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Insects, and Bugs, Information
Seven Spot Ladybird
The 7-spot ladybird is 'the' ladybird that everyone is familiar with. A virtually ubiquitous inhabitant of gardens and parks, the 7-spot ladybird will turn up anywhere there are aphids for it to feed on. Adults hibernate in hollow plant stems and cavities, sometimes clustering together in large numbers. The 7-spot ladybird is also a migratory species: large numbers fly in from the continent every spring, boosting our native population. The lifecycle of a ladybird consists of four phases: the egg; the larval stage, during which the larva undergoes a series of moults; the pupa, in which the larva develops into an adult; and the adult phase, during which the female lays eggs in batches of up to 40 The bright colours of ladybirds warn predators that they are distasteful, although some birds may still have a go at eating them. As well as their warning colouration, ladybirds also have another defence mechanism: when handled, they release a pungent, yellow substance from their joints (a form of 'controlled bleeding') that can stain the hands
Orange Ladybird
The orange ladybird is a large ladybird that feeds on mildew (fungus) on trees; it particularly likes sycamores, but has recently spread on to ash and is increasing in number. It hibernates in leaf litter, or in sheltered locations. The lifecycle of a ladybird consists of four phases: the egg; the larval stage, during which the larva undergoes a series of moults; the pupa, in which the larva develops into an adult; and the adult phase, during which the female lays eggs in batches of up to 40 The orange ladybird is attracted to bright lights at night and often turns up in moth traps
Rose Chafer
The Rose chafer is a large, broad beetle that is found in grassland, scrub and along woodland edges. The adults feed on flowers, particularly Dog Roses, during the summer and autumn, and can be spotted in warm, sunny weather. The larvae feed on decaying leaves, plants and roots, living in the soil for several years as they develop. When they pupate, they hibernate in the soil or in rotting wood over winter, ready to emerge as adults the following spring The Rose chafer is often seen on flowers in the garden, and is sometimes considered a pest for munching its way through these plants. However, it is an important detritivore - feeding on dead and decaying matter and recycling its nutrients - and is a helpful addition to any compost heap
Stag Beetle
The stag beetle is the UK's largest beetle and is found in South East England, particularly in South and West London. It prefers oak woodlands, but can be found in gardens, hedgerows and parks. The larvae depend on old trees and rotting wood to live in and feed on, and can take up to six years to develop before they pupate and turn into adults. The adults have a much shorter lifespan: they emerge in May with the sole purpose of mating, and die in August once the eggs have been laid in a suitable piece of decaying wood. Look for the adults on balmy summer evenings, when the males fly in search of mates. Once the male has found a mate, he displays his famously massive, antler-like jaws to her, and uses them to fight off rival males, in a similar fashion to deer The jaws of the male stag beetle look fearsome, but are actually quite weak, making this beetle pretty harmless to humans. In fact, it is possible that their jaws are so large that they prevent them from feeding. However, it is still unclear whether either sex actually feeds during their short adult life; if they do, it is likely that they eat tree sap
Buff-Tailed Bumblebee
Bumblebees have large furry bottoms, but their name refers to their hum, not their bum. Our largest bumble bee, the Buff- tailed bumblebee is named after the queen's buff-coloured tail. The worker bees have almost white tails, however, making it hard to tell them apart from White-tailed bumblebees. The Buff-tailed bumblebee is a widespread species that visits many different types of flowers for pollen and nectar; it has a short tongue, however, so prefers open, daisy-like flowers. It nests underground in large colonies of up to 600 bees, often using the old nests of small mammals
Buff-tailed Bumblebees are known as ‘nectar robbers’: if they come across a flower that is too deep for their tongue, they bite a hole at its base and suck out the nectar. Afterwards, other insects looking for nectar will also use this handy hole
Marmalade Hoverfly
The Marmalade fly is a very common hoverfly that can be seen in gardens, parks and sunny woodlands. Adults are on the wing right through the year, although appear in large numbers in the summer. They feed on nectar, gathering together on flowers like Tansy, Ragwort and Cow Parsley. The larvae are predators of aphids. As well as being a common breeding fly, in some years, huge numbers migrate here from the continent when they can be seen busily feeding on flowers near the coast The Marmalade fly gets its name from its orange colour, and the different sized black bands across its body: 'thin cut', 'thick cut', just like marmalade
Green Tiger Beetle
The Green tiger beetle is a common ground beetle of heathland, moorland, sandy grassland and sand dunes. Often seen in bright, sunny conditions during the spring and summer, the Green tiger beetle is a fast, agile hunter, running across the ground to catch its invertebrate prey, including spiders, caterpillars and ants. It is well-equipped to tackle its prey, with a ferocious set of jaws and long legs that give it an impressive turn of speed (it is one of our fastest insects). When disturbed, it will often fly a short distance before running away The larvae of the Green tiger beetle hatch in burrows made by the adults in sandy soil, and wait at the entrance to ambush passing prey. They stay in the burrow over winter.
