a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France


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Beasties file

I enjoy taking photographs of the things I see in the garden and around me.

Ladybird pupa

I took this on the third of July this year and stored it in my Beasties file.  It was not until this September that I was treated to a full slide show of Ladybird metamorphosis that I could identify it as a ladybird pupa.

http://bybio.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/ladybug-metamorphosis/

I like not only watching nature but learning more.  I really enjoy following “Back Yard Biology” not just for the superb photographs but the great commentaries that go with them.

 


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It is a matter of perspective

It is all a matter of perspective.

A glow in the night

Viewed on the computer this is a remarkably bad photograph.

Viewed in reality on a warm August evening it is a little marvel of nature.

Viewed scientifically it is a bioluminescence released when the enzyme luciferase interacts with the luciferin naturally produced by the glow-worm, releasing energy in the form of light.

Viewed from the point of view of a male Lampyris noctiluca it is an irresistible attraction.  The female glow worm is attracting her winged mate.

Glow worm in strawberry patch

Viewed with the aid of flash, the beetle Lampyris noctiluca can be seen more clearly.

A closer look

From my point of view I love to see these points of light that make summer evenings so special.

Glow baby, glow!

From the point of view of a gardener, I was even more delighted to discover that the larvae eat snails.  I just hope they have been able to find sufficient this year as it has been so dry.

It is nice to think that there may be a group of glow worms protecting my strawberries while I sleep!


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Big fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite them

Check out the red mite or tick on the side of the fly!

The vermin only teaze and pinch

Their foes superior by an inch.

So, naturalists observe, a flea

Has smaller fleas that on him prey;

And these have smaller still to bite ’em,

And so proceed ad infinitum.

Taken from “On Poetry: a Rhapsody“, Jonathon Swift (1733)

I was taken aback when I saw this robber fly on my hydrangea about to tuck into a smaller fly while he himself was being made a meal of by a red tick or mite on his side.

So what’s inside the mite – bacteria, ‘phages, viruses, prions?  Mmm, first poetry, next philosophy, I think I prefer to keep to observation.


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Definitely a nasty!

A comment made by http://missapismellifera.com made me think and gave me a challenge.  I share what I see and find beautiful in the garden; the flowers, the bumble bees, the pretty birds but I wondered if I am giving a balanced or rose-tinted view of life.

I set out to find a nasty.  But will I succeed?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the closer we get to nature the greater the  array of creatures we notice. Then our appreciation mellows and mutates without us being aware of exactly when our sensibilities started to change.

Solitary black fly Asilidae (?)

I saw these flies just a short distance away from the garden in the fields.  I think they belong to the family Asilidae (but stand ready to be corrected).  They look more like large wasps or small dragonflies.  These are predatory insects and can take smaller insects in flight.  The family includes many mimics.  Even one that can mimic a bumble bee!

Flies mating

The bristles on their legs serving here to steady themselves on the grass are also used to trap their victims and to carrying them off to be consumed in the comfort of a safe, shady spot.

Wasp-like body but different mate

There is a marked dimorphism between the male and female flies.  Who would want to be an entomologist  when there is such a difference between the male and female that if I had seen them apart I would have assumed that they were different species?

Now I wonder, have I found a nasty or does anyone like these flies?

These flies have now been identified as Dasypogon diadema by http://daysontheclaise.blogspot.com.  Thank you so much Susan!


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Where do butterflies go when it’s cloudy?

It’s cloudy today, not cold just cloudy and there has been a short shower of rain.

But no butterflies.

A few days ago we went for a walk.

(Melanargia galathea, Marbled white)

There were butterflies everywhere.

(Melanargia galathea, Marbled white)

Just to prove what I am saying, I’ll show you a photograph of two at one time.

( Colias crocea, Common clouded yellow)

There were yellow ones.

(Pieris brassicae, Large white)

White ones.

(Aricia agestis, Brown Argus)

Brown ones.

The wild scabious was very popular with them.

(Azuritis reducta, Southern white admiral)

It was the same in the garden.

(Inachis io, Peacock)

The Peacock butterflies were abundant.

But not today.  Where do butterflies go when they don’t fancy taking a turn out to sip some nectar?

The bees I understand, they stay in their hives or nests if the weather is bad.  But the bees are still active today, if somewhat subdued compared to a sunny day.

Do butterflies suffer from depression if it is not sunny?


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French stick insect

This little creature attached itself to us in the garden, or rather to the mug of coffee I had left on the grass.  It is not a fast mover and did not object to a close examination.

Close up it looks like a bad imitation plastic toy.

If you think it looks cute, you are not alone.  Stick insects are kept as pets and there are much more exotic varieties for the connoisseur than this one.  At least you would have no problem breeding it as this stick insect (Clonopsis gallica) is parthenogenic, the female can produce viable eggs and the continuity of the species is assured with no male intervention.

