Friday, 20 June 2014

More garden pottering

The garden is currently very demanding. There is obviously a constant routine of weeding to be followed but dead-heading, pruning,checking for insect attack and so on.
It is during this latter process that interesting observations are often made. For example, numerous leaf miners are usually to be found.

I grow Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum. This is native to Northants and was often called Woodbine, but this name seems to have fallen out of use. In our garden it scrambles through a hawthorn and as I was giving it a general tidying up I noticed that a leaf miner had got to work on the leaves. The culprit was a small fly, Aulagromyza hendeliana, one of the group known as Agromyzidae. It is quite a common species and does little harm.

A very similar type of mine is common on Aquilegias. This is Phytomyza minuscula and, unsurprisingly, it is also the work of an agromyzid fly.

This third example is not on a cultivated plant but a weed, Sonchus oleraceus, aka Smooth Sow-thistle.  And again we are looking at the work of an agromyzid fly, Liriomyza strigata.

I cannot pretend that these leaf miners are exciting but I mention them to illustrate the wealth of wildlife in a garden - much of it simply overlooked.
Lacanobia oleracea (I think).
Garden in Byfield,  26 June, 2014

It was while I was pulling up a weed that I unearthed this caterpillar. I am reasonably sure it is a Bright-line Brown-eye, Lacanobia oleracea. Generally the caterpillar is bright green but brownish shades are not unusual. This species can be a pest for it seems inordinately fond of tomatoes although it feeds on the roots of quite a wide range of other plants

Grammoptera ruficornis on Rosa Gallica 'Versicolor'
Garden in Byfield. 16 June, 2014
Longhorn beetles are often quite large, as in the case of the Wasp Beetle discussed in my recent blog "To Catesby Tunnel", but here, on a petal of "Rosa Mundi" is a very tiny one, Grammoptera ruficornis. It is common but its diminutive size may lead to it being under-recorded.

Garden, Byfield. 17 June, 2014

Some rather more colourful insects make an appearance on a regular basis. This very smart hoverfly, Xanthogramma pedissequum, called in, paused on a leaf and departed. It is a fairly common species but may at a glance be taken for a wasp. It is surely another example of Batesian mimicry.

Our back garden more or less backs on to some fairly old pastureland. It is a good example of ridge and furrow, with these features still very clear, suggesting that it has rarely seen a plough. The farmer has not mown or grazed it this year and the grasses and forbs* stand a metre high, with insects abounding. I suspect many of these are making their way into our garden. They are welcome.

I grow a few clumps of Iris siberica and the flowers are proving very welcome to bumble bees. This is, I believe, Bombus hypnorum, first recorded in Britain in 2001 but now to be seen everywhere. 

Common Fan-foot. Garden shed in Byfield.
17 June, 201

Cheating a little, as this was on a shed, I also found a rather dull moth, a Fan-foot, Herminia tarsipennalis.  Its name comes from the tuft of hairs on the front foot of the males. It is widely distributed, as are its food plants of oak, beech, bramble, etc.

Verbascum thapsus beside the A431
Byfield, 20 June, 2014

Cheating again: at the roadside near our front door are a few plants of Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus. On its woolly leaves I was pleased to see a lovely caterpillar and, as was anticipated, it was that of that of the Mullein Moth, Cucullia verbasci.

Mullein Moth, Byfield. 20 June, 2014
It is not uncommon and I frequently find it when checking a mullein plant. It will also feed on the related figworts but also, surprisingly, on Buddleja, although I have never found it there. It is one of those creatures that makes no effort to conceal its presence and one must therefore suspect that it is distasteful to birds.

As mentioned earlier, with our garden adjacent to open fields it is not surprising that insects normally found in meadows find their way in. I was therefore not exactly amazed to find this beetle on a dog rose by our fence. It is Oedemera nobilis and in this case is a male, shown by the very swollen rear femora (thighs).

In a few weeks we expect to be moving to a far more urban setting. The relative wealth of insects should make an interesting contrast.

Forb  A rather useful American word. It refers to any herbaceous plant which is not a grass, rush or sedge. It therefore covers buttercups, clovers, vetches, thistles and so on.


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