Black Garden Ant

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Black Garden Ant

The Black Garden Ant (Lasius niger) workers are 4-6 mm long, wingless and black or dark brown. They are usually found in large numbers, either around their nests in the soil or following each other along their scent trails across the ground and paved areas, over walls and into buildings. The queen is larger (up to 15 mm long) and mid-brown in colour but is only seen if the nest is excavated. The fertile males and females are only seen briefly, as swarms of flying ants.

Where do they live?
Black Garden Ants nest mainly in dry soil and humus. Although their nests are most often noticed in gardens – in flower beds, lawns, and under paving stones – they are also common in dry grasslands and heaths. From their nests, they forage widely for food along scent-marked trails across soil and ground vegetation, and – most noticeably – across paved surfaces and into houses, where they are attracted to sugar and crumbs. Outside human habitation, they feed on many things: small live insects, dead insects, nectar, seeds, etc. They also feed on the sugary secretions produced by aphids, some other sap-feeding insects and certain caterpillars, and often tend them to protect the source of this food from predators.

Where can they be found?
This ant is found throughout the British Isles.

When can you see them?
Worker ants can be seen foraging on the ground and in houses from March to October. The winged adults fly on certain afternoons from July to September: this is triggered by warm humid weather conditions and often occurs simultaneously over wide areas of the country.

Life cycle
The fertile flying ants mate during their two or three hour flight, but many of them are eaten by birds. After the mating flight, the males die but the surviving mated females shed their wings and make individual chambers in suitable nest sites in the soil. The new queen lays a few eggs and rears the larvae to adults: these adults are her first workers and the successive broods of workers that start to emerge in the early spring will tend the queen, rear the larvae, protect the pupal cocoons (the familiar cream-coloured so-called ‘ants eggs’), and forage for food for the queen and colony for the remainder of the queen’s life (up to 15 years). During early summer, the queen lays special eggs that will develop not into the usual sterile workers but into fertile winged males and females. Later in the summer, these fertile adults undertake the mating flight and the successful females will establish new colonies.

What do they do?
This species and a related Lasius species are essential for the conservation of the declining populations of the attractive Silver-Studded Blue Butterfly (Plebejus argus) on heathland because they protect the butterfly’s caterpillars from predators in return for feeding on secretions specially produced by the caterpillars.

Although black ants are a nuisance in houses and can cause problems for gardeners by loosening the soil under plants, they are harmless and do not carry diseases.

Did you know…?
All the worker ants of a particular colony have developed as sterile females from eggs laid by the colony’s single queen, so they are all sisters!

Photo Credit: © Royal Entomological Society

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Southern Wood Ant

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Southern Wood Ant

The Southern Wood Ant (Formica rufa) is one of the largest ants in the UK and it can be easily recognised by its reddish colour, black head and tiny waist. It is known as the ‘Southern Wood Ant’ because it is mainly found in the south of England and in Wales. Further species occur in the north. Wood ants create large mound nests in open glades or on the edges of woodlands in sunny, sheltered locations. The ant mounds are dome-shaped and are often over a meter high and two metres wide. They are usually constructed of leaves, twigs and thousands of pine needles. Avoid treading on one of these mounds as wood ants can be very territorial and can bite quite fiercely.

Wood ants often live in a huge colony that is made up of about two hundred thousand ants. A colony of this size could have over a hundred Queen ants whose main purpose is to produce eggs. There will also be thousands of female workers whose duty is to collect food, keep the nest clean and look after the young. Interestingly Queen ants can live up to fifteen years while the workers often have a life span of one year only. The colony also has workers who act like soldiers who have no hesitation at all in attacking and removing any other ant species found near their nest.

Wood Ants mainly eat insects and other invertebrates, especially aphids which are seen as a pest to foresters. Sometimes Wood Ants are actually introduced into woodlands and forests as a form of pest management. Wood Ants have large jaws which are powerful enough to bite through most insects or immobilise them to make eating easier.

