CREATURE FEATURE

Our small wildlife garden attracts insects. We hope that what we have learned about these creatures might encourage you to choose insect-friendly plants & avoid pesticides.

UK biodiversity has changed with the passage of time. As the human population expands & its needs are catered for, numbers of native bees & other pollinators have greatly declined. Their importance to us, to our own food & the food chain, is greater than most of us realise.

Row 1 No 1 - Bumblebee on Knapweed 29 July 2014Row 1 No 2 - Mint Moth, Jun 2014Row 1 No 3 - Forest Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) on blue table, 3rd Sep 2012Row 1 No 4 - Ladybird larva on GeumRow 1 No 5 - Mystery caterpillar

Shared Planet, a BBC Radio4 series on sustainability presented by journalist/author Monty Don (the nation’s most famous organic gardener) looked at the crunch point between human population and the natural world and found this crunch point happening all over the planet. The problem is not only the UK’s.

Listen to programmes from the Shared Planet series on BBC iPlayer.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b02xf2qg/episodes/guide

Row 2 No 2 - Golden bugRow 2 No 3 - Marmalade Hoverfly on Purple LoosestrifeRow 2 No 4 - Ladybird dragon on Himalayan knotweed.JPGRow 2 No 5 - Mystery moths togetherWoundwort Shieldbug Instar

COMMA ON CLEANED UP GDN CHAIR JUN 20 2014

Comma (Polygonia c-album) on garden chair Jun 20 2014

When we are outdoors, we may be aware of only a blur of wings as something whizzes by. Some of these insects are tiny; we may find ourselves staring at a creature we have never seen before, wondering what it is.

ISPOT

One way to discover an insect’s identity is to turn to the Internet. The Open University‘s website ISPOT is worth a look. Browse through the photo galleries and you may recognise a creature you’ve seen in your area, or one that has piqued your curiosity.

ISPOT is free to join. If you have a camera or phonecam, by agreeing to share your wildlife photos and the location in which you took them, you will be adding to the overall picture of how the species is doing across the country. If you use a digital camera, the date of your photo will be automatically recorded along with other photo data.

http://www.ispot.org.uk

Insect - Arsenal Elephant Hawkmoth2

Elephant Hawkmoth, saved from Arsenal Underground Station

ELEPHANT HAWKMOTH

This large, iridescent creature was being blown along the floor into the tunnel of Arsenal Underground Station. I picked it up and carried it carefully back to our garden. Soon it was revived by the warmth of the sun and flew away. The internet showed it to be an Elephant Hawkmoth.

After signing up with Open University ISPOT, I typed in the Hawkmoth’s details and downloaded its photo. A Google map is part of the ISPOT procedure. When the Arsenal Underground came up on the map as the rescue scene, it was clear how close it is to our local nature reserve, Gillespie Park. Elsewhere on the internet, “Elephant Hawkmoth foodplants” brought up Rosebay Willowherb, a tall magenta wildflower that grows in Lupin Meadow, on the lower level of Gillespie Park.

web - tidied interior mural - rosebay willowherb closeup

Rosebay Willowherb on mural, Islington Ecology Centre

 

The sequence of events became clear : the Hawkmoth had hatched in Lupin Meadow & fed on Rosebay Willowherb till it was an adult. It would have taken to the air, flying south over gardens & houses on Gillespie Road, over the Arsenal Underground entrance.

Piccadilly Line trains below pull the air down into the pedestrian walkway as they enter or leave the station, creating a wind tunnel effect. Flying over the entrance, the Hawkmoth would have been sucked down into it. These insects are strong flyers, but if humans have to brace themselves to stay upright, what chance did a Hawkmoth have?

 

 

 

 

 See the  Living With London Wildlife and What You Can Do For pages. Our ground-based creatures –  slugs and snails – get a mention on The Garden Adapts page.

the ISPOT category which includes insects calls them invertebrates. Here, in photos taken in our garden, are our invertebrates: creatures who flew here or grew from eggs laid by those who flew into the garden. They must be typical of North London, though most go unnoticed. Any number of them must have come from Gillespie Park.

