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Beetles & Bugs of Wivenhoe

With the stag beetle season just about upon us, I thought it worth pointing out that other beetles are available! OK, none are as large as the staggies, but many are very strikingly coloured, and often seen in daylight. Here are a few I have photographed in recent days, together with a bug (a true bug, with sucking mouthparts, rather than the generic term 'bug' as used for any insect)

Cockchafer (aka Maybug) - large and nocturnal, unless you see them at an outside light (or moth trap!), all you are likely to see is them flying around at dusk, often becoming the focus of feeding large bats

A soldier beetle Cantharis rustica, largely red and blackish red, with a distinctive black spot in the middle of its thorax. Often to be seen adopting this piggyback posture! 

A flower beetle Oedemera nobilis which is often seen in open flowers munching pollen. This one is female: the males have conspicuously swollen segments at the top of their hind legs. But the metallic green colour, and wing cases which don't meet down the middle are features of both sexes.

Harlequin ladybird - a little larger and more variable than most ladybirds (hence its name), and its red colour usually more ruby than the tomato ketchup red of other species. This is the Far Eastern invader which caused so much concern a few years ago as a result of its ladybirdivorous habits; it seems that the fears of ladybird Armageddon may have been unfounded as there are other species still around, albeit at least one species' decline has been circumstantially attributed to the attentions of the Harlequin

A cardinal beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis, often seen on fallen logs, along with is close relative Pyrochroa coccinea, which has a black not a red head

A true bug Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus, which feeds by sucking the juices out of plant cells, seeds and probably aphids.

Do post any shots of known or unknown insects and we will try to identify them for you.



  • In the garden today!
  • Could we have a 5p piece, or a leg, in the picture for scale please?
  • Whose leg?
  • Hi Scott
    The brown-tinged wing cases, relatively narrow head, rounded rather than parallel sided wing cases, and broadened, spiny front tibia (the middle section of the front leg) suggest this is a female stag beetle; but the front edge of the tibia of the middle leg seem to have only 1 or 2 spines, a lesser stag beetle feature whereas the stag beetle should have 3. SO a rather confusing mix of characters, but on balance I would suggest female stag. 

    The lesser stag is widespread across southern britain, whereas the stag is restricted to a few hotspots around Wivenhoe, Lexden, Epping and the NEw Forest for example. Both species have a similar life cycle, spending several years as developing grubs in decaying wood and stumps.
  • Thank you. It was 2-3 inches long by the way.
  • Another selection of showy insects from Wivenhoe Wood yesterday:

    1. A soldier beetle Cantharis decipens : lovely bronze colour
    2. Black and red froghopper Cercopis vulnerata: This is the largest and brightest European froghopper, which jumps to safety if disturbed. As a true bug, it has sucking mouthparts, a syringe which is inserted into the sap of plants. As a nymph (the larval stage) it is soft and undefended against predation and drying out, so it passes plant sap through its body, blows bubbles and creates 'cuckoo spit'. The red and black colour combination of the adult is 'warning colouration', a sign to potential predators that it is toxic.
    3. A female scorpion-fly. So called as the male has a swollen, curved abdomen tip, which looks like the sting of a scorpion. It has no sting though - the 'scorpion tail' contains the genital capsule of the male. Both sexes have an elongate snout, which they use to extract flies out of spiders' webs....
  • Another selection of insects from today, from the scrub and grassland between the cricket pitch and the gravel pits - a male scorpion fly this time; a nettle weevil; and a green hairstreak butterfly. Also a swarm of honeybees which descended upon the Shipyard this afternoon.
  • Yet more lovely insects, this time from the buttercup flowers on Ferry Marsh this morning:
     - a snipe-fly Rhagio scolopaceus, with long legs and patterned wings
    - a male flower beetle Oedemera nobilis - for the female, see an earlier posting
    - a lacewing, the bluish colour and dark markings suggest this is Chrysopa perla
    - a day-flying micromoth Anthophila fabriciana or Nettle-tap

