This page last updated: 26 February 2017.
The carpet of crocus in the garden; that's Saffron Walden for
Feeding on the flowers in the hanging baskets (now brought inside) we found this brown caterpillar. We will keep it and see what happens next year.
Hazel wanted this picture posted here - it's a little tiny stalactite that had developed on the bath tap. It's very hard around here.
A set of spiders eggs hatched on our back door this week. They are only the common Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus, but rather pretty we thought.
Today the red pupa that we'd kept from last year hatched: it is a Cabbage Moth.
Alice spotted a very peculiar looking bee in the garden today. We thought at first that it might be a Bee Moth but further study has shown that it is in fact a Bee Fly. Funny how so many things want to look like bees.
The green caterpillar below has now pupated. We will keep it until next year and hope to find out what it is.
One for the "to be ID'd" list (~3.5 cm long). The possibilities would seem to be Hebrew Character, Common Quaker, Cabbage Moth, Yellow Shell, Dark Umber, or Autumnal Moth (though these latter two moths we've never caught locally).
We found this caterpillar a few days ago. We reckon it is an Early Thorn and will over-winter as a pupa.
Feeding on the nasturtiums today in vast numbers, the Cabbage White caterpillar. The text book suggests that they feed in groups up to their last moult, after which they disperse, so given their size (~25 mm long) we reckon these are on their penultimate moult.
From the moth trap this morning, a fly that we thought was very pretty. We suspect it is some form of hoverfly.
23 May 2011: thanks to Myriam Vandenberghe for letting
us know that it really is a hoverfly, Episyrphus
balteatus male, family Syrphidae to be exact.
The kids were playing in the paddling pool in the back garden until late tonight and while wandering around in the dark we came upon two other creatures. The first is a Summer Chafer. It is a bit like a Cockchafer but smaller (about 20 mm long), hairier and uniformly light brown in colour. Apologies for the bad photo (it was dark and we had to use a torch).
The other creature was a frog posing nicely on the grass (which we narrowly avoided stepping on). We should probably get around to narrowing down the frog varieties, if there are such things.
Found on the way back home from school today, a form of shield bug we thought we hadn't seen before. We believed it to be a Sloe Bug but it's actually (another) Forest Bug, thanks to Carl Farmer for correcting us.
Last weekend, while emptying the moth trap, we happened to look at an old apple tree stump nearby and spotted a beetle (the stump has begin rotting properly in the last year and has become a juicy haunt for insects). The peculiar thing about this particular beetle, though, is that it appeared to be stuck half-way out of the wood.
This weekend, on emptying the moth trap, we took another look and the beetle was still there, stuck in the same place. From the pictures below you can see that there is a hollow from which it is emerging: perhaps it had been a pupa in there.
We decided to rescue it and so removed the piece of wood (which was well rotted lower down but actually quite solid around its body) and cut it free.
Alice has identified it as a Lesser Stag Beetle, in fact a female Lesser Stag Beetle because of the two raised dots on her face. We have previously caught one that lacked the two dots, so was probably a male. Once out of the wood, she did a curious backwards walk, presumably trying to burrow back into the wood to hide from us.
We returned her to the tree stump and she immediately headed back into the comfort of the rotting wood.
Found in the moth trap this morning: a Cockchafer. One of the larger native beetles in Britain and a member of the Scarab family, its young spend several years in larval form. This one is a few centimetres long and is very cute to look at. Notice its clubbed antennae, both of which can be folded away in case of danger. We're not sure we believe this but according to UK Safari you can tell the difference between male and female because the female has six segments to its clubbed antenna while the male has seven. This one is a lady. To show its stately pace of life, we've included a video of it trying to climb up Rob's sleeve.
It's May and, appropriately enough, we found this May Fly perched on a wall in our lounge today. We know it's a May Fly (and not a Caddis Fly, Stonefly or Lacewing) because it has very short antennae and its wings are up-stretched vertically on its back rather than folded flat. The fact that it's around in May is, apparently, less of a decider - they can be seen throughout the summer.