It  eats leaves, in particular those of wild roses, brambles, hawthorn and almonds. It is amazingly difficult to see amongst the greenery when it is not moving, especially when it aligns itself alongside a leaf stalk.

This one is bright green, as are all young ones but they will gradually turn darker and become brown, there is already a darkening behind the neck in this one.  I prefer its plastic green colour.


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Distractions in the vegetable garden

This Privet Hawk moth (Sphinx ligustri) appeared while I was weeding in the vegetable garden.  Excuses to stop weeding don’t come much better than that.

The poor creature was unlucky enough to fall into our hands but endured stoically our admiration and picture taking.  There are no privets around us but lots of ash trees and elders and the caterpillars also use these tree leaves as their food.

The chrysalis remains underground during the winter and our moth had just emerged and was still pumping up its wings while we had the pleasure of examining it.

It was quickly placed in the shade of a tree and left to recover from the indignities it had suffered and I hope to see it soon feasting on the nectar from our honeysuckle flowers.

It is not my favourite hawk moth, my favourite is the humming bird hawk moth, Macroglossum stellatarum but I have not seen one yet this year.


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Summer approaches in the woods

Everyday sees changes in the countryside.  The warmth, the cold, the rain, the sun all conspire to bring about subtle changes that made no two days the same but there comes a point where our coarse senses remark a change that cannot be ignored.

The vibrant, frenetic days of spring are past and summer is approaching.

I feel this in the woods as the canopy of the trees fills in and covers over, changing the flowers that grow underneath.  A few still linger, like the Asphodel but the Wood Anemones have totally disappeared leaving only their leaves as witness to their presence.

Only an odd violet can be seen here and there along the path.  I shall be sorry to see them go but I took my first photographs of the wild violets in my garden at the end of March so their season has not been short.

The Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum commutatum) is content to stay in the shady areas under the trees and so is just starting its flowering season.

Once open the elegant bells attract the bees and bumbles who feast on the pollen which they carry off in their pollen sacs which become  stunningly white.  I tried to get a photograph but they were too quick for me, trying to manoeuvre amongst the long stems of the Solomon’s seal which are over a metre tall.

I couldn’t miss the swarm of bees over a puddle in the middle of the path.  I had read that bees have a requirement for water but I could not understand what attracted so many of them to the same puddle at the same time.  When I got closer I discovered it was not the water that they were interested in but the mud it was providing for them!

They are Mason bees looking for a supply of mud to seal up their cache of eggs which could be somewhere in the woods in a hollow twig or convenient hole in a tree.  Mason bees belong to the genus Osmia, I cannot go further than that with identification but I do think they have really cute eyes!

The butterflies still accompany us on our walks like this Comma butterfly ( Polygonia c-album) and

the Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta) which always adds colour in the woods.

The Common Heath Moth (Ematurga atomaria) enjoys flying in the daytime in sunny spots but

the Speckled Yellow moth (Pseudopanthera macularia) was a bit more frisky.  It is always lovely to have their company even though they are less appreciative of ours.

These two seem a bit surprised to see each other alight so close to each other when there are so many flowers to choose from.

The Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is in luxuriant bloom on the edges of the woods and roads and is being visited by an astonishing number of insects.  The bees and bumbles are visiting in substantial numbers.

Predators will always be attracted to to the abundant food supplies of their prey.  The European Hornet (Vespa crabro) did not find any bees on this fly past and rapidly left our presence.  They are an unloved species and their nests are frequently destroyed by humans, however, it is a protected species in Germany and a native European insect.

For me it just does not have the same appeal as a fluffy bumble bee clutching onto the clover flower and  sipping the nectar.


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A hole in the grass

This is a picture of a hole in my garden.

And why should this interest you?  Well in fact, it probably doesn’t interest most people.

For my sins, I found it very exciting.  To me it seemed an extremely interesting hole.  My immediate thought was that I had stumbled upon the entrance of a solitary bee’s nest.  I was delighted!

Well, just long enough to take a closer look and see how big it was.  Definitely not the entrance to a bee’s nest.  But it did have a well-travelled looking little path leading to the entrance.  Something was definitely going in and out and it was bigger than a bee.  I had no ideas about what it might be but I was desperate to find out.  So it was a matter of patience.

I settled down to out-stare the hole.

I was rewarded by some movement.   I got the camera at the ready and out popped a head.  A quick photograph, and I was still none the wiser.

A bit of movement and he was gone back down his hole, only re-appearing if I remained still and quiet.

This thing with the big bulbous head was not a beetle.  After some head scratching and some research on the Internet, I believe it is a field cricket.  It was the first time I had seen one.

Strangely the same night he (or a friend) came to sing in the front garden so I nipped out to take another photo.

And I had thought it was cicadas that had been serenading us all this time!  Now I know who sings to us in the summer.

Maybe next time I’ll find a solitary bee’s nest.