Another Garden Round-up

05th August 2012
What with the variable weather here in Warwickshire and the competing attractions of Olympic television coverage, I haven't been out with my camera as much as I should. The occasional stroll around our small garden though, invariably turns up something new or interesting to photograph. For instance, as I was passing this Clematis plant, I saw something tiny disappear under a leaf. Carefully turning it over, I could see that it was a ladybird larva.

I picked off the leaf and got some shots with the leaf resting on the garden table. I went online and found a useful PDF on the UK Ladybird Survey website. It most closely resembled the 14-spot Ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata) larva, but I hadn't seen any adults in the garden so was a bit unsure. In fact, there are very few ladybirds in the garden at the moment; just a few Harlequins and 2-spots. There had been hundreds of 7-spots over-wintering early in the year, but they all seem to have disappeared.

Later, I did find this 14-spot Ladybird in the garden; the first time I have seen it here. 14-spot Ladybirds are typically black and yellow and around 4mm long. As with other ladybird species, the number of spots can vary; in this species, between 4-14. The individual spots are often somewhat rectangular in shape. This is our most common black/yellow ladybird.

Interestingly, if handled, as a defence mechanism they can exude an orange liquid from their joints. This is a form of "controlled bleeding" which can stain the hands and is very strong-smelling. I was unaware of this as I handled it, but it didn't perform this behaviour fortunately!

Both adults and larvae of this ladybird feed on aphids.

There's been a considerable increase in the number of hoverflies in the garden recently, but this is one I don't recollect seeing regularly. I recognised it instantly as a Helophilus species though, because there's a photograph of Helophilus hybridus on the dust cover of Stubbs & Falk's excellent identification guide British Hoverflies. Helophilus hybridus and Helophilus pendulus are very similar, but I think this may be Helophilus pendulus because the hind tibiae are predominantly pale, whereas in Helophilus hybridus they are predominantly black. All the Helophilus species have boldly patterned bodies with the thorax having yellow and black stripes and the yellow abdomen having distinctive black markings. Whatever; I think that this is a fine-looking hoverfly!

Not quite so spectacular, but interesting nonetheless, is this tiny little Sepsid fly. I've been seeing lots of these in the garden recently; scurrying about on leaves and "signalling" with their wings. Small (around 3mm), black and shiny, these are classed as "ant-mimics" and described as Lesser Dung Flies, Scavenger Flies or (because of the "flag-waving activities); Ensign Flies. The "signalling" is part of their courtship display.

So, a few more insects added to the garden "list" and a bit more learned about the world of insects.

[Click on any image for a larger version]

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