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If you’re out and about on a nice sunny day and notice what you think is a pretty red and black butterfly it is actually the Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae).

The Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) was originally named after the bright red mineral ‘cinnabar’ once used by artists as a red pigment for painting.

The adult moth has two bright red spots and red stripes on its forewings and scarlet hind wings with charcoal edging. Moths are split into 2 broad groups – the macro moths (large) and the micro moths (small). The Cinnabar is a macro moth and has a body length of 20mm and a wingspan of between 32mm – 42mm. Although this is a predominantly nocturnal moth it can also be seen during the day.

Cinnabar moth (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Clare Dinham

Life cycle

Females can lay up to 300 eggs, usually in batches of 30 or 60 on the underside of ragwort leaves. When the caterpillars (larvae) hatch they feed on the around the area of the hatched eggs but as they get bigger and moult (instars) they mainly feed on the leaves and flowers of the plant, and can be seen out in the open during the day.

Caterpillar

Caterpillars are feeding from July – early September and are initially pale yellow but soon develop bright yellow and black stripes to deter predators.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar (Tyria Jacobaeae) © Roger Key

The caterpillars feed on poisonous ragwort leaves. The poision from the leaves is stored in the caterpillars body (and even remains when they are an adult moth). Any birds or other predators that ignore the caterpillars bright warning sign will be repulsed by how foul they taste.

Numerous caterpillars on one ragwort plant can reduced it to a bare stem very quickly. They are also known to be cannibalistic.

The caterpillars overwinter as pupa in a cocoon under the ground. The adult moths emerge around mid May and are on the wing up until early August, during which time males and females will mate and eggs are laid.

Distribution and Habitat

The Cinnabar moth is a common species, well distributed throughout the UK and has a coastal distribution in the northern most counties of England and Scotland. Due to its toxicity to livestock Ragwort is being controlled in many areas across the UK. A study carried out by Butterfly Conservation and Rothamstead research in 2003 showed that although the distribution of the Cinnabar moth has remained roughly the same between the study period of 1968 – 2002 their numbers have dropped dramatically due to the persecution of their food plant Ragwort.

Cinnabar moths are found in typically well drained rabbit grazed (short sward) grassland including sand dunes and heathland and lots of other open habitats such as gardens and woodland rides.

Moth trapping

Cinnabar moths are attracted to moth traps which is the main way of recording moths. A moth trap is essentially a light trap which is set in the evening just before dusk and left on throughout the night. Any moths found within the trap can be studied the following morning and released without harming.

Moth trapping using a light trap © Clare Dinham

National Moth Night

Moth night is an annual event carried out across the country aimed at raising the awareness of moths among the public. This year it was carried out from the 21st – 23rd of June. Click on this link to find out more about National Moth Night

With thanks to Buglife for their contribution. To find out more about Buglife visit them at;

 www.buglife.org.uk

www.facebook.com/pages/Buglife-The-Invertebrate-Conservation-Trust

www.twitter.com/Buzz_dont_tweet

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A stirring thought from Hugh during his talk at Wilderness Festival: one of our Meet the Species feature events

To see more of Hugh, please visit his website or follow him on Twitter

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By Remy Poland

Who we are

 We are five biologists working in teaching and research with a love of natural history, and a passion for ladybirds in particular!  Together we run the UK Ladybird Survey to encourage others to get involved in biological recording, and to monitor the status of UK ladybirds. Remy Poland is a biology teacher at Clifton College. Helen Roy is an ecologist at NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Richard Comont is a PhD student at NERC CEH. Peter Brown is a lecturer in zoology at Anglia Ruskin University. Lori Lawson-Handley is a lecturer in evolutionary biology at the University of Hull.

 What we do

The UK Ladybird Survey was launched in 2005, following the arrival of the invasive harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, in Britain.  It built upon the success of previous recording schemes, such as the Coccinellidae Recording Scheme and the Cambridge Ladybird Survey.  The is was to allow members of the public to submit records of both harlequin ladybirds and native British species by means of an online recording form.

