Feeling very pleased with myself this month – all thanks to a bug! I had planned to follow Buglife’s Bug of the Month feature, but this month they’ve chosen a Wasp Spider and a) we don’t get them in our garden and b) I’m really not very good with spiders (huge understatement!) So I thought I’d do an actual BUG feature instead. Shieldbugs are part of a group of insects called True Bugs, which always makes me imagine that somewhere out there, there are insects who go around faking it as bugs? I knew we got shieldbugs in the garden, so did a trawl through the photos and tried to properly ID them for once. There’s a website called iSpot where you can upload photos and get help identifying them, so I got all my shieldbugs checked out.
There was one bug that had landed on our birdbath last month – unfortunately our birdbath hangs quite high and being vertically challenged, I couldn’t see in. Luckily the other half is considerably taller and spotted said bug clambering through the hole in the middle. Anyway turns out this little bug was a Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus). Box bugs were originally known only from Box Hill in Surrey but have recently been expanding their range. Word on the nerdy street is that our little bug in Malvern maybe the first one to be recorded as far across as Worcestershire.
We get 6 other species of shieldbug in the garden; many of whom are perhaps more interesting looking than the Box Bug. But I will forever be most chuffed with this one, even though I was too short to have actually seen it!
The Buglife charity’s Bug of the Month for September is the Common Earthworm. I know earthworms are probably at the lower end of the glamour scale when it comes to bugs – I also know that it may only be me that can possibly imagine a glamour scale of bugs! (butterflies would be near the top by the way) Nevertheless earthworms are probably some of our most important invertebrates, improving the structure of the soil and recycling nutrients. They’re not the most photogenic of creatures though and I’m not even 100% sure the worms I dug up here are Common Earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris), as it turns out there are quite a few similar species. But whatever they were, they were doing a good job of aerating our vegetable plots, enabling the weeds to grow even more enthusiastically.
While digging up the worms for the photo, I disturbed another toad who’d been minding his own business amongst the lush undergrowth growing where the veg should have been. Thankfully the garden fork missed him or we’d be getting a reputation in the amphibian world as toad harassers after last month’s incident with one of his comrades. Hopefully he forgave my intrusion when he found the pile of freshly dug worms – being bug of the month doesn’t save you from toady termination.
Bug of the Month is a phrase you just don’t get to use often enough! But the brilliant Buglife charity have launched a new feature entitled just that, in which they will showcase a different invertebrate each month. August’s “bug” is the beautiful Common Green Lacewing (Chrysoperla carnea). As luck would have it, I caught one of these little beauties in the moth trap this month. Buglife’s webpage has a beautiful image of the lacewing, so I fondly imagined I would take a similarly aesthetic photo. It seems however that my particular lacewing had different ideas – I got this one fairly grotty snap of it as I opened the pot, then it was off over the fence, presumably to find a garden with fewer paparazzi. If you’d like to see a much better photo or read more about these beautiful insects, have a look at the Buglife website: https://www.buglife.org.uk/bugs-and-habitats/bug-month
With a bit of luck, I’ll find future Bugs of the Month in our backyard too, unless they go for ones that require a tidy garden or for very rare ones like the lesser spotted dweeb beetle (I may have made that one up!)
If you’ve never heard of Buglife, they are a fantastic charity that champion Britain’s 40,000+ invertebrate species. The tiny animals they support may not have the “cute factor” of some of the more high profile conservation stories, but are just as important if not more so.