In June, when days are very humid, you may be able to see many winged male Wood ants and Queens flying around. Hundreds of males and many Queens leave the nest to reproduce and engage in a mating flight. Once a male has mated with a Queen it soon dies while the Queen sheds her wings and looks for a suitable place to create a new nest. Interestingly, Queens are able to lay eggs that produce workers and also eggs that produce winged reproductive males and females. Most of the eggs are laid from April onwards. As soon as the young emerge they know what their purpose is, whether that be cleaning, finding food, defending the territory, building the nest and any other duties necessary needed to keep a colony functioning properly. They are clever little insects indeed!

Photo Credit: © Copyright Steve Falk

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Bloody Nose Beetle

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Bloody Nose Beetle

The adult bloody-nosed beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa) is black and it is slow-moving and feeds on bedstraw plants. Its distinctive feature is its defensive reaction of producing a blood-red liquid from its mouth when it is attacked or disturbed, giving it its common name.

Credit: Thank you to the Royal Entomological Society for sharing the information. Photo Credit: © Hazel Bulpitt / Royal Entomological Society

www.royensoc.co.uk

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Orange Tip Butterfly

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Orange Tip Butterfly

The Orange Tip Butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) can be seen on the wing from April to June. The female which doesn’t have the orange tips, lays its eggs on cuckoo flower, also known as lady’s smock or may flower.

The caterpillar feeds on the developing seeds and is known to be cannibalistic if more than one egg is laid on the food plant.

They accumulate mustard oil from the plant which makes them distasteful to birds.

Credit: Information and photo kindly supplied by Peter Dowse of Bollington, Cheshire.

White-Letter Hairstreak Butterfly

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White-Letter Hairstreak Butterfly

The White-Letter Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymoidia w-album) is identified by the distinctive W mark on the underside of the wings; it also has a pair of black tails with white ends at the rear of the wings.

It is associated with woodland containing its food plant, the elm tree. The species declined after the caterpillars food plant was reduced following Dutch elm disease in the 1970s.

They spend most of the time in the tree canopy feeding on aphid honeydew, the food for the adults. They are occasionally seen nectaring on the ground flora, making them easier to spot. They are one of three butterflies that can be seen walking on leaves opening and closing their wings.

Credit: Information and photo kindly supplied by Peter Dowse of Bollington, Cheshire.

Brimstone Butterfly

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Brimstone Butterfly

The Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) is one of our most recognisable butterflies; the male has the yellow wings and the female has pale green wings. It is thought that the word butterfly originates from the yellow colour of the brimstone.

It is the longest living butterfly and can be seen in every month of the year if the weather is suitable. There has been a big increase and distribution of the species, through the planting of buckthorn and alder buckthorn which are the caterpillar’s food plant.

Credit: Information and photo kindly supplied by Peter Dowse of Bollington, Cheshire.

Common Green Lacewing

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Green Lacewing

The Common Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea) is about 10 mm long. It is pale lime green during the summer, with a lemon-yellow stripe down the middle of the body. The head lacks the black spots of some species but the cheeks are reddish. The most distinctive feature of the Common Green Lacewing is that it over-winters as an adult insect: it enters buildings to hibernate and turns yellowish-brown, often with red spots on the abdomen.

Where do they live?
The Common Green Lacewing lives amongst tall grasses, herbaceous plants, trees and bushes. It is commonly seen in gardens, fields and hedges, and at the edge of woodland.

Where can they be found?
The species is common and widespread throughout Britain.

When can you see them?
Adults are present almost all year round, though they hibernate in buildings during winter months. The period of peak activity is from May to September.

Life cycle
Eggs are laid in late spring and early summer by adults that have over-wintered from the previous autumn. They are white, cigar-shaped and are attached to leaves by a long filament at one end. They take a few weeks to complete development and then pupate inside a round silken cocoon attached to the underside of a leaf. The adults of this generation are on the wing in mid-summer and immediately lay eggs so that a second life-cycle is completed before the autumn, and the emerging adults prepare for hibernation.

What do they do?
The larvae are predatory and they actively hunt aphids, scale-insects, caterpillars and insect eggs on foliage. The adults, however, are not predators, but feed on nectar, pollen and honeydew.

Did you know…?
Before mating, the adults court each other by vibrating their abdomens to produce ultra-low frequency songs that are carried through the leaves on which they are standing.