The UK Ladybird Survey  was launched in 2005, following the arrival of the invasive harlequin ladybird in Britain.  It built upon the success of previous recording schemes, such as the Coccinellidae Recording Scheme and the Cambridge Ladybird Survey.  The aim is to allow members of the public to submit records of both harlequin ladybirds and native British species by means of an online recording form.

Harlequin Ladybirds

Harlequin Ladybird Larva feeding on a greenfly

The harlequin ladybird (above) is native to central and eastern Asia, but has long been used to control pest insects such as aphids in North America and continental Europe.  It was first recorded in south-east England in 2004, and has since spread rapidly to become one of the most commonly seen ladybirds in the UK.  Members of the public have submitted over 30,000 records of harlequin sightings, verified by the survey’s experts by inspection of specimens or photos, and this has allowed us to build up accurate maps of its distribution and spread.  In addition to this, we have received many thousands of records of native British species, which have also contributed to national distribution maps and the publication of a ladybird atlas in 2011.  This data is invaluable in monitoring the impact of harlequin ladybirds on native species, with which they compete for food and sometimes even prey upon (above).

2 Spot Ladybirds

Orange ladybird

Eyed Ladybird

Sadly, the data has revealed a significant decline in some species, most notably the 2-spot ladybird (above).  Rather more encouragingly, we have seen an increase in numbers of the orange ladybird (above)in recent years – this is a mildew feeder that may have benefited from prolonged spells of wet summer weather and lack of competition for food with harlequins (which prey on aphids).  Another species that appears relatively unaffected by the harlequin (and the favourite species of many of the survey team!) is the eyed ladybird, a large species whose larvae are covered by an armoury of thick spines which protect them from hungry harlequins (above).  It is vital that we continue to assess the status of all ladybirds in Britain, as this will help us to conserve their habitats and communities in the future.

7-spot ladybird infected with the parasitoid wasp Dinocampus coccinellae

A parasitoid fly on a Harlequin ladybird pre-pupa

As well as submitting records of ladybird sightings, we are also encouraging people to look out for the natural enemies of ladybirds.  Our research has shown that the harlequin ladybird is less susceptible to a range of natural enemies, including a fungal pathogen, and some parasitoid wasps and flies (above).  This apparent immunity may partly explain why the harlequin has spread so quickly in this country.  It will be interesting to monitor this situation over time – it may be that British natural enemies start to utilise the harlequin ladybird as a novel host.

10 fun facts about ladybirds

  1.  Ladybirds are beetles, belonging to the insect order ‘Coleoptera’, and the family ‘Coccinellidae’.
  2. Ladybirds undergo a full metamorphosis, hatching from an egg into a larva, then changing from a larva to a pupa, and then finally transforming from a pupa into an adult [ladybird life cycle, larva, pupa- See below].
  3. Ladybirds are named after the Virgin Mary, who was often depicted wearing a red cloak.  The red of a 7-spot ladybird is said to represent ‘Our Lady’, while the seven spots represent her seven joys and seven sorrows.
  4. The number of spots on a ladybird does not tell you how old it is, spot number varies between species, but also within species due to factors like temperature.
  5. There are 47 species of ladybird found in Britain, only 27 of these are brightly coloured and conspicuous, the rest are small, often hairy, and can be difficult to identify at first.
  6. Not all ladybirds are red with black spots! Some are black with red spots, some are yellow with black spots, some are orange with white spots, and one species even has stripes!  Ladybirds show ‘warning colouration’: they contain bitter-tasting chemicals and advertise their distastefulness to predators with bright and memorable colours and patterns.
  7. Most species of ladybird eat greenfly or blackfly, some eat scale insects, some eat plants and some even eat mildew!
  8. Not many things eat ladybirds as they do not taste very nice, but they are attacked by some parasites and pathogens
  9. The largest ladybird species in Britain is the eyed ladybird
  10. The smallest of the ‘conspicuous’ ladybirds is the 16-spot ladybird

Ladybird Life Cycle

Get spotting!