Three years ago Alice spotted a newt in our garden and then two years ago she transported some newts from the school pond into ours. Now, while cleaning duckweed out of our pond, Alice has spotted at least two newts amongst the frog collection in our pond. We managed to capture one of them on film. It has no crest, so we reckon it is female.
Found this Multicoloured Asian Ladybird at Hazel's school. We originally thought it was a Harlequin Ladybird (an invasive species from Asia that is sold in Europe as a biological control for aphids which out-competes local ladybirds and then eats them and other insect eggs): our thanks to Kevin Ker for the correction. The giveaway is apparently the 'M' black marking on the back of its head.
P.S. Further thanks to Jamie Hooper from Guernsey for pointing out that the Harlequin Ladybird and the Multicoloured Asian Ladybird are the same thing...
Hazel found this very pretty shiny beetle, about 8 mm long, on her book-bag today. It turns out to be a Rosemary Leaf Beetle, a native of Southern Europe where it is a pest of rosemary and lavender.
Our garden path had about ten ladybird larvae wandering across it this afternoon. Alice transported them to an aphid-infested honeysuckle.
Thought this worth a picture, not only because it is the second batch of frog spawn to appear in our pond this year, but because there was a frog obligingly sitting beside it for a photo.
Found this creature wandering across our lounge carpet this evening. It is apparently a Wasp Beetle, named for its keenness to imitate wasps, not simply by the yellow banding but because it hares around and taps its antennae just like a wasp as well.
Not really from our garden, and a moth picture so you might expect it to be in the moths section, but since we photographed it in Orlando we've put it here instead to avoid confusion with the UK moths. It was photographed in the day time in a swampy area and we think it is a worn Large Maple Spanworm Moth (Prochoerodes transversata or Prochoerodes lineola) - see here for our source of identification. From a more reasonable distance it looks exactly like a fallen autumn leaf.
From the moth trap, a Hawthorn Shield Bug.
Another caterpillar, found on the apple tree this time. It's the caterpillar of a Grey Dagger moth, which we've probably caught in our moth trap (see here and here), though we were never sure whether we had caught a Grey Dagger or a Dark Dagger. Now we know which it's more likely to have been.
While gardening today we found four more caterpillars. We think the top three are all Bright-line Brown-eye, the top two being brown and green forms (see what UKLeps has to say here) and the third being a younger one; we don't know what the fourth is though. We were hoping to hatch out some moths/butterflies to confirm their identities, but these over-winter in pupal form so we thought it best to release them back to the wild.
Another cheat. We should probably change the title of this page. This time a Speckled Wood which we saw when we were visiting in Sheffield.
A bit of a cheat this since it's not actually from our garden, but we had to put the photos somewhere and Alice has seen one in our garden previously. We went to Hatfield Forest to entertain the kids for an afternoon and found a Buddleia that was covered in butterflies including Peacocks, Red Admirals, Large Whites, Painted Ladies and a Silver-washed Fritillary but, most amazingly, a pair of Humming-bird Hawk-moths. We didn't have the digital camera with us, so here is the best we could do with our standard camera. Amazing creatures, hovering in the air just like a Humming Bird with their long tongues poking into the flowers.
The White Plume Moth hatched out today. We hadn't even realised that the caterpillar had become a pupa, but this would probably explain why it was so immobile and firmly attached to the leaf.
While picking up weeds in the garden we found a 10 mm long green caterpillar. Wandered Scott from the bird forum moth ID list has identified it as a White Plume Moth larva, as pictured on UKMoths here. We've put it in a box with some bind weed, its food plant, to see if we can hatch an adult.
During a visit to Ystrad Mynach in South Wales (12 miles north of Cardiff), a number of extras landed in the moth trap. Here they are.
A Dor beetle, a variety of Dung Beetle:
Several Burying Beetles, so called because they bury carcasses to lay their eggs on:
A Forest Bug, a variety of Shield Bug:
An Ichneumon Wasp:
Another form of Caddis Fly:
The apple tree in our garden has grown the most enormous bracket fungus, about 30 cm across. Here it is.
