If you would like to read my Dorset nature notes about any of these featured species or sites please click on the post title

About Me

My photo

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 November, 2011

Web Spider (Araniella cucurbitina)

This is a small species of spider that is common and widespread throughout Britain in summer and through in to the autumn. You can find it on low vegetation such as taller flowers, shrubs and even trees.

There are five species of araniella spiders found in the UK and they are all bright green in colour and have a series of samll apired dots in the abdomen. Of the five Araniella cucurbitina is consider to be the most common and so that is why I have chosen to call this specimen as that species. However, to be really sure one needs to examine a specimen under a microscope and I am not about to do that!

It is a web spinning spider, spinning very fine webs between leaves on bushes and trees.

Dung Beetle (Aphodius fimetarius)

Scarab or dung beetles perform a vital role in the world, their job is to clear up droppings of various herbivorous animals, especially farm animals. This species, Aphodius fimetarius does not bury the dung but feeds directly on it above ground but they are rarely seen as they are mainly nocturnal, indeed they can be frequently found in moth lght traps.

Quite small and hard to find but very common.

Antler Moth (Cerapteryx graminis)

Another one of those moth species that puts paid to the common notion that mpths fly by night, butterflies by day. The Antler moth is frequently seen by day, especially in the warm weather of August (sometimes!), visiting the flowers of thistles, ragwort and other members of the daisy family. It is also active at night as well and can be found by using a moth light trap and also by pasting sugary substances on tree trunks!

It likes open country and where it occurs it can be very common in mid-summer. The obsession with 'ragwort pulling' undoubtedly took its toll on this species but as we now seem to be becoming a bit more realxed about ragwort these days its numbers may well be recovering, time will tell.

Annual Mercury (Mercurialis annua)

I am reluctant to use the term 'boring' for any aspect of nature as everything really is special and unique but, in trying to write notes about Annual Mercury boring is about the only word I can come up with!

A fairly non-decript flower to look at, it grows on nutriant rich soils in arable fields, gardens and waste ground in mid to late summer and can eaily be easily overlooked. However, whilst common in south east England it does not appear elsewhere in Britain so in Dorset it is right on the edge of its range and so is quite 'rare'. I used to find it a lot in Hampshire but since moving to Dorset I have seen it, to date, just once. May be it is not so boring after all!

Mining Bee (Andrena thoracica)

The Andrena family of bees are mining bees and as such, nest in holes they excavate in the earth, usually sandy soils that are easy to burrow in to. There are several species, some difficult to tell apart but this one, Andrena thoracica is quite distinctive because it is generally black but with a bright orange/brown thorax.

The Andrena's also have short toungues which limit the sort of flowers they can visit to gather pollen and they can be important pollenatotrs of such flowers whereas bumblebees have long tongues and specialise in tubular flowers.

Andrena's are also amongst the first species of bees to appear in the spring although thorcica comes later. This one was photographed on Wareham Common on a Meadow Thistle in July.

11 November, 2011

Mining Bee (Andrena cineraria)

The 'andrena' bees are often known as mining bees as they nest underground, usually in sandy banks and soil; as a result they are quite often seen on the heaths of Dorset where they feed on heather. They are honey bees, collecting pollen from a wide range of flowers, but only the female takes pollen back to her nest to feed the young grubs.

Seen in spring and throughout the summer, Andrena cineraria is best identified by its genrally black body with white hairs, the thorax in particular has a lot of white hairs but these can wear and fade as the summer goes on.

Amethyst Deceiver (Laccaria amethystea)

This is a lovely, delicate fungus of shaded woods where it can be quite abundant. It occurs else where but shaded woods, both decidous and coniferous, are the most likely place to find it. It is especially associated with Beech trees.

An autumn species,especially in September and October, it is most easily distinguished by its unique colouring and is probably the only mauve (or lilac) fungus to be found in the United Kingdom.

It is edible but has very little taste or smell so it is probably best left alone to delight others who may pass by later!

Ichneumon Fly (Amblyteles armatorius)

Ichneumon flies are not flies at all, they are more closely related to wasps and bees in the order hymenoptera and that is not hard to believe when you see them, especially this one, Amblyteles armatorius, with its striking yellow and black colouring.

This species is very common in mid-summer, frequently seen on the flowers of umbeliferae (especially Hogweed and Angelica) but you will also find them on thistles and brambles. It is probably the most common of the Ichneumons and can be seen by day in sunshine.

The colours say 'keep away, I'm dangerous' and although harmless to humans having no bite or sting, they are far from harmless to moth caterpillers, especially those of the noctuid family. The ichneumons are parasitic, laying their eggs inside a living caterpiller and the larvae then eats the caterpiller from the inside out! Nature can seem cruel at times and yet it is fascinating too. One can feel sorry for the moth or admire the ichneumon (or may be both?).

Allseed (Radiola linoides)

It is not, perhaps, hard to see why this flower is called Allseed, it is nearly all seed! The flowers are very small and soon become seeds.

This is a very inconspicuous and dull plant, not really worth a look to be honest. It grows on damp bare acid sandy soils on heaths and also on paths in open woods.Not uncommon but very 'overlooked' but it can be found frequently on the Dorset heaths.

There is not much else you can say about this plant really.

10 November, 2011

Longhorn Moth (Adela reaumurella)

This is a small, day flying moth but with incredible antennae. In the male they are four times as long as the moth's body, the female's are much shorter. You have to wonder how on earth they manage to fly with these long appendages emanating from their head! It is easy to see why they have the coloquial name of 'loghorn' moths.

These moths have a short season and can be seen on bright, sunny days in May when they dance in whirling swarms, usually under the newly emerged leaves of Oak, and sometimes Beech and Hazel. Eggs are laid on the oak and the caterpillars feed on dry fallen leaves.

Not uncommon and on a good day you can encounter swarm after swarm as you walk through decidous woodland.