Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Siphunculi, weevils that look like bird poo, and sparring aphids - oh my!

You may remember me talking about the brownfield sight which we nickamed Kinder, and I first talked about here. In that post I also explained how the area would be developed upon soon. Well, recently, despite our best efforts, areas of Kinder have been destroyed. One of the largest parts is now fenced off and is being built upon, but there are still some brownfield left on Kinder.

Today we took our first visit to the site (or at least what is left in it) in a while. Despite the construction going on nearby, this part of Kinder is still going strong, and we found a variety of invertebrates. We saw several meadow browns and unidentified blue butterflies, as well as loads of bees and hoverflies.

 Insect hunting on Kinderland!

I took a good look at some aphids under my field lens, and was surprised by how strange they look! They have a pair of tubes on their abdomen called cornicles or siphunculi. From these they can exude a fluid to defend themselves from predators called cornicle wax. Aphids come in a variety of different colours, and the majority of the ones that I found were the classic 'greenfly' type. However, there were also some brown-coloured ones, and I saw one of these having what looked like a fight with a green aphid. They reared up and pushed against each other with their front pair of legs for a few seconds, before the green one was pushed down and the brown species crawled onto its back! The purpose of this fight (if it was indeed a fight) is unclear, as as soon as the brown aphid had got on top of the other, it just walked away.

 Wild strawberries on Kinder.

I found 2 caterpillars, which I later identified as six-spot burnet moth caterpillars (Zygaena filipendulae).

Six-spot burnets are day-flying moths, with distinctive black colouration with red dots, and they can be seen on warm, sunny days from June to August. The caterpillars feed on clover and bird's foot trefoil.

 I think that this is an immature female blue-tailed damselfly, but if anyone thinks that it isn't, then please do let me know.

I also caught several lesser marsh grasshoppers (Chorthippus albomarginatus). They were only very small, and I caught 5 of them. Previously, this species was mostly found in boggy habitats, in sandunes, or somewhere near water. However, in recent years they have been expanding their range to drier areas. Now many of the grasshoppers that I find in local areas are lesser marsh.

We also found some figwort weevils (Cionus scrophulariae), which are very interesting little beetles. The adults are small and mottled, looking like a little piece of bird poo or soil, and the larvae look like small slugs. They are fairly common in the south of Britain, but in this area they are uncommon. We also have figwort weevils in our garden, though we have only found 1 so far this year.

 Pictures above: figwort weevils

Overall, it was a great day. It can't get better than being out in a meadow with a pooter, sweep net, and lots of tubs!

Identifying grasshoppers with the help of my books and field lens!

Until next time, keep on the wild side!

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