    Chris & Judith

  • First male Stag Beetle just loped across our patio, lit up by the moth image
  • edited June 2013
    I wonder if this swarm is the same as the shipyard one? It turned up yesterday afternoon (19th June) and settled in the garden next door to us in Hamilton Road.
  • ...and has now left us again. Paul White from the British Beekeepers Association collected the swarm this morning. He is the collector for South Suffolk and North Essex and at this time of year has a list of beekeepers waiting to give bee colonies a good home.
    The collection itself seemed very straightforward. The polystyrene collection hive he used has a feed supply and provides a warm environment for the bees, which was probably very welcome today. He collected the major part of the swarm in his basket simply by placing it below the swarm and giving the branch they were on a very sharp jerk. The full basket was then emptied straight into the top of the hive and the basket placed back in the bush. The rest of the bees were attracted either in to the basket by the residual smell of bees in there, or in to the temporary hive by the pheromone signals released by the bees in the hive already.
    Paul estimated there were about 6 or 7,000 bees in the swarm - a small colony compared to the 20,000 strong swarm he collected last night from Suffolk.
  • edited June 2013
    Yesterday evening, Puffin brought us a little pot of beetles - beautiful iridescent jewels, with metallic green and purple stripes, and rows of tiny diamond-like holes in rows down its wing cases. It was the Rosemary beetle, and indeed had been found on his Rosemary bushes, although it also feeds on other aromatic members of the mint family like Lavender, Thyme and Mint.

    Despite its scientific name Chrysolina americana  it is a native beetle in southern Europe, which first appeared in the UK in 1994, probably on imported herbs, and has now colonised the whole of the south-east and more scattered elsewhere (presumably able to do so as a result of climate change).

    Yes, it does eat your garden herbs, but it is big enough (8mm long) to be avoided for culinary use, and perhaps a few ragged herbs are a small price to pay for such a beautiful adornment?

    Beetles are endlessly fascinating, and also yesterday we found this pair of very small weevils, 2-3mm long, called Aspidapion radiolus, in a moment of intimacy on a Mallow stem

  • Yep, it looks for all the world like Debs has trained this hefty male Stag Beetle to land on her arm, but in fact it has just taken off! The females were much further along Ballast Quay Lane keeping well out of the way... ;-)

    Also pictured are some butterflies and other insects from today on the Butterflies section, some of which will require Dr Gibson's expertise...

  • Yes, a great emergence of Staggies this weekend - this could well keep up for another week or two when conditions are right.Below my best flight shot so far this year.

    A few other insect photos from the weekend:

    a metallic green soldier fly, with very hairy eyes - Chloromyia formosa
    the larva of Harlequin ladybird - lots of these on nettle leaves at the moment
    a soldier beetle- Cantharis livida
  • Another selection of really attractive flies, from Wivenhoe Woods today

    Helophilus pendulus is one of many similar hoverflies, which often mimic wasps to hide their harmlessness. This one is distinctive in having a pair of yellow lines running down the length of its thorax

    Poecilobothrus nobilitatus is one of the stilt-legged flies. Note the white patches at the tip of its dark wings - males are often seen on the edge of ponds, waving their wings around to highlight the white in a communal mate-attraction display, or 'lek'

    Tephritis bardanae is a very small picture-winged fly, where again the wings are waved in display. These lay their eggs in burdock stems, which causes the growth of a gall, a swelling which forms the home of the developing larva.

  • Another selection of insect etc photos, mostly taken yesterday around the gravel pits and fields behind the cricket pitch:

    Bombus hypnorum the tree bumblebee (the larger orangey one) - this species has been known in Britain only for the past 10 years or so. Still largely confined to the south-east where it was first found, it is spreading and increasing in numbers. The past two weeks it seems to have become pretty common around Wivenhoe and Colchester. Note its black face, orange-brown thorax, black abdomen with a white tip. Taken along Ballast Quay Lane - the smaller bee is a worker common bumblebee

    Common frog-hopper - this is the adult of one of the critters which lives in (and creates) 'cuckoo-spit'; saw my first adult of the year yesterday, and there were lots of them

    Gall on the leaves of Alder caused by a microscopic mite Eriophyes inangulis, the galls being characteristically in the angles between veins. Galls are 'abnormal' plant growths caused by the interaction of a plant with another organism, often mites, flies, wasps and fungi: the shape, colour, size and/or location of the galls are characteristic, and allow a botanist to identify creatures which are invisible to the naked eye! The mites live inside the galls which open to the outside on the underside of the leaves