Looking for ladybirds in a pine tree using a beating tray

Hunting for ladybirds is fun, simple and easy to learn.  It can be done in your garden, at public parks and woodland, and even in school grounds and churchyards.  Three pieces of equipment are useful here: a beating tray or light coloured umbrella, a sweep net and a long stout stick.  To look for ladybirds in trees, place the beating try/ umbrella beneath the foliage, and firmly tap the branches with the stick (above photo) .  Any insects resting in the tree will fall into the tray and you can try to identify them (ladybirds are easy to spot once you have your eye in, but take a look at the other creatures you might find: earwigs, shield bugs, flies, wasps, caterpillars etc.).  Lime, sycamore and oak are particularly good for ladybirds, but you might also like to try some conifers like Scots pine, to find more specialist species like the eyed and striped ladybirds.

To look for ladybirds in grass and meadowland, a sweep net can be used.  An improvised version can be created by using an old pillow case held open by a coat hanger and mounted onto a handle.  Walk through the grass and sweep the net from side to side in a figure-of-eight motion.  Insects in the undergrowth will be knocked into the net and can then be inspected.

You will also need an identification guide so you can try to determine which species of ladybird you have found.  The most useful is the FSC ladybird field guide (a guide for ladybird larvae is also available), but there is also plenty of information and photos on our website, including downloadable ID sheets for the most common species.  A more comprehensive coverage is given in the NERC atlas – Ladybirds (Coccinellidae) of Britain and Ireland.

Don’t forget to record your sightings online at www.ladybird-survey.org.  Happy spotting!

[Photos by Remy Poland and Mike Majerus]

Further information

www.ladybird-survey.org

Brown, P.M.J., Roy, H.E., Comont, R. & Poland, R.L. (2012) Guide to the ladybird larvae of the British Isles.  OP152. FSC.

http://www.field-studies-council.org/publications/pubs/ladybird-larvae.aspx

Majerus, M.E.N., Roy, H.E., Brown, P.M.J., Frost, R. & Ware, R.L. & Shields, C. (2006) Guide to ladybirds of the British Isles.  OP102. FSC.

http://www.field-studies-council.org/publications/pubs/guide-to-ladybirds-of-the-british-isles.aspx

Roy, H.E., Brown, P.M.J., Frost, R. & Poland, R.L. (2011) Ladybirds (Coccinellidae) of Britain and Ireland.  NERC CEH.

http://www.ceh.ac.uk/products/publications/Ladybirds-Britain-Ireland-atlas.html

Roy, H.E., Brown, P.M.J., Comont, R., Poland, R.L. & Sloggett, J.J. (2012) Ladybirds (Naturalists’ Handbooks 10).  Pelagic Publishing, Exeter.

http://www.pelagicpublishing.com/ladybirds-naturalists-handbooks.html

 

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With great thanks to The Wildlife Garden Project for this video! For more videos and information on how you can help wildlife in your garden, visit www.wildlifegardenproject.com

Film made by Laura Turner

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Why did the hedgehog cross the road? Well, sorry to ruin the fun but for many reasons, and we want to make sure they’re safe doing so. We talk to Richard Wembridge from People’s Trust for Endangered Species about what we can do to help hedgehogs and more about PTES’s project, Hedgehog Street!

The hedgehog is one of our most charismatic and popular native mammals, but in 2007 it was assigned the status of a ‘priority species’ for conservation in the UK and there is strong evidence that its numbers are declining alarmingly.

The first real indication of a decline came from our Mammals on Roads survey, an annual count of hedgehogs and other species along road journeys. This, together with records from other surveys, such as our Living with Mammals and the British Trust for Ornithology’s Garden BirdWatch and Breeding Bird Survey, suggest hedgehog numbers may have fallen by a quarter in only the last ten years.

