Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

I found a spiderling in a web, all 2 to 3 mms of it, with the web floating a bit in a slight  air currents. I grabbed my usual dozen or so photos and thought none of them would come out with sufficient focus to identify the spider, then I got back to my usual hoverfly voyeurism.

When I got home I found I was looking at the most colourful spider I have ever seen. I know the pixilation is not great, and the focus could have used more attention but here it is….

Araneus sps spiderling, probably cucurbitina

Last year in the same area, I found a spider I had identified as Araneus cucurbitina. It had green colours on it as does this little lady. Contacting the Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme website, (the national recording schemes for spiders and harvestman), I have heard back from Peter Harvey who writes …..

This is a juvenile Araniella, but even adults can’t be identified to species without microscopical examination, so the Abney Park Cemetery Araniella cucurbitina could equally likely be Araniella cucurbitina or A. opisthographa, and the scarce A. inconspicua and even the very rare A. alpica are all possibilities. Araniella juveniles are very variable in colour, and adults can also vary in how green, yellow or white they are.

Araneus cucurbitina 10.8.2013

Looking back to last year I think it is very likely that it is A. cucurbitina. The difference between the species is in the spinaret area. A. cucurbitina has a red spot at the back of the abdomen, near the spinaret. The adult I found last year has this red spot which shows up pink in the strong light conditions of the day.

Link to invertebrate photos for Abney Park Cemetery 2014.


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So there I was, camera focused on a bee, happily thinking about focus and lighting and keeping it in shot,…. and suddenly a second bee turned up, grabbed the one I was watching by a back leg, wrestled for about 3 seconds and took off with it. I was left wondering what on earth had happened. I wasn’t sure of the species, and the aggressor looked quite differrent, so I thought it was an attack. But no, the expert on iSpot (an Open University site to help identify all things nature, send them a photo and they try for an ID ), said it was mating. From that I could work out the species. That didn’t look like fun though. that was rape! I clicked photos as fast as I could, and ended up with 3 indifferent shots. The full sequence is here, 6 snaps of the female bee feeding and the 3 action shots.

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This bee is going to be just fine. As I looked at it movement was just starting, it would dry out and feed and be on its way. But having fallen asleep on the hogweed last night it was caught in a torrential downpour overnight. And there is nothing quite as soggy as a drenched bee,,,

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On the day that the Bug Walk let loose round Stoke Newington, (see the page about Wilmer Place), I found myself reflecting on what makes Abney so special for me. I think it comes down to moments when I see something for the first time. I always get an instant of ‘It looks just like that on the Telly!’ Just why I should think that what I see on the Television is restricted to this magic box in the corner of my front room I don’t quite know. It always takes my by surprise.

I had one of these instants recently. I came across Ectemnius cavifrons, a solitary wasp. It is a strange-looking critter, and something that I recognised as being a predator of hoverflies, among other flying species. Above it was a hoverfly, at least it was flying like a hoverfly, I didn’t get a look close enough to identify it. The hoverfly landed, and then suddenly the E. cavifrons swooped down on the hoverfly, flew to a nearby leaf with it and killed it. It then flew away with its prey. It took an instant for the capture and seconds for the kill. And it was just like it happens on the Telly. It was at least as impressive as any TV hunt and kill because of the aerial precision and deftness of capture. No wonder they are called ‘Mini beasts’.

Ectemnius cavifrons with prey

As long as the natural world is restricted to the box in the corner it is somehow more easy to walk away from. I need real live nature in front of me to ram home how amazing it is, how exciting and precious. A nature reserve in the heart of a big city is therefore doubly important as it is so easily accessed by so many people. The challenge is to explain all this to those who have no idea about ecology and to protect it for the future.


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The Harlequin ladybird larva are distinctive – a black bug with a tapering black body and bright orangey flashes on either side, and 4 orangey spikes between them. In recent weeks the pupae have been sitting on the leaves, but now there are suddenly loads of adults out and about in a wide range of colours. Link to Insects etc photos.

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Platycheirus albimanus

It is not often that I share an intimate moment with an insect, but this was fascinating.  A Platycheirus albimanus, a little scrap of life, a small hoverfly, laid a series of single eggs on the underside of leaves on several plants. I was so taken by it that I forgot to look at which plant it was.

Link to insect photo collection






..P.S.  the eggs were laid on Small-flowered Buttercup, Ranunculus parviflorus

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The bees this year are quiet. I don’t know if you have noticed. I have a garden dedicated to growing flowers suitable for bees, and they come in sometimes large numbers, it is just a stones’  throw from Abney Park, and it has got bees visiting the flowers very clearly and visibly. As I look along the line of the flower beds I can see them, but I can’t hear them. Usually there is a background hum to the garden, but not this year. It is the same in Abney. There are bees, the numbers may be down, but the hum of bees is just not there.

Maybe it is the reduction in numbers of honey bees. Local hives have been hit badly. I’m surprised by the people who have told me they keep hives and how badly they are doing, when I didn’t even know they were interested in bees. Do honey bees buzz more loudly than other types of bee? Other species look to be doing quite well, but they are only the more visible ones.

There are many bees in the UK, they include the big bumble bees but the range is wide. Identification online by comparing photos is possible through BWARS. I have spent a couple of days getting used to looking a them, but with a series of close photos it is possible in most cases that I have tried.

Link to all photos of insects.

Link to June photos with just recent insect photos.

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This morning, during a most enjoyable walk round failing to see birds, we did see a spider with an apparent blue abdomen. It wasn’t that but a wolf spider carrying an attached egg sack. The females lay their eggs quite quickly after mating, then spin a silk bag for the eggs. They stay attached to her body until they hatch and even then for another week. Eventually the spiderlings just hang on as the sack can’t contain them any more.

I’ve taken a bit of a chance with the species name, so if anyone knows what it is without simply comparing photos and hoping that someone else has got it correct, please feel free to leap in with the right identification, but I think it looks like Pardosa amemtata. (There are quite a few species of wolf spider around).

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This year’s exceptional rain and cool temperatures have slowed the progress of the Leaf Miner Moth through the Horse Chestnut leaves. There was no damage evident while the rain was so heavy, and didn’t really get underway until the warmer weather arrived. Even now the progress seems slower then in previous years.

…..and the cause of all this damage is a tiny little moth, the Horse-chestnut leaf miner, Cameraria ohridella. It’s caterpillars eat through the chlorophyll layer of the leaves under the surface epidermis.

Link to photos of Insects / Butterflies etc Abney Park Cemetery.

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Ladybird Larvae

Ladybirds are a group of bugs whose classification is writtten in colours on their wing cases. The background colour and the  number of spots they have is far more fundamental then decoration. The larvae are very different too. As larvae they go through a series of 4 moults as they grow, and each moult is produces a larger and differently shaped result, so the species can also be seen even from the larvae. There is a webpage where the differences are laid out photographically (link to the webpage).

Link to photos of Butterflies/Insects in Abney Park Cemetery

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