Wednesday, 29 May 2019

A Pocket Park Potpourri

I was in Byfield today and, with time to spare, had one of my irregular mooches around the pocket park. For late May the weather was disappointingly cool and insects were as rare as Philip Green apologies.

First up was a pair of tortoise beetles on a burdock leaf. We have eleven of these beetles in the U.K. The species I saw today was the Thistle Tortoise beetle, Cassida rubiginosa. The specific name 'rubiginosa' refers to the red liquid which can 'bleed' from around the head region when the beetle is alarmed.

Thistle Tortoise beetles on burdock. Byfield Pocket Park, 29 May, 2019

Despite being on burdock it is generally found on thistles, especially Creeping Thistle. This is common everywhere, but the pocket park also contains Spear Thistle and I photographed one of its beautifully architectural flowers in the pocket park only a few days ago.
Spear Thistle, Cirsium vulgare. Byfield Pocket Park, 26 May, 2019

Another tortoise beetle, Cassida vibex occurs in the pocket park and was recorded only about five days ago. It too feeds on thistles.

Yet another beetle was noted today, although to the non-enthusiast it was not obviously a beetle at all. Like butterflies, beetles also go through a 'caterpillar' stage and this curious creature is the larva of a Viburnum Leaf Beetle, Pyrrhalta viburni.

Viburnum Leaf  Beetle in its larval stage. Byfield Pocket Park,
29 May, 2019

It was on one of the Guelder Rose, Viburnum opulus, shrubs in the pocket park. The beetles are a serious pest across Britain, making a real mess of the foliage.

It is not welcome in gardens! Byfield Pocket Park, 29 May, 2019
Almost directly beneath this shrub was a mallow plant. It too was in a bit of a mess but this time no insect was involved. Instead it is a fungus - Hollyhock Rust, Puccinia malvacearum. As will be guessed, it is also a pest on garden hollyhocks.

Common Mallow afflicted by Hollyhock Rust. Byfield Pocket Park.
29 May, 2019

A hedge of Beech separates the pocket park from the village burial ground. Some of the beech leaves had curiously rolled edges and in this case the culprit is a mite, Acalitus stenaspis. It is very common but easily overlooked.
The rolled edges of these beech leaves betray the presence of the mite,
Acalitus stenaspis. It seems to do little harm. Byfield Pocket Park,
29 May, 2019

I was about to go when I took a casual swish with my net through the foliage of a birch tree and found I had taken a Birch Shieldbug, Elasmostethus interstinctus. This was hardly a surprise as it is common enough, but confirmation of its presence was pleasing.

A sweep of my net revealed the presence of Elasmostethus interstinctus
in a birch tree. Byfield Pocket Park, 29 May, 2019
So, cool conditions meant that few insects were on the wing, but my visit was far from boring. Even so, a spot of warm sunshine would be welcome.

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