In response, PTES and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) set up Hedgehog Street, a nationwide campaign to get people involved in hedgehog conservation. Since last spring, over 20,500 volunteers have signed up to become ‘Hedgehog Champions’ and received or downloaded an information pack to inspire and recruit people in their neighbourhood.

In urban and suburban areas, changes in the way gardens are managed can affect how well hedgehog populations fare. Where garden boundaries are impermeable to wandering hedgehogs, and roads become busier, populations can become isolated and unsustainable. Gardeners who are too tidy or who tarmac their land deplete foraging, nesting and hibernation opportunities.

Stephen Heliczer (c) 2012

More widely, the causes of the hedgehog’s problems are complex and not fully understood. More research is needed, particularly in rural settings. PTES and BHPS are funding work at WildCRU, University of Oxford, in which radio-tracking will help show how hedgehogs use arable farmland in Oxfordshire. The findings will be invaluable in guiding future conservation.

So, what has Hedgehog Street achieved? Over 2,500 Hedgehog Champions told us what they’ve been up to. Over 50 per cent have involved at least one neighbour in the project, making a total of 4,699 neighbours in 3,677 households attached to about 293 hectares of land – 33 times the infield area of the London 2012 Olympic stadium. So far our Champions have created 2660 new hibernation sites, 5064 natural feeding areas, removed 3,404 hazards and linked 4,823 gardens.

These figures represent tangible benefits for hedgehogs, and for other species, and might just ensure that hedgehogs remain a wild denizen of our gardens and urban spaces.

Nigel Kingwill (c) 2012

To take part in Mammals on Roads survey or for information about Hedgehog Street champion, visit the PTES website (www.ptes.org) or email enquires@ptes.org.

About PTES

In the UK, 90 per cent of water voles and 75 per cent of hazel dormice have been lost in recent years. Overseas, turtles are regularly caught and killed in fishing gear, lions are illegally shot and the seahorse population in south East Asia has halved. People’s Trust for Endangered Species has been working tirelessly to save endangered species within their habitats for 35 years. We support practical conservation work and research worldwide with a special focus on British wildlife. This is made possible by donations from our supporters and grants from charitable organisations, as we receive no core funding from the government. For more information about our charity, please visit our website www.ptes.org.

 With many thanks to David Wembridge & PTES for their great contribution!

Click here to follow PTES on Facebook & Twitter.

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Some beautiful warm weather (for once) had us basking in the sun today but we certainly weren’t lounging like lizards as we continue to search for our remaining wildlife species! The tally ended on 289 to go today with some more results still to assess on iSpot so keep em coming! Rhys Jones told us how a chance encounter inspired his lifetime reptile obsession, we had a lesson in non-native ‘herps’ from the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK and profiles on some of our most beautiful and mysterious wildlife – not to mention heavy metal nature with The Blowfish!

What’s on tomorrow

For our penultimate day of the Final Lap we will be taking a look at the super furry mammals! The group to which our own species belongs and those that we often have the closest emotional connection with. We’ll be searching for squirrels and hunting for hedgehogs with a special guest appearance from mammal expert and Hedgehog enthusiast Hugh Warwick!

3 things you need to know about hedgehogs:

4 legs… 6,000 spines… carefully. – Hugh Warwick

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We’ve had a truely ssssssspectacular day! We hope you had luck on your ssssearch for our Guess the Ssssspecies of the day…..Did you guess right? It was the….

GREAT CRESTED NEWT!

Guess the Species- Great Crested Newt

  • We in Britain have the largest population of great crested newts in Europe, although they are becoming rare in many areas around Europe.
  • Male newts develop a crest along their back during the breeding season and this is why they are called ‘great crested newts’!
  • Sometimes, they are called ‘warty newt’! This is because they have a dark brown warty body. They also have amazing yellowish-orange bellies with black blotches.

To find out more, visit www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/great-crested-newts

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