Friday, 17 July 2015

The Generation Game - updated

Chris and I popped over to the village of Hartwell yesterday to see our friend Sue. She is a supporter of the pocket park and long ago she asked me to draw up a list of the organisms occurring there so I paid it another visit. 

The pocket park was created some years ago and is gradually maturing to provide a home for a good range of invertebrates. Prior to today's survey the figures stood at: 45 flowering plants, 21 spiders and their kin plus 62 other invertebrates - mostly insects. Can I add to that total?

Woundwort Shieldbug. Hartwell Pocket Park,
Northants.  16 July, 2015

I was not surprised to find this Woundwort Bug, Eysarcoris venustissima, in my net as it is a common species and its food-plant is plentiful in the park. But the usual glossy coloration of this smart little but is missing; I can only conclude that that it is a rather elderly specimen.

Red Soldier Beetles in copula.  Hartwell Pocket Park,
Northants.  16 July, 2015

The shieldbug may be nearing the end of its days but this pair of Common Red Soldier Beetles, Rhagonycha fulva, is helping to ensure the future of their species. In fact lots of pairs were in copula - as biologists delicately put it.

Imago and pupa of the Harlequin Ladybird.
Hartwell Pocket Park.  16 July, 2015

Another aspect of the Generation Game was provided by this pair of ladybirds on a birch leaf. To the left is an adult specimen, the imago, and on its right another example is still in the pupal stage. Unfortunately they are both Harlequin Ladybirds, Harmonia axyridis. In many areas now this is the commonest of these voraciously predatory little beetles.

All this fecundity wasn't confined to insects. Plants had been seeding too and long before the evening was over my trousers were covered with the fruits of Wood Avens, Geum urbanum, and Goosegrass, Galium aparine

Each calyx on Jerusalem sage is star-shaped, resulting in
 this interesting pattern. Hartwell Pocket Park. 16 July, 2015

In a border some Jerusalem Sage, Phlomis fruticosa, had been planted. Few of the yellow flowers remained but the now-empty calyces produced a striking pattern. This member of the mint family is grown for its attractive flowers but here in mid-July still remained of interest. Like most members of the family the flowers are a plentiful source of nectar so it makes a good bee plant.

Lygocoris pabulinus at Hartwell Pocket Park.
16 July, 2015

Nearby, but this time in full flower, were plants of Black Knapweed, Centaurea nigra. A Capsid Bug, Lygocoris pabulinus, was there for the nectar but, although a grain or two of pollen may cling to the legs, it can hardly be regarded as an important pollinator. Oddly enough, this extremely common insect was not on the list for the pocket park.

Stenotus binotatus, a very common bug in grassy
areas. Hartwell Pocket Park. 16 July, 2016

Capsid bugs are members of the Miridae, a rather tricky family which at times can cause a good deal of head-scratching. One very common grassland species which soon found itself in my net is Stenotus binotatus. It is rather variable but the specimen photographed is a typical example.

Birch fruit galled by Semudobia tarda.
Hartwell Pocket park, 16 July 2015
I removed a couple of catkins from a birch tree and, once home, examined the seeds (actually fruits) under a microscope. Some of the fruits had been galled by a tiny fly, Semudobia tarda. This cecidomid is probably widespread but few records are known as lots of people have better things to do than split up birch catkins!

What else, once home, would a microscope reveal!

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