Row 3 No 1 - Tiger CraneflyRow 3 No 2 - Hawthorn Shieldbug from Gillespie pavementRow 3 No 3 - Snout MothRow 3 No 4 - Ladybird BeetleSAMSUNG

Hedge Woundwort instar on gdn hose

Hedge Woundwort instar on garden hose

CREATURES 2012

 

Row 4 No 1 - Bumblebee on ScabiousRow 4 No 2 - Mystery MothRow 4 No 3 - Spotty bug on ButtercupRow 4 No 4 - Ladybird dragonRow 4 No 5 - Mint Moth on Hardy G 'Wargrave Pink'

Row 5 No 1 - Mystery bugRow 5 No 2 - Copper UnderwingRow 5 No 3 - Honeybees on Knapweed, 29 July 2014Row 5 No 4 - Female Orange Tip ButterflySAMSUNG

Hoverfly /Episyrphus balteatus

Insect -Marmalade Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus, on Gaillardia, 27th Aug 2012

Marmalade Hoverfly, Episyrphus balteatus, on Gaillardia

It nectars on flat-topped flowers and rests on vegetation. There is often an influx of them from the continent, and at such times large gatherings may form.
www.rspb.org.uk/wildlifegarden/atoz/m/marmaladehoverfly,aspx
(A to Z of a Wildlife Garden)

CREATURES 2013

 

Row 6 No 1 - Mint Moth on Rose stemRow 6 No 2 - Eryngium and bumblebeeRow 6 No 3 - Hedge Woundwort instarsRow 6 No 4 - Bumblebee on Hardy GeraniumRow 6 No 5 - Masonry or Mining Bee on Ivy

Row 7 No 1 - Mystery bugRow 7 No 2 - Vine WeevilRow 7 No 3 - Speckled Bush CricketRow 7 No 4 - Hedge Woundwort instar on garden hose

CREATURES 2014

 

2014 - Bumblebee on Hedge Woundwort2014 - Comma Butterfly on Nettle2014 - Common White Wave Moth2014 - Honeybee on Knapweed2014 - Mystery Bug on Creeping Buttercup2014 - Mystery bug on St Johns Wort2014 - Mystery Caterpillar on Nettle leaf2014 - Mystery caterpillar2014 - Speckled Wood Butterfly2014 Bumblebee on Alkanet2014 Ladybird Beetle2014 Row 1 No 1 - Mystery bug on window2014 Row 1 No 2 - Bumblebee on Sweet2014 Unfurling Moth, Beetle, Ladybird

BUMBLEBEE ON purple loosestrife 29 july 2014

Bumblebee on Purple Loosestrife

CREATURES 2015

Morning caterpillarWaspish Bee cropMystery bug on Wild Cherry leaf cropRed Admiral Butterfly on BuddleiaTiger Cranefly on Ice Plant leaf

mystery bug on helenium el dorado leafwhite butterfly on buddleiaMint Moth on grapevine leaf cropHolly Blue Butterfly on Sumac colourBush Cricket in recycle bag 2

Small Magpie Moth on Ivy leaf 14 July 2015Marmalade Hoverfly on Purple LoosestrifeMarmalade Hoverfly on Meadowsweet leafMystery bug on Potentilla flowerHedge Woundwort instar on Alkanet leaf (underside)

 

 

hoverfly on ice plant floretsGreen beetle on Lamium Maculatum leafLadybirds 2015Beige Moth crop P1040294

CREATURES 2016

red admiralGreen caterpillar on Alkanet leaf.JPGSpeckled Wood on Nasturtium leaf

Possible Hoverfly on Ice Plant floretsMystery bug on Monarda leaf, September 2016

CREATURES 2017
 
CREATURES 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEO – COMMA ON GROUND, THEN CAMOUFLAGE

 

PLUME MOTHS

No-1-Plume-MothNo 2 Plume Moths matingNo 3 Plume MothNo 4 Plume Moth

These little insects have always lived in our garden. Their many thin wings tuck neatly under outer wings when they are at rest, with the insect forming a ‘T’. We had been calling them ‘T Bugs’. In flight, some look like a fan or a flamenco dancer’s skirt. They’ve not been easy to photograph – these four best digital photos from 2014 follow years of blurred snaps. When the hulking giant with the camera approaches, the tiny moths take evasive action. They fly to a leaf, roll over in midair & land upside down on its underside. Their flight is quirky: they may swirl about, flying in tight corkscrews, zigzagging or doing barrel rolls. Resting on twig or leaf they look like a bit of dried straw.

I described them to Richard Meyers, Conservation Ranger at the Ecology Centre, asking him what they might be. ‘Look on the Internet, under PLUME Moths’, he said. I did. Theirs is an international family, and some are pests.

Plume moth on fern 2015

 Two species of Plume Moth have visited us – one with pointy wingtips, and another whose wings are like swirly sand sculptures. Most seen, however, is one that looks to be covered in a stencil pattern. (Above photos). It is called  Amblyptilia acanthadactyla.