Death Watch Beetle
Deathwatch beetles are considered a common pest due to their penchant for chewing up wood. They have been known to tunnel and bore through the wood in buildings, causing damage to floors, beams and furniture. The noise of their tapping was once associated with quiet, sleepless nights and their name derives from the vigil they kept beside the dying or dead The male deathwatch beetle attracts its mate by bumping its head or jaws against wood, making a tapping noise. The noise, which attracts the females, is similar to a clock ticking and is often heard from the rafters of old houses. Females lay their eggs in holes and crevices in wood which hatched larvae then feed on. The larval stage may last for between one and 13 years, during which time the larvae tunnel and bore through the wood. It’s only the larvae that live within the wood, and they emerge as adults leaving a 3-4mm hole in the wood behind them This beetle has featured strongly in literature over the years, including the works of John Keats, Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe. Hearing the rhythmic tapping of the deathwatch beetle was believed to be an omen of death.
Red Headed Cardinal Beetle
The Red-headed Cardinal Beetle is a mid-sized beetle of woodland edges. It has a bright red head and wing case, with black legs and antennae. Larvae are yellow brown with darker heads and live under loose bark Red-headed cardinal beetles are carnivorous at all stages of their lives. Adults feed on smaller insects while larvae eat the larvae of other insects The Red-headed Cardinal Beetle lives around woods and trees, with adults emerging from May to July. It is common and widespread in England and Wales
Common Wasp
These stinging picnic pests don’t deserve our enmity and fear – they are impressive architects that belong to highly developed and complex societies – our expert guide to wasps looks at common species, their lifecycle and why wasps tend to sting in autumn Far from being a malicious pest looking to ruin your picnic, the female wasp is completely focused on collecting wood pulp to expand her mother’s nest. It’s a labour of genetic love – the harder she works, the more wasps her mother’s nest will produce, and the more of her genes will be passed on to the next generation. Female wasps tend to be larger than male as they carry the eggs. The vast majority of described wasps are tiny black insects that you’d probably mistake for flies. In fact, the smallest insect in the world is a wasp: the ‘fairyfly’ is a mere 0.14mm long and only lives for a few days. Despite its size, it plays a vital role in agriculture, as it lays its eggs in the bodies of crop pests, essentially working as an alternative to chemical pesticides. There are many reasons to love (or at least appreciate) wasps, the main one being that they help keep insect, spider and woodlice populations at bay. As predators, they’re at the top of the food chain and without them food webs would break down. They’re also generalists: wasps will feed on whatever’s around. They eat the most abundant pests that we try to control with toxic chemicals – there’d be many more aphids in my garden without wasps. Wasps are also pollinators of flowers and crops. Adult wasps don’t need much protein (the bugs they prey on are for the developing brood in the nest) but they do need sugar, which they get in the form of nectar from flowers. In the process of finding it, the wasps pick up and transfer pollen from flower to flower. Unlike many bees, wasps don’t mind what flowers they visit – as generalist pollinators they’re more abundant than bees in degraded or fragmented habitats and so are important ‘back-up’ pollinators in these areas. Wasps also have a fascinating social life. A yellowjacket colony is much like that of a honeybee, with a queen supported by a community of workers. Research is looking into the potential use of wasp venom as a cancer therapy. An active peptide found in the venom of tropical social wasps selectively destroys cancerous cells by causing their membranes to leak. Wasps may have the potential to save human lives. A better appreciation of the ecological, economic, medical and cultural services that our stripy friends provide might help us see them in a different light. So next time your picnic is disturbed by black and yellow insects, take a moment to think about their extraordinary world and the contributions they make to our lives before you reach for the swatter.
