It’s been an interesting few nights for the moth trap this week. The moths themselves have been fairly unremarkable, but for some reason the trap has been attracting all sorts of other insects. Not that I mind – it’s all good news for the biodiversity of the garden. Well mainly good news – one of the surprises of the moth trap this week was an influx of Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis). I found at least 12 of them in the trap from Tuesday night.
The Harlequin is a non-native ladybird, originating from Eastern Asia. The species was first found in the UK in 2004. It’s got a wider range of food preferences and a longer breeding season and is basically out-competing our native species and spreading rapidly across the country. So finding 12 in my trap in one go, probably isn’t good news for the other ladybird species in our garden. Especially as this pair seemed keen on producing more Harlequins.
The Harlequin ladybirds have a huge variety of colour variations, making them difficult sometimes to distinguish from our native species. (one of the reasons the Ladybird survey people don’t advocate killing the Harlequins – just in case you’ve got it wrong!) Most of the ones from the trap were red, but there were a couple of these black ones too.
The only thing to do with them was submit my sightings to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey.
Fortunately Harlequins weren’t the only non moth species in the trap. There were the usual selection of wasps, diving beetles (which surprised me no end the first time they turned up in the trap!), caddis flies, daddy-long-legs and assorted flies. But most interesting were a selection of Leafhoppers and Froghoppers – subsequent IDs revealed 4 species.
These first two are Leaf Hoppers (I’m still not sure what makes a Hopper a leafy one or a froggy one). I can’t find common names for either of them although they are apparently quite common species. I guess not enough people look at these tiny insects for anyone to have bothered giving them English names. The first one was a lovely green insect with red eyes (maybe I should invent common names – the Ruby-eyed Emerald Leafhopper!) called Iassus lanio.
The second was a slightly subtler individual called Allygus sp. (my name – Mottled Brown Leafhopper!)
One thing I’ve found all these Hoppers have in common is the ability to ping away in a split second as you try and photograph them. They seem quite sedentary lazy creatures one minute, then suddenly ping – they’ve gone. So I didn’t get much time to compose and focus beautiful photographs!
The next one is a froghopper and has actually managed to get itself a common name – the Alder Spittlebug (Aphrophora alni). The immature stages of these bugs form foamy nests on plants (frog spit or cuckoo spit) which help them regulate moisture and temperature.
The final one was a very large leafhopper, the largest British species in fact – Ledra aurita. It’s common name on one website was given as Eared Leafhopper, although Horned Leafhopper would seem more accurate to me. It is normally very well camouflaged on trees, but stands out a bit in a moth trap.
All these insects appeared in the moth trap on Tuesday night, but on Friday night the same trap in the same location didn’t catch anything but moths!