Tag Archives: insects

Traffic noise is making female crickets less picky

Bog Bush-Cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) female – Creech Heath, Dorset
Photo by Will Atkins under creative commons

iNews reports traffic noise makes female crickets less picky when choosing a mate, a new study from Anglia Ruskin University suggests, threatening their long-term survival. Male crickets perform courtship songs to attract a female by rubbing their wings together. Females will generally pick the male with the best serenade. But road noise is making it harder for female crickets to distinguish between a top notch song and an off-key performance, the researchers said. 

Pesticide set for return in UK despite EU ban ‘stops bees sleeping’

The Independent reports neonicotinoids, linked to collapse in insect pollinator populations, knock bees’ and flies’ behavioural rhythms out of sync. Almost all living creatures require sleep in some form to function properly, and insects are no exception. But new research warns exposure to a common insecticide, banned in the EU but set for reintroduction to the UK, impacts the sleep of bumblebees and fruit flies, and “may help us understand why insect pollinators are vanishing from the wild”. 

Huge spider assumed extinct in Britain discovered on Surrey MoD training site

The Guardian reports one of Britain’s largest spiders has been discovered on a Ministry of Defence training ground in Surrey having not been seen in the country for 27 years.

Mike Waite from Surrey Wildlife Trust discovered the elusive spider after two years of trawling around after dark looking for it on the Surrey military site, which the MoD is not naming for security reasons.

The great fox-spider is a night-time hunter, known for its speed and agility, as well as its eight black eyes which give it wraparound vision. The critically endangered spider was assumed extinct in Britain after last being spotted in 1993 on Hankley Common in Surrey.

Box-tree caterpillars are a garden pest, but their destruction of natural habitats is more worrying

The Telegraph reports if not kept under control, the box-tree moth could disrupt natural ecological balances irrevocably. It now infests most of Europe except a few Nordic regions and high mountainous areas. With climate change it may spread further. 

Photos of box tree moth caterpillar by Frank Van Hevel and box tree moth by David Shrt, both under creative commons.

Specieswatch: violet carpenter bee – an exotic, heavyweight arrival to UK

The Guardian reports if you see a violet carpenter bee, xylocopa violacea, in Britain, it seems too exotic for our shores, and too big. It is up to 3cm long, the size of our largest bumble bee, and it looks even larger when flying with an impressive buzz.

In late August, the adults emerge from a dead tree trunk or other old wood where they have spent the larval stage. After mating in late April or May, female bees bore holes in rotten wood and lay eggs in separate chambers, each one sealed in with a store of pollen so the emerging larvae can have a good start in life.

Climate change has brought this southern European species to our shores.

Violet carpenter bee photo by Charlie Jackson under creative commons.

Here be dragonflies, thriving in Britain as never before

The Observer reports climate change has encouraged a wave of insect migrants from across the Channel. Should we celebrate or fear for the future? As the sun finally emerges from behind a cloud, I catch sight of a pair of dragonflies, yoked together in a mating position to rival the Kama Sutra. Yet this copulating couple, performing in a watery ditch on Canvey Island in Essex, are no ordinary members of their family. They are southern migrant hawkers: a species virtually unknown in the UK until a decade or so ago. 

Photo by Bill Stanworth of golden-ringed dragonfly

Large blue butterfly flutters in Cotswolds for first time in 150 years

The Guardian reports painstaking conservation effort to accommodate insect’s complex lifecycle pays off. The biggest reintroduction to date of the large blue has led to the rare butterfly flying on a Cotswold hillside where it has not been seen for 150 years.

About 750 butterflies emerged on to Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire this summer after 1,100 larvae were released last autumn following five years of innovative grassland management to create optimum habitat. 

Large Blue ovipositing photo by Paul Ritchie under creative commons.

Swarm of flying ants is so big it shows up on weather map

The Metro and The Telegraph report if you already felt like 2020 was bringing echoes of the Biblical ten plagues, then you might want to not click this article. The picture looks like it shows a rain cloud drifting across Kent, London and the South East – but friends, that is no rain cloud. Look closer and you’ll see the little arrow annotating the blue area as ‘flying ants’. There are so many of them that they are messing with the weather radar.