Since it's British Butterfly Conservation Week, we thought we'd take a look at all the creatures flying around our Buddleia today. Some we managed to get photographs of. We saw:
For the record, later in the week Alice saw several Painted Lady's (the butterfly) around the town.
OK, so this is not exactly a set of photos from the garden however this is the only vaguely logical place to put them on this website.
Our old microwave has begun failing intermittently so we bought a new one today and thought we'd have a go at doing those things you're not supposed to do with the old one. Found a bunch of aluminium foil, ripped it up a bit, then put it in for a minute. It sparked a fair amount, though not as much as we'd expected. Afterwards the foil didn't look blackened or anything, however it must have got up to a pretty high temperature as there were some lumps of blackened metal etched into the glass turntable. In fact all the sparking seemed to be taking place where the aluminium met the glass. We wonder why?
Alice has been working in the school wildlife area refurbishing and extending their pond. She came home with a present for our pond - a bucket containing 5 newts. Quite large creatures - at least 5 cm long. We poured them in to join the smallish frogs that we hope resulted from the tadpoles we cultured earlier.
Another set of distinctive flies in the moth trap today. Given the long antennae we think they are Caddis Flies, but they are quite a lot smaller than the ones we've seen previously.
Really pretty, this Vine Weevil which appeared from under the moth trap this weekend: very fetching golden flecks on its wing cases. However, its larva is a garden pest, feeding on the roots of Primulas and Fuchias in particular. Our Primulas are doing fine, so we can't have many of these.
In an attempt to make Rob dislike the pretty but destructive Lilly Beetle rather more, Alice showed him the Lilly Beetle larva which sits in its own excrement. It's working...
The frog spawn disappeared a few days ago, which got us worried, but looking more closely this morning there are little teeny tiny tadpoles in the pond. Not a great cluster of them, as you sometimes see, but a smattering. Nice.
For the first time ever in our current pond we've got an enormous ball of frog spawn. It's difficult to see with the reflections in the water, but if you look carefully you can see that it goes all the way down to the bottom of the picture. Neither of the two lots of spawn we had in our old pond resulted in tadpoles. If this lot hatches we will post photos later.
Another Ladybird caught in the moth trap.
Alice found a newt in the garden today and managed to get a slightly fuzzy video of it. Finger was introduced for scale.
Caught in our moth trap today was a particularly attractive ladybird, apparently an Eyed Ladybird.
Hazel was looking through her collection of stuff (which includes feathers) today and found a load of small white caterpillars with their own caddis-fly like homes to live in. Photo of one below. They are the larvae of the Case-bearing Clothes Moth and in this case they have formed their homes out of silk and feathers.
In our early moth trapping sessions this year we caught two tiny spiders of the type below each frantically running around with their own catches.
Found loads of slug eggs (and slugs) while removing rubbish bags from the garden. We kept some of the eggs in a jar in the hope of watching littul slugs hatch out. Then Alice is going to kill them. <later> Actually, she needn't have worried as the eggs dry out pretty rapidly if you don't keep them under something wet [note to self for next time].
Caught these in our moth trap. Didn't have any idea what they were initially, but apparently they are Caddis Flies. Having only seen the larvae before in Welsh brooks as a kid, it's good to see the adults.
Lounging in our moth trap, for some reason, this Weevil is one of 400 British species.
For the sake of completeness, a few Lacewings with their tiny red eyes.
This, we believe, is the nymph of the Green Shield Bug. It's certainly not a Green Shield Bug, but it has the look of it. Nymphs hatch from eggs and change into adults through a series of body moults (rather than going through a pupal stage, as in butterflies or moths).
Rather disappointed that this just turned out to be a Hover Fly. It looked far more exciting in the flesh, with the bold yellow stripes and the bulging purple eyes. We're apparently having a bit of an epidemic (swarms have been reported on Radio 4) due to a surfeit of aphids, which they feed on.
We found a chrysalis on the ground next to some dead nettles and kept it in a jar. Out came a Cabbage White Wasp, rather than a Cabbage White butterfly. Still pretty though.
Found in the garden on 15th May, near the compost heap.
Rob thought this was really pretty, but Alice dismissed it as a pest for Lilly lovers.