Spider

Take a look at this photo of a cranefly (click on it to enlarge).

2013 089

If you look very carefully you will see a spider on the back of said cranefly – the fly must be at least 10 times the size of the spider.  The tussle between the two of them lasted at least 30 mins. I think it was a crab spider – not sure on that though.  The spider did not have a web – it just hung on to the fly as it kept trying to fly away up and down the plant it was on.  Who won in the end? – don’t know as it was time to make a cup of tea!!

Ron Foreman

I will try to get this ‘garden’ spider identified Ron, and post the answer here as an update!

Ralph

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Moth Night

Here is another interesting post from Wildlife Extra.

Moth Night 2013 8th – 10th August

Organised by Atropos magazine and Butterfly Conservation, Moth Night is the annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland by enthusiasts with local events aimed at raising awareness of moths among the general public.

Each year has a theme, and for 2013 the theme is Tiger Moths, although recorders are always welcome and encouraged to do their own thing.  Each year the event takes place on different date periods which are confined to the warmest months, and each event lasts for three consecutive nights (Thursday – Saturday) so that recording can take place on any one or more of these nights.

More details 

We are considering participation this year by holding a local event somewhere in the village on Friday evening 9th August.  If you would like to attend further details will be posted on Westfield Wildlife soon!

Ralph — Dave

Butterfly Count

We thought this from Wildlife Extra might be of interest to Westfield Wildlife followers.  All that is required is to simply count butterflies over any 15 minute period in bright (preferably sunny) weather during the big butterfly count period which starts tomorrow!  Further information on how to take part can be found by clicking on the ‘More details’ link below.

Dave – Ralph

Big Butterfly Count 2013

Big Butterfly Count – 20th July – 11th August

The big butterfly count is a nationwide survey designed to assess the health of the UK’s environment. First run in 2010, Big Butterfly Count has become the world’s biggest butterfly survey. 25,500 people took part in 2012, counting 223,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.

The 2012 survey showed that the terrible spring and wet summer was very bad for almost all butterflies. Many common butterfly species were much less abundant in 2012. Almost three quarters of species (15 of the 21 target species) showed year on year declines and 11 of them decreased by more than one third compared with 2011.

Worst affected
Most species showed year-on-year decreases. Common Blue numbers fell by 50% and the Speckled Wood was 65% down on last year’s Count. The Red Admiral, which was so abundant last summer, fell back sharply, with numbers down by 72%. All of the white butterflies declined, as did garden favourites such as the Holly Blue and Brimstone. Peacock numbers fell by 89% compared with 2011, but a late emergence of the butterfly in better weather at the end of August and into September may allow some recovery.

Meadow brown, ringlet and marbled white all increased
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. Meadow Brown counts rose by 186% on 2011 and this grassland species topped the chart for the first time. The Ringlet and Marbled White also did well. Ringlet numbers increased by 354%, seeing the species climb to 3rd most abundant species this year, while Marbled White counts increased by a staggering 503%, rising from 17th position last year to 7th. The Six-spot Burnet moth did well for the second year in succession, reaching 6th place.

More details 

Download Butterfly Conservation’s handy identification chart to help you work out which butterflies you have seen.

Four-spotted Spider

Happy Birthday to ‘Westfield Wildlife’!  2 photos of an interesting spider found on the underside of one of the Cosmos blooms.  I have included 2 to give a good view of the cephalothorax and abdomen.

My bed of Cosmos has given me the opportunity to observe quite a variety of insects –  I have seen about 4 different species of bumblebee including the Bombus hypnorum.

Edna Southey

This is the beautifully marked Four-spotted Spider Araneus quadratus which is found mainly in grasslands where it spins its web between grass stems.  Unlike the similar but commoner Garden Spider Araneus diadematus which has a cross-shaped marking on its abdomen, the Four-spotted Spider is not usually seen in gardens unless an area of long grass is present.  The Four-spotted can be distinguished by the very rounded abdomen as well as the four white spots.  In late summer females swell up to an enormous size as the abdomen fills with eggs!

Ralph

New species on peanut feeder

Not a bird but a slug!   Two in fact, which had somehow managed to slide their way down a drooping rose stem and onto the peanuts in the rain [8/7/2012].  These are the brown form of the large black slug Arion ater which fortunately eat mostly dead and decaying leaves etc in preference to garden plants!   One seemed to be following the other, probably with the intention to mate, whilst a third had found its way into the dish below the niger feeder and was eating spilt seed.  Needless to say I hastily removed all three using a large leaf to get a grip, and also cut out their access route!

If any slug could ever be described as handsome then this would surely be right up there!

Ralph

Spiders

As a follow up to Ralph’s posting [8/5/2012] on Crab Spider, I took some photos of a spider in my shed a few days ago, uncertain of its identity.  I made a few enquiries, and as it happens it is another species of Crab Spider, an immature Philodromus.  Should you find any spiders around your garden or shed please submit photos to us as we like to include a varied selection of subjects on this site.   Many Thanks,  Dave

Crab Spider

This relatively attractive (for a spider!) Crab Spider, so called because it walks sideways like a crab, does not build a web but instead sits on top a flower waiting for a pollinating insect to arrive. 

Sometimes, like the one I photographed today eating a large blowfly, they manage to catch a whole week’s worth of food all in one go!   They always choose a white or pale flower to sit on and then take on the exact hue of the petals to perfect their camouflage. 

This creamy coloured individual closely matches the flowerhead of the Alexanders plant it has made its home on, but they can also be pure white, or a delicate shade of pink or lilac!  Later in the spring they can be found on flowers such as ox-eye daisy and valerian waiting to ambush their prey.

Ralph

Organic slug pellets

This is the time of year when gardeners start seeing slug and snail damage on their Hostas and other precious plants and quickly resort to slug pellets!  Unfortunately there is evidence to suggest that the usual metaldehyde formulations can harm hedgehogs and song thrushes.  This happens when they eat the still living slugs or snails that have ingested the bait, but not yet died.

In recent years a much more wildlife friendly ‘organic’ pellet has become widely available and I have been trying it out.  It is made with Ferric phosphate which is not only harmless to hedgehogs and birds, but also harmless to us when used in the vegetable plot (certified for organic use).  Instead of causing the slug to dessicate by shedding its protective mucous (leaving nasty slimey bodies everywhere) it causes the slug to retreat underground to die out of sight where it then rots naturally.

I have found the organic pellets do work well if used on mild evenings when slugs and snails are active as the pellets are eaten more quickly and before they can decay.  It is best to use them sparingly and only around particularly vulnerable plants so birds and hedgehogs are still able to find enough to eat.

Better still is to go out in the garden at night with a torch and a large plastic bag – it is then very easy to see and pick off the big garden snails!  They can be ‘set free’ the next day in a roadside hedge or wood edge perhaps – somewhere well away from gardens and farmers’ crops!

Ralph

New children’s wildlife adventure books

Tales and Truths books March 2012 

Four of these highly acclaimed and intriguing little books have now been published in the ‘Tales and Truths’ series.

Written and sponsored by Sonia Copeland Bloom, each book presents a well-illustrated and engaging story about a different kind of garden minibeast – a caterpillar/butterfly, a beetle, a woodlouse, and an earthworm.  Each is supplemented by factual sections, including how to look after them as ‘pets’ – an entirely optional activity! 

It is hoped these stories will encourage more children (and their parents) to engage with, and be inspired by, the natural world. 

For further information click on the red heading above – this will open a pdf in a new window.  Happy reading! 

Ralph

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