Credit: Thank you to the Royal Entomological Society for sharing the information. Photo Credit: © Royal Entomological Society

www.royensoc.co.uk

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Dragonfly (Common Darter)

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Dragonfly (Common Darter)

The Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) is a small dragonfly that quickly colonises ponds. The male is dull red and the female is yellow, orange or brown. It can be seen from mid to late summer and sometimes in autumn in large numbers; it can be the last dragonfly to be seen on the wing.

The dragonfly hovers and darts to catch its prey, usually insects such as gnats and midges.

The female lays her eggs just below the surface of the water. The larvae emerge and live in the pond for a year feeding on small aquatic animals such as tadpoles.

Credit: Information and photo kindly supplied by Peter Dowse of Bollington, Cheshire.

Dragonfly (4 Spotted Chaser)

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Dragonfly - Four-spotted chaser

Four-Spotted Chaser Dragonfly – Libellula quadrimaculata

Dragonflies are similar to damselflies, but hold their wings horizontally at right-angles to their body when at rest. Adults of dragonflies and damselflies have large eyes and are usually found near freshwater, though dragonflies are strong fliers and are sometimes found some distance from water.

What do they look like?
The Four-Spotted Chaser is 45-48 mm long, with a wingspan of 74-78 mm. The body is generally brown in colour, with the abdomen darkening from a yellowish-brown near the front to black at its tip. From the side, yellow markings can be seen along the side of the abdomen. The distinctive feature of the Four-Spotted Chaser is that there is an obvious dark brown spot near the middle of the leading edge of each wing (in addition to the dark spot near the tip of each wing, and the dark patch at the base of each hind wing).

The Four-Spotted Chaser is similar in general appearance to females and immature males of the Broad-Bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa) and the Black-Tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum), but these two species do not have the dark spots near the middle of their wings.)

Where do they live?
Four-Spotted Chasers are particularly common on or near lowland ponds and small lakes, often with little open water, but are also found near larger lakes and at brackish sites.

Where can they be found?
Four-Spotted Chasers are found throughout most of Europe. In Britain, the species is common and widespread, but is absent from some parts of north-east England.

When can you see them?
Adults are found flying from mid-May to mid-August.

Life cycle
Mating is brief and takes place in mid-air. The female often lays her eggs alone, but is sometimes guarded by the male. The eggs are released as the female dips or flicks the tip of her abdomen on the water surface over patches of aquatic plants. The eggs hatch after about a month. The nymphs live underwater among plant debris, where they grow for over two years. When they are fully developed, they leave the water – usually early in the morning – and shed their skins to emerge as winged adults on vegetation by the water’s edge or on leaves and stems sticking out of the water.

What do they do?
The males are very territorial, leaving their chosen perch to find females, chase rival males or bully smaller dragonflies, often returning to perch on the same twig, branch or leaf at the water’s edge.

Did you know…?
Dragonflies and damselflies look beautiful but they are predators, catching other insects in flight when they are adults, and hunting them underwater as nymphs.

Credit: Thank you to the Royal Entomological Society for sharing the information and photo. Photo Credit: © Samantha Howse / Royal Entomological Society.

www.royensoc.co.uk

www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk

Common Earwig

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Common Earwig

The adult Common Earwig Forficula auricularia is 11-16 mm long. Its legs, thorax and wing-cases are yellowish brown, but the head and the abdomen are dark brown. The pincers on the tip of the abdomen are curved in males but almost straight in females. The membranous hind wings are folded tightly underneath the wing cases: these wings are functional but the Common Earwig rarely flies. The nymphs of the Common Earwig resemble the adults, but are (of course) smaller.

Where do they live?
During the day, Common Earwigs hide in dark sheltered places such as under stones, flower pots, logs or loose bark on trees. They can be found by turning over likely stones and pots or by searching in corners of garden sheds. They are active at night, when they can often be seen by examining plants by torchlight on mild evenings.

Where can they be found?
The Common Earwig occurs throughout Europe. It can be found in most gardens in Britain and Ireland.

When can you see them?
Common Earwigs are most often seen between April and October.

Life cycle
There is one generation per year. Common Earwigs mate in the autumn and the female digs a hole in the soil, where she lays 30-50 eggs. Whereas most insects abandon their eggs, female earwigs stay and guard their brood until after the nymphs have hatched in the spring. The nymphs shed their outer skin four times between spring and mid-summer as they grow and develop into adults.

