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About Me

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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

13 July, 2011

Hawthorn Shield-bug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale)

This insect is shield shaped and is found mainly on the leaves and fruit of Hawthorn so it has the common English name of ... Hawthorn Shield-bug!

Shield bugs are part of the order Hemiptera, sub-order Heteroptera; they are not flies or beetles, they are a separate taxonomical group. They can vary in colour quite considerably depending on age but the red triangle is usually visible on the Hawthorn Shield Bug.

These are insects that tend to hibernate as adults and so are most frequently seen in spring when they emerge or in autumn as they are looking for somewhere safe to pass the winter. That said, they are not uncommon in summer either and are frequently seen in gardens.

One of the bigger shield bugs, one of the most distinctive in appearance and and one of the more frequently seen, there is likely to be one near you soon!

12 July, 2011

Cardinal Beetle [Pyrochroa serraticornis]

Soldier beetles are everywhere now but, if you like beetles, it is good time to take a closer look as amongst the three common reddish coloured soldiers may find something like this Cardinal Beetle.

Named the Cardinal Beetle because of the scarlet colour of its wing cases and thorax it also resembles a cardinals hat too so it is doubly aptly named. This species has a scarlet head as well, there is a similar species with a black head called Pyrochroa coccinea that has a black head.
You will find Cardinal Beetles on flower heads, especially umbelliferae and thistles, but it is not a pollen hunter, it preys on small insects that are pollen hunters. Its larvae are also insect eaters but they live in rotting tree stumps and trunks.

A smartly dressed little insect and worthy of attention in my view.

11 July, 2011

Thick-headed Fly (Sicus ferrugineus)

Some species of insect are really quite unmistakable, they are so unique. Unmistakable, that is, if you know what they are.

After spending half an hour thumbing through my field guides I could not put a name to this species which annoyed me as it should have been quite obvious from the shape and the colour. In the end I gave up and posted he photograph on the Open University Ispot website [http://www.ispot.org.uk/] and within an hour or so it had been identified and three other people confirmed that it was the Thick-headed Fly (Sicus ferrugineus).

Referring back to my field guides this species is in neither of them so thanks to those enthusiasts on Ispot without whose help this would be another photograph an unidentified insect.

I guess the name thick-headed fly is descriptive of its appearance and not its mental intelligence?

10 July, 2011

Hoverfly [Chrysotoxum bicinctum]

I am always on the look out for new hoverflies to photograph and learn about. I find them fascinating as they are so variable in size, appearance and behaviour.

When I discovered this one I thought I was photographing a wasp and it wasn't until I got a closer look at home on the computer screen I realised it was not a wasp species but a hoverfly. That deception is, of course, intentional. Potential preditors may think twice before having a go at this particular harmless insect; mind you, they would have to catch it first - hoverflies go from nought to gone in less than a second!

This species is vary variable in its distribution, common where you find it but not found everywhere if that makes any sense. My book says that this species usually occurs in grassy situations but likes the shelter of scrub and shrubs. In both places I have now seen it this has been true.

09 July, 2011

Leaf Cutter Bee (Megachile centuncularis)

This is a bee I am very fond of; sadly my wife, who is the gardener, is not quite so keen.

Not only is it an attractive little package in appearance (well I think so anyway) it is a fascinating insect to watch as it brings pieces of leaf and drags them in to the end of garden bamboo canes where it is making its nest. Each leaf taken in forms the basis of a sausage shaped egg cell. The problem is, they have a liking for rose leaves for this purpose and can take chunks out of several leaves as they go about making a home for their little ones.

You can't claim to have a wildlife garden on the one hand and then complain about a few rose leaves being taken away and put to good use on the other. As a result, we gladly tolerate them, indeed we both actually welcome them they are lovely little B's

08 July, 2011

Parasitic fly [Thelaria species]

You may not like them but you can't ignore them! Come the summer flies make themselves known to all of us one way or another; climbing our windows, buzzing round our heads, some even biting us.
I doubt many of us actually like flies as, like rats, they are connected with spreading disease and that hatred is passed down from one generation of humans to the next.
This genus, thelaria, are particularly troublesome in some parts of the world carrying disease and parasites around people and, more frequently, cattle. The 260 or so species we have in this country are not such a problem, they are just an irritation.
What I find amazing is that to separate and classify these insects you need to examine them under a microscope as wing venation and genitals can be key to species identification. This one flew off shortly after being photographed, it may have thought I was a scientist looking for a positive identification and wanted none of that, thank you very much!