Garden Spider
The Garden spider is the UK's most common orb web spider and is abundant in gardens, grassland and woodland - it can be found almost everywhere, in fact. It builds a 'typical' spider web (spirals with radial threads) out of sticky silk. It sits in the middle of the web, waiting to feel the vibrations of a struggling insect caught in the sticky threads. It then rushes out and wraps its prey tightly in silk. Once immobilised, it will kill its victim with a venomous bite. Adults appear from June to November and the young emerge from their silk egg-sac the following spring Spider silk is amazingly lightweight: a strand of silk long enough to go all the way around the Earth would weigh less than 500 grams - that's the same as a bag of sugar! It's also as strong as Kevlar, the material used to make bulletproof vests
Black Garden Ant
The black garden ant is common in many habitats, including gardens where nests form under paving stones, in soil and between brickwork. During hot and humid summer weather, winged adults appear and swarm in large numbers; these 'flying ants' mate and eventually disperse to form new colonies. The colonies of the black garden ant are huge, featuring thousands of workers who collect food, keep the nest clean and look after the young, and a queen who produces the eggs. The diet of the black garden ant is varied, but it includes 'milking' (stroking) aphids for their honeydew There may be as many as 15,000 black garden ants in a single colony
Common Green Grasshopper
An invertebrate of damp meadows, woodland rides and hillside pastures, the Common green grasshopper is widespread in the uplands, but has a more patchy distribution, and may be declining, in the lowlands. It is the earliest grasshopper to appear in the spring, hatching in April and moulting into adult form in June. Males can be seen displaying to females by rubbing their legs against their wings to create a 'song' - in this case, it is a long, loud, 'churring' noise. After mating, the eggs are laid in the soil ready to hatch the following spring When grasshoppers sing it is known as 'stridulation'. They create this noise by rubbing their hind legs against special comb- like structures on their forewings.
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Fine streaked bugkin
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Lover of oak and hawthorn, this bug is pretty unmistakeable. Look out for its bright and bold markings as it basks on bark and leaves The fine streaked bugkin can be found across Britain but is more common in the south. The fine streaked bugkin feeds on aphids and other insect larvae and their eggs. The female fine streaked bugkin lays her eggs in tree bark in summer where they will remain until they hatch into nymphs in spring and develop into maturity by June
Common green shieldbug
A recent beneficiary of climate change, the common green shieldbug was once restricted to Southern England. In recent years, however, it has been on the march, and is now common and widespread across much of England and Wales, and spreading further northwards. The common green shieldbug feeds on a wide variety of plants, helping to make this one species which could turn up anywhere from garden to farm. Adults overwinter and emerge in spring, laying their eggs on the undersides of leaves. The rounded nymphs appear in June and new adults are present in early autumn Common green shieldbugs do not damage plants by drawing their sap, but the recently arrived southern green shieldbug may damage some vegetables, especially runner and French bean pods. However, this species is most numerous in late summer, after the cropping period, so gardeners don't need to worry about its presence in the country just yet Mainly found in England and Wales, but spreading north
Flat-backed millipede
This species has a long, flat, segmented body with a large number of legs. It is orangey-brown in colour and measures around 2cm in length. The UK is home to numerous millipede species which are difficult to tell apart. However, you can distinguish between millipedes and centipedes by looking at the legs. Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, compared to just one for centipedes. Most millipedes are herbivores, eating decaying vegetation that has fallen to the ground. This species uses its flat body shape to move around the soil and leaf litter in search of food. Despite their name millipedes do not have 1,000 legs. Depending on species the number of legs ranges from 40 to 400 pairs
White-lipped snail
These slimy damp-lovers are a familiar sight, but there’s more than meets the eye to the white-lipped snail. Look out for them munching their way through woodland, grassland and gardens The White-lipped snail is similar in appearance to the Brown-lipped Snail, but is generally smaller and has a white band around the edge of the shell opening, rather than a brown one. The White-lipped Snail lives in a variety of damp habitats, including gardens, hedgerows, woodland, grassland, wasteland, sand dunes and clifftops. It prefers to eat nettles, Ragwort and Hogweed. White-lipped snails are hermaphrodites, so have organs of both sexes. However, they need to mate in order for each snail to fertilise their own eggs. They then bury their eggs in soil.
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