    Strikingly coloured caterpillar of the Knot-grass moth

    A lesser stag-beetle, only a third the size of a large true stag beetle, and always lacking the 'antlers'

    A large skipper butterfly - its slightly chequered wings are characteristic; and the black mark in the centre of the wing identifies this one as a male

    a yellow and black crane fly ('flying daddy long legs') - lots of these around as well

    another gall, this one on Ash, a pouch caused by a little plant louse called Psyllopsis fraxini - again the beasties live enveloped by the distorted plant tissues

    A micro-moth (ableit a large one!) called Thistle Ermine

    A lovely small beetle, the two-spotted malachite: metallic green wing cases, tipped with orange spots.

    Chris & Judith

  • Pond Skater at VFQimage
  • Hi Chris,
    I found this grasshopper in my tent. Think it may of had some wine coz it's pink!
    Is it a baby ?
  • Hi Debs
    Yes it is a baby (nymph) Common Field Grasshopper - all grasshoppers can be various colours and this one is often pink or purple, even as an adult - possibly related to temperature during development. Purple colours in nature are often deployed as natural sunscreens. You can tell it is a nymph by the absence of full wings - just little wing buds. Wings and naughty bits are only fully formed after the final shedding of the skin. You can tell which species of grasshopper as this is the only common one which has sharply angled lines on its pronotum (behind the eyes).
  • Death on the pond - a snapshot of life in the Wildlife Garden yesterday - the wasp has (presumably) drowned, and its body fluids are being recycled by two female pond skaters, while two male pond skaters are taking advantage of the opportunity to begin the next generation....
  • edited August 2013
    Sunny days like yesterday provide a great opportunity to see insects basking on leaves. Here is a selection:
    1. one of the (very) many solitary wasps, but its distinctive yellow band pattern should make it identifiable with a little effort
    2. Mesembrina meridiana, a relative of the common house fly with distinctive orange wing patches
    3. Volucella zonaria, one of our largest flies; a harmless hoverfly which mimics a hornet to gain protection

    And 4. A lovely little bumblebee, Bombus ruderarius, quite a localised species but pretty abundant on Barrier Marsh yesterday. The frontal yellow band has greenish tints, and most characteristic of all, the hairs on its hind legs which form its pollen basket are orange, rather than black is in other similar species.
  • Is this a spotless ladybird??image
  • Yes it is - never seen one quite like that, but I reckon its one of the multitude of variations of the Harlequin Ladybirds - the ladybird-eating ladybird which has now become so well established here
  • A female Wasp Spider found by Judith on Ferry Marsh yesterday afternoon. This is another beneficiary of global climate change, having been a strictly south coast species until 20 years ago, arriving in Essex about 10 years ago, and now well established in rough grassland especially by the coast.

    Note the distinctive web, with a thickened band (or stabilimentum) of silk running down it, which makes the web recognisable even when unoccupied.

    The male is much smaller and blackish, but hopefully there will be some around, and over the next few weeks we may see their inflated papery egg sacs appearing in the area.

    Also a large female nursery-web spider. This one is an active hunter which doesn't rely on a web for food: its use of silk is restricted mainly to build nursery webs containing the eggs and later on, the spiderlings.
  • It may be small, only 4-5mm long, but this is a perfectly-formed beauty, a beetle called Anthocomus rufus which is currently very abundant on the leaves of common reeds in both Ferry Marsh and Barrier Marshimage
  • A lovely red and black bug called Corizus hyoscyami, from near the Gravel Pits yesterday. This species is rather local in Britain, found mainly on southern sandy coasts, but has started in recent years to appear more frequently inland.

    Also a couple of shots of a nymphal Green Shield-bug
  • Aha - I've had a green shield-bug in my garden in past years. Not lately though. Strikingly green, especially when on a non-green background.
  • Not sure what type of ladybird this is. Found it in the moth trap. Any ideas Chris? 
  • HI Debs  we've just had a look on the web and think its a pale example of an orange ladybird.  (This was a Jude and Chris joint effort)
  • The bug below paid us a visit in the flat a couple of evenings ago. It is a large treehopper called Ledra aurita, one of the additional critters which enlivened our moth-trapping last weekend.image
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