Dear Readers, it’s certainly all kicking off on the invertebrate front – my friend Leo over at Barnwood spotted clouds of these yellow-barred longhorn moths ‘dancing’ above a patch of nettles. Just look at those extraordinary antennae! This is technically a ‘micro-moth’ but it doesn’t look that titchy to me. It likes damp woodland, and the adults feed on the pollen of nettles, bistort and ox-eye daisies, while the larvae eat birch litter. The caterpillars hibernate in a cocoon made up of dead leaves and bits of twig, normally in a characteristic violin shape and up to 2 cms long. These can often be found under the plants around which the adults were flying, so it might be good to have a look later in the year.
And this wasn’t the only flying insect that’s been attracting attention. Mike from Alittlebitoutoffocus found these two mayflies mating in Derbyshire. These are some of the oldest species of insect that we have, and probably the first extant family to develop flight, though it is a rather weak, fluttering affair. They are also the only insect group to moult when fully-winged. Whilst the nymphs can live at the bottom of sandy or gravelly rivers for several years, the lifespan of the adult can sometimes be only a couple of days. These two are obviously making the most of their short stay on the earth.
And finally, we are whizzing back to North London to see Leo’s nursery web spider, also found at Barnwood.
What a handsome spider this is! She was guarding her eggs, which have subsequently emerged as spiderlings, and she will guard them for a few days before leaving them to their own devices. This is the only British spider species where the male presents the female with a gift of a wrapped fly before eating, probably to distract her while mating takes place. There is another nursery web spider species, the fen raft spider, which is semi-aquatic, but ‘our’ spider is a creature of grassland and hedgerows. Apparently this spider can sometimes be seen ‘sunbathing’ with her legs in the air, so let’s hope she has a chance to do that in a day or so when the youngsters are ‘off hand’.
What a fine variety of invertebrates there are out and about at the moment! Let me know if you’ve seen anything spectacular where you are.