What do they do?
Earwigs are sometimes regarded as garden pests because they eat the young leaves and petals of plants such as clematis, dahlia and chrysanthemum. However, they also feed on small insects, such as greenfly, so they can be beneficial.

What do they do?
Earwigs are sometimes regarded as garden pests because they eat the young leaves and petals of plants such as clematis, dahlia and chrysanthemum. However, they also feed on small insects, such as greenfly, so they can be beneficial.

Photo Credit: © Royal Entomological Society

www.royensoc.co.uk

www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk

Common Field Grasshopper

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Common Field Grasshopper

The Common Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) is the one of the grasshoppers that you are most likely to see throughout the UK as it is can be found in dry grassy areas, meadows, fields, parks, roadsides and even on waste land. They vary in colour; some can be green, some grey, some brown and some are even a purplish colour. Despite their individual colours they all have something in common; they all have light vertical stripes running down the length of the body and darker markings too. They also have a hairy belly unlike most other grasshoppers.

One would think with the name ‘grasshopper’ that this insect hops a lot. Actually it doesn’t hop very often at all, but it will hop when it is disturbed and when it does, it is capable of hopping over one metre. That is a long distance for this grasshopper seeing that it is only two centimetres long! It uses its strong hind legs to hop and it does this by quickly extending its powerful legs which literally throw the grasshopper forward and upward at an amazing speed. It is spectacular sight to see if you are lucky enough to witness it.

The Common Field Grasshopper is not only a strong hopper but a strong flier too and can be seen flying around in warm weather sometimes. However, if it is very hot and the sun is shining it is not uncommon to see one sunbathing on walls, on a bare piece of ground and on pathways. More often than not you can hear grasshoppers before you can see them. They make a short sequence of chirping sounds and these sounds are created by the grasshopper running its hind legs against its forewings.

When male field grasshoppers want to attract a female they often chirp at one another, with each male taking its turn. This is almost like a rivalry song with each male trying to beat the other in the hope that a female will notice him. If a male finds a female his song changes to a ‘ticking’ sound and this is most probably to let the other males know that he has succeeded in finding a mate.

During the summer months, a female field grasshopper lays a large egg pod containing approximately fifteen eggs. The egg pod is buried just below the surface of dry ground and sometimes in ant hills. The protective case keeps the eggs safe over winter and until spring when the young hatch out. The young, called nymphs, shed their skins about three to four times before they eventually become fully grown adults, just like their parents.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Steve Falk

www.buglife.org.uk

Green Shield Bug

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Green Shield Bug

The Green Shield Bug (Piezodorus lituratus), like its name suggests, is bright green and has a body shaped like a knight’s shield. However, the green colour may darken or even change to a deep bronze in the winter before it goes into hibernation. It hibernates in grass tussocks or leaf litter and emerges again around May time, and sometimes you may see it basking in the sun on top of plants or on tufts of grass before it goes into hibernation.

It is sometimes called a ‘Green Stink Bug’ as it can produce a very pungent smell if it is disturbed or handled. It can be seen in gardens, parks and woodland edges throughout England and Wales, but less so in Scotland. However, if you can’t see it so easily because it is hidden among some plants you may be able to see the stinky trial it leaves behind!

The Green Shield Bug feeds on deciduous shrubs, tall herbs, leaves of tress and plant sap. It uses its piercing and sucking mouth parts to suck sap out of the plants.

The Green Shield Bug is about one centimetre in length and can fly. It has four sets of wings; two green wings which are thick at the base and fine at the tip, and then there are two other transparent wings underneath which are thin and flexible. The bug holds the wings flat over its shield-like body when it is not flying. It has six thin green legs and two long green antennae which have brown markings at the end of them. It uses its antennae to detect air movements, vibration caused by sound and even taste and smell.

