Starting to see a few insects around the garden now; this one was hiding up in the chard picked from my vegetable plot for dinner. Shield bugs over-winter as adults, so maybe it’s been there all winter? The Hawthorn Shield Bug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) is quite common, and although it has a preference for hawthorns (which I don’t have in the garden), it also is found in birch and hazel trees. It is quite similar to the closely-related Birch Shield Bug, but differs in it’s more elongated shape and it’s burgundy-coloured, pointy shoulders. I’ve put both species side by side below for comparison.
Impressed with this colony of Giant Willow Aphids (Tuberolachnus salignus), species #389, hiding in plain sight on the underside of a branch in the weeping willow. They’re impressively big, at 5mm in length apparently one of the biggest aphids in the world, with a funny-looking “sharks-fin” in the middle of their backs. These aphids are most active in the winter, all-female colonies giving birth to live young clones (males are not found) right through to mid-winter, and in fact they disappear totally from the trees for 3-4 months in spring/summer, going no-one-knows-where. You would have thought the local blue tits would gobble them up, but it seems not - it’s thought they accumulate toxins from the willow bark that make them unattractive to would-be avian predators.
It’s 5-6 Centigrade, but surprisingly there are still some insects about. The first is a rather pretty mirid bug - Pantilius tunicatus (#367) - that dropped in via my window last week. Recognisable by its reddish-above, bright green-below colours, this species is a late season bug, seen mostly in September-October, that prefers hazel, alder & birch trees. Common Drone Fly (# 379, Eristalis tenax) is a species which can also be seen all year round. It’s a common enough insect, so not sure how it took me so long to record it. This one was taking advantage of midday sunshine for a bit of sunbathing on a south-facing wall. Finally this lacewing popped up out of some vegetation I was tidying. I think it’s a Common Green Lacewing (#267, Chrysoperla carnea), same as many I found during the summer (though the dark spots down the side are a bit curious). This species hibernates over the winter, changing its colour to brown so as not to be quite so conspicuous to predators.
A nice selection of multi-coloured Harlequin Ladybirds (#124) coming out in the afternoon sun to look for a place to hibernate. Amazing that these Asian Ladybirds only got established in UK in 2004, because they are now all over the place, and in numbers.
Among the ladybirds, a Scentless Plant Bug (Stictopleurus punctatonervosus), species #357 for the list. This grassland species is also a fairly recent arrival, this time from Central Europe. Starting out from the Thames Valley, it’s now spreading out across Southern England.
These two were the first shield bugs of the season. On the left the Birch Shieldbug (#282), several of which have been blown out of the trees around the garden by the strong winds of the last couple of days. On the right a Red-legged Shieldbug (#292), this one saved from drowning in the paddling pool. These shield shaped bugs are also often called stink bugs as the smell bad when you squash them, and presumably they taste bad to birds as well. They're pretty bugs, but not especially a gardeners friend as they live by sucking the sap from plants and hence can become a pest, but I don't mind them...
Flower bugs come with a nasty bite; one of the garden's predators - this species #139 Deraeocoris flavilinea is actually (another) alien species, which has spread out from the Mediterranean, reaching UK for the first time only in 1996. They live up in the trees normally, eating aphids and other small insects.