Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Crickets and a few selected photos and other oddments from June / July

A small selection of bits and pieces from the last few weeks with a few photos some of which I’m quite pleased with especially the Libelloides longicornis which I've waited years for, massive thanks to Samuel Ducept of Vienne Nature for making his hand available. 

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Libelloides longicornis is found in South west Europe and frequents sunny open habitats where they hunt flies and other small insects by patrolling at a height of about 2 to 3 metres.

Now a word in your ear about being a bit careful when translating French names to English for creatures which isn't always that simple especially when the dictionaries have it wrong in some cases. A classic example is the French word Sauterelle which will translate to Grasshopper in most major dictionaries when in fact it should translate to Bush cricket.

This may help to avoid confusion.

Sauterelle = Bush cricket – long antennae
Criquet = Grass hopper – short antennae
Grillon = Cricket – long antennae apart from the Mole cricket, Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa which has short antennae.

I’ve seen five different Crickets seen in the last month to share here including a juvenile Mole Cricket discovered under a large stone by a lake. Turning rocks and stones will often produce interesting results exposing creatures that are taking shelter.
Some people get confused and think that the Field Cricket is the Mole Cricket because the male Field Cricket uses an angled hole in the ground to hide in and try to attract females to it, however the Mole Cricket actually spends most of its life underground where it tunnels with its powerful front legs that are adapted in a similar fashion to a mole. In this photo they are tucked in by its head.

Mole Cricket – Courtilière - Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa.  Wet or moisture retentive fields and meadows, edges of ponds, lakes, rivers and similar water courses. Up to 5cm

Grillon bordelais (Tartarogryllus burdigalensis) Bordeaux Cricket. Open grassy scrub, cultivated fields and similar habitats. Up to 1.5cm

Grillon des bois (Nemobius sylvestris) Wood Cricket. In all types of woodland and bordering scrub and grassland. Up to 1.25cm

Grillon des marais (Pteronemobius Heydenii) Marsh Cricket.  Along the edges of and in close proximity to lakes, ponds, rivers and similar water courses. Very small Cricket no more than 1cm.

Grillon champêtre (Gryllus campestris) Field Cricket. Almost anywhere but especially different types of grassland. Up to 2.75cm

Moving on to another interesting species that I was shown, a small group of Martagon Lilies in some ancient woodland near to Lussac les Chateaux in Vienne. Although this isn’t a rare species in France they are normally found in mountainous regions, Alpes, Pyrenees, Jura and the Massif Central but here hidden away in these woodlands are some very small pockets following the retreat of the last glaciation.  Remarkably, (or maybe not), they had Scarlet Lily beetles, Lilioceris lilii, on them and had presumably been existing together for many years.

Three butterflies that might be of interest for UK residents as they aren't to be found there. Otherwise it’s been a very poor year for butterflies around here so far other than for the commonest of species and very few of some of them. On the bright side there has been an apparent increase in the number of Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae, a species that has become rare in the region in recent years. I saw four individuals earlier this year here!

Mallow skipper Carcharodus alceae (L'Hespérie).

Weavers fritillary  Clossiana dia (La Petite violette)

 Ilex hairstreak  Satyrium ilicis (Le Thécla de l'yeuse)

On the bee front it’s been mixed to say the least of it. The Sweet Chestnut started to flower and for a few days it was hot and the bees were working hard, then as in recent years it took a turn for the worse with cold and rain on and off finally culminating in half the trees with spoiled flowers before they even opened. The first of the Sunflowers started to open about a week ago and right now it’s hot and sunny – I hope it lasts, the next four or five weeks will determine the honey yield.

Had a call to a small colony the other week that was built behind shutters in a doorway which took about 30 minutes to remove and put in a ruchette, I wish they were all that simple and then yesterday I had a really, really small swarm in my apiary which I’ve popped in a Warré and today they appear to be behaving like bees with a purpose! If they do have a Queen they will need some syrup to get them anywhere near strength for winter.

Earthnut pea, Lathyrus tuberosus, is an amazing and little known plant, a real all rounder being very attractive with a super perfume and importantly honey bees love it  A perennial that once introduced and established will form dense clumps and can be used to climb fences or through bushes.

I can’t help but admire, if that’s the right word, how the Crab Spiders have developed over time with their hosts, the plants and their flowers and their prey which visits the flowers, mainly it seems to be bees, butterflies and hoverflies that succumb to their fangs.

Crab spider Synema-globosum with a honey-bee and  Milichiidae, Jackel or Freeloader flies.

Off to check the bees now,