Female Green Shield Bugs lays clutches of eggs in multiples of seven underneath leaves. When they hatch they are wingless so this is the time you will see them crawl between plants when feeding. The baby bugs are called nymphs and they undergo four incomplete moults before they become flying adults.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Steve Falk

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The Seven Spot Ladybird

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Seven Spot Ladybird

The Seven Spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata) is a small red beetle that has seven different shaped black spots on each wing case. These wing cases are known as elytra and the patterns of the spots are identical on both sides making the cases look like mirror images. The bright red colour and black spots help to warn predators that the ladybirds are not very tasty and a bit poisonous too. The ladybird has a poisonous substance in its body which is released through its legs if it is captured by a bird for example. The poison not only tastes awful to birds but it also makes them feel sick so they keep well away from ladybirds. Humans on the other hand seem to like these pretty looking beetles, not to eat of course, but to look at and many people believe that if a ladybird lands on you it will bring you luck!

Seven Spot Ladybirds can be found throughout the UK almost anywhere from gardens, meadows, fields, woodlands, hedgerows and even in towns and cities. They are often known as the ‘gardener’s best friend’ because the ladybird’s favourite food is aphids which is a type of lice considered to be a pest to plants. Ladybirds also eat other soft insects such as mites and white flies which are also seen as pests by gardeners. The Seven Spot Ladybirds find their food by using their antennae which help them to smell and feel their way around. It is a good job ladybirds have these antennae seeing that they have terrible eyesight.

Female ladybirds release their own individual pheromone which is a chemical substance that attracts males. When a couple find each other they mate and interestingly the female can lay her eggs up to three months later. The female ladybird often lays clusters of ten to fifteen tiny jelly-bean shaped eggs under a leaf so the eggs are not on show to flying predators. The eggs are laid in a place where there is lots of aphids so that when the larvae hatch out they will have enough to eat. After about two weeks the larvae start to look like a little shrimps and this is the time when they attach themselves to leaves and rest for a few days so that they can go through metamorphosis and turn into fully grown adults. When ladybirds first emerge out of their larvae skin they are a pinkish colour and their wing cases are soft. The wing cases harden after a couple of hours and it is during this stage that they turn a bright red colour.

Photo Credit: © Copyright Steve Falk

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Water Scorpion

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Water Scorpion

Water Scorpions (Nepa cinerea) can be found all around the UK in ponds, lakes, shallow slow-flowing water and sometimes in stagnant water. They are also known as ‘toe biters’ because that is exactly what they do – they bite your toes! The bite is not poisonous but it can be painful so you may have to be careful when you are wading in shallow water. And here’s a tip, if you should happen to be looking at water and you think see a small dead leaf on the water’s surface, this could well be a Water Scorpion because this bug is flat and a blackish brown colour, just like the colour of dead leaves, and it keeps very still in water. You will know if it is a Water Scorpion though because it has a very long tail which it uses to breathe. It breathes by pushing its hollow tail up to the surface of the water and once it has enough oxygen it stays under water for about thirty minutes.

Even though Water Scorpions live in water they actually don’t like swimming so more often than not you will find them clinging onto water plants most of the time. Water Scorpions can also fly, but they don’t do that very often too because their wing muscles are often under developed. Fortunately for them they don’t need to fly that much to catch prey as they mainly feed on tadpoles, water worms, water fleas, insect larvae and sometimes small fish. Water Scorpions use their powerful front legs to catch their prey and then use their piercing and sucking mouth parts to suck the fluids out of each victim.

Water Scorpions have three pairs of legs and when they swim they move their front legs up and down and at the same time move their second and third pair of legs like rowing oars. They can look quite awkward when they are swimming. Sometimes Water Scorpions crawl on the ground in very shallow water so be careful where you stand otherwise you may get bitten!

Water Scorpions can make chirping sounds and the males usually do this when they want to attract a female. This sound is made by rubbing their legs against their body. Once a couple have found each other and mating has taken place, the female usually lays around thirty eggs on water plants or algae. The eggs have long hairs which can be seen floating freely on the water. These hairs allow the little ones to breathe inside the eggs. After about four weeks the little ones, called nymphs, hatch out and they all look very hairy indeed. Nymphs have to go through metamorphosis to become adults, which means they have to go through a series of moults. They moult five times and it takes around eight weeks before they turn into fully grown adults and then they could bite your toes too!

Photo Credit: © Copyright Steve Falk

www.buglife.org.uk