Monday, 22 April 2013

Angle Shades and Harlequins

Back to routine garden work today. The very cold spring has caused damage to many plants including Rose of Sharon, Hypericum calycinum. This plant, a type of St John's Wort, is a native of Turkey. Winters there can be very cold of course and so the plant will suffer no long-term damage. I'll give it a good haircut and new shoots will rapidly develop.
Rose of Sharon badly scorched by the cold spring
 weather. Byfield, 21,April, 2013

Angle Shades caterpillar. Byfield, 21 April, 2013
The St Johns's Worts form an interesting group of plants with about ten or eleven species native to Britain. Some are very rare but Perforate St John's Wort, Hypericum perforatum, is widespread and occurs in our Pocket Park. The Rose of Sharon is often found semi-naturalised on waste ground as a throw-out from gardens. This species rarely produces seed so any of these escapees will have grown from pieces of rooted stem.

Whilst weeding out some Forget-me-nots I disturbed a bright green caterpillar. It was the larva of the Angle Shades, Phlogophora meticulosa, a very attractive and common moth. Some species of caterpillar can be difficult to rear but the Angles Shades is among the easiest, not least because it will feed on a wide range of plants, although it would be sensible to use the plant on which it was found. I also disturbed a Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis. This is a very variable insect but I found one of its commonest forms - 'spectabilis'. The Two-spot Ladybird has a melanic form which looks very similar but the Harlequin Ladybird is larger, generally about 6mm in length.
Harlequin Ladybird. Byfield, 21 April, 2013, 
This beetle, about which much has been written, was first recorded in Britain in 2004. It will feed voraciously on aphids - good news for the gardener - but unfortunately will also eat the larvae of other ladybirds - very bad news. In fact it seems prepared to eat any small insect it finds and it is not surprising that its arrival and subsequent spread caused alarm. In 2011 my observations suggested it was the commonest species of ladybird in Byfield!

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