 Website www.gardensafari.net/english/weird-winged moths.htm says its foodplants include Herb Robert, Hedge Woundwort and Mints. No wonder they come to us. We offer food and a home. They feed on wildflowers and we do not find them making pests of themselves on other flowers. They overwinter as adults; our garden walls of evergreen Ivy provide winter homes for them.

* There are a number of Plume Moth websites on the Internet, with many photos; specify UK Plume Moths to see which of them live here.

SPIDERS: PREDATORS OF WINGED CREATURES

Biodiversity includes spiders; they are part of the food chain. Some birds use spiderwebs as nesting material, while others eat the spiders. They are rich in amino acids and greatly favoured by Wrens and Great Tits.

SPIDERWEB on teasel two 985

Even the smallest flying creature is welcome here. They bring movement to the garden. On a calm, cold day in winter there may be a mid-air performance of figure-8’s by tiny wisps just hatched from eggs laid somewhere in the Ivy…

Insects pollinate flowers and fruit, and we need to encourage them. House Sparrows and other birds need the protein provided by insects to feed their fledgelings. There is no shortage of spiders to match the decline in bird or bee numbers.

 Spiderweb on foggy morning

 

There are humans who like spiders. One day, as we sawed tree stumps behind the main pond in Gillespie Park, a young volunteer shouted ‘Stop! Spider!’ Everyone stopped work as the lucky spider was plucked from the danger zone and moved to a place of safety by its protector.

My housemates, & their guests, also like spiders. “I like the way they set up their stall, without knowing what might drop into it…” But we have no balance of nature in our tiny Highbury garden. If spiders want to take it over, they will succeed unless someone intervenes. There were days when I came out to water RF’s garden and found it decked with spiderwebs; husks of sucked victims hung in the webs like so many Christmas ornaments.

Arachnids in Highbury

* Our smallest spiders are dots the size of a grain of sand. They blow into the garden on the breeze, trailing a single strand of web behind them.

Insect - Cross Spider

Cross or Garden Spider

GARDEN SPIDER, PAUL'S WINDOW P1020879.jpg

* Our largest spider, found in many local front gardens in autumn, is the GARDEN or CROSS SPIDER (Araneus diadematus). Its elegant web hangs vertically; the spider  often hangs in the centre like a large patterned jewel. Every few days it devours its old web along with the husks of its victims, & spins a new one. The web’s strands are strong: I have found bumblebees, honeybees, and a butterfly caught in the Cross Spiders’ web.

 

SEPTEMBER SPIDERWEB

* Also in residence here are small grey MONEY SPIDERS (from the Linyphiidae family). They like to put their triangular webs high up in the ivy, where they look like soft grey trampolines. The little spiders hang beneath them, waiting for an unsuspecting winged creature to land. Money Spiders drop down into the undergrowth when they see the cane approaching; they wait till I’ve gone to climb back and spin another one.

MONEY SPIDER two

* CRAB SPIDERS (Misumena) look like little white crabs. They spin no webs, but sit on flowerheads waiting to pounce on a victim. The unsuspecting bee or hoverfly comes to the flower, only seeing the predator when it is too late. I saw a crab spider about to pounce on a ladybird larva – it recognised its intended victim just in time, pulled back and scampered away.

* The longest legs belong to the HARVESTMAN (Phalangium opilio), who looks like an orange lentil with legs of starched black sewing thread and is not really a spider. They have no fangs with which to bite, but rather stink glands on either side of their eyes.

HARVESTMEN FR on Himalayan Knotweed leaf

Harvestmen live among the Mints and Hardy Geraniums, only breaking cover when I deadhead the flowers or deploy the watering can. I try to avoid those impossibly fragile-looking legs. The photos, of two Harvestmen on a leaf of Himalayan Knotweed, were taken at what seemed a rather private moment, with one tickling the other. I left them to it.

LEARN MORE ABOUT CREATURES ON THE INTERNET

BUMBLEBEE CONSERVATION TRUST * Find out more on What Can You Do For Your Garden page

The Pollinator Garden – WWW.FOXLEAS.COM – website for Marc Carlton, wildlife gardener. Click on Marc Carlton’s name to reach a number of related sites for tips, lists, downloads

Illustrations of UK Shieldbugs and their instars by Ashley Wood, available from: www.britishbugs.org.uk/heteroptera/idcards/life_stages.html