leaves away.

It's worth checking nettles for Comma, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars, but probably a bit late now for Peacock as the new brood is starting to fly.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

An Emperor in the hand

I had the rare privilege of holding one of Britain's largest insects today. Found cold and rigid on the ground by Graham Bellamy in the Priory Country Park staff car park, he put this female Emperor dragonfly onto his black car bonnet to warm up. A tentative flight then ended with a crash into me, giving me the chance to hold her for a few minutes before successfully flying off to a hedge. Magic!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Long-winged Conehead nymph

This must be one of the web's most mis-identified species. Type short-winged conehead into Google and you get lots of images of long-winged conehead nymphs, which is what this is. The wings don't fully develop until the final instar. The easy way to separate the species is to find a female and look at the ovipositor's shape. Long-winged's is straight like this, short-winged's is curved upwards.

This was at the NE corner of Rookery Pit North by the railway. There were quite a few nymphs, including much earlier instars. This species has become quite widespread in recent years. (Short-winged Conehead by contrast is much more localized, at wet places like Flitwick Moor and Fenlake Meadows).

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Oak bush-cricket

Thought today's interests were over (except for the men's 100m final) and was just putting the car into my garage when I spotted something in the headlights on a concrete lamp-post. Closer investigation revealed a five-legged male oak bush-cricket which I translocated to somewhere more suitable in my garden. Just time to get the tripod out, shoot a few snaps using lightning bolts of my own, before settling down to watch the real thing.

Ruddy Darter

Nothing special here, just a pretty pic of a Ruddy Darter (distinguished from a Common Darter by having all-dark legs) hanging out at a pond near Stewartby, just before the heavens opened again.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Myrmosa atra

This is actually the wingless female wasp Myrmosa atra, not an ant. It is thought to be a parasitoid of various species of ground-nesting wasps and bees, entering their holes to lay an egg. Surprisingly difficult to photograph as they walk quickly making it difficult to get focus, here at Rowney Warren where at least two were at large.

Conopid fly

A conopid fly, possibly Conops quadrifasciata, but don't quote me on that. This family of flies are parasitoids of bumblebees, jumping onto them when they are feeding and injecting an egg into the abdomen. The grub develops inside the bee, eating away the contents, eventually pupating inside to overwinter in the bee husk. Bees that have been infected may behave differently from normal bees. You can read more at This one was at Rowney Warren on ragwort. I saw several there including one of another species too.

Lindenius panzeri

A female Lindenius panzeri, one of many hanging around holes in the sandy soil at Rowney Warren.

Cerceris rybyensis

A weird-looking beast until you look closely and realise that it's a female Cerceris rybyensis carrying a hopeful male, at Rowney Warren.

Not-so-common Blue

A rare sighting this year, just my third Common Blue, at Old Warden Tunnel.