National Biodiversity Week and some nice surprises

I know people might be wondering, “where the hell has he gone without a word about Biodiversity Week?”. Yes, it is late in the day, but unfortunately for me Biodiversity Week coincided with a heavy week of non-biodiversity related chores, and only today am I free to write and enjoy it all. Remember, the week is only designed to get you interested in biodiversity, so if you are already reading this, then it’s a case of “mission accomplished”. Also, a number of people have been in touch and I have yet to respond, so please don’t be offended if you have not heard back yet, your messages are not being ignored, and I am delighted to receive them. First things first, I received a lovely message from Ruth Finnerty to say she had found a Cockchafer beetle in her living room and had been able to identify it using this website, which is terrific news for me, because that’s what the website is for. Thank you, Ruth! Cockchafers are on the wing now in the warmish evenings, and this year they really live up to their alternative name of “Maybug”.

A male Cockchafer beetle, which can be told apart form the female by its cock's comb-like antennae. They are quite big beetles, and slow-moving and clumsy when walking, or fliying for that matter. Because they usually show up in May, they are traditionally know as "Maybugs".
A male Cockchafer beetle, which can be told apart form the female by its cock’s comb-like antennae. They are quite big beetles, and slow-moving and clumsy when walking, or fliying for that matter. Because they usually show up in May, they are traditionally know as “Maybugs”.

According to the famous 19th century French naturalist, Jean-Henri Fabre, people would use the grubs to cure toothaches. If anybody tries this remedy, please let me know the results.

Evening time is the best to see Cockchafers as they blunder into lights and windows. However, there are other remarkable creatures out there. Look on the flowers for some real wonders. In the photo below you can get some idea of how tricky it can be, and how observant you need to be. Can you see the two spiders in the photo below. If you can only see one, then you need to know that the other is much bigger.

The male and female Misumena vatia,  or Flower Crab Spider. The female is much larger than her mate, and brilliantly camouflaged, capable of changing colour to some degree, to blend in with backgrounds. The male is actually camouflaged to look like bird dung.
The male and female Misumena vatia, or Flower Crab Spider. The female is much larger than her mate, and brilliantly camouflaged, capable of changing colour to some degree, to blend in with backgrounds. The male is actually camouflaged to look like bird dung.

On this occasion I was fortunate enough to see them mate, which involved the male climbing down behind the female’s bulbous abdomen and putting his sperm directly into her reproductive orifice with his palps, the little claw-like, antennae like structures beside his head. He has to be careful because she will eat him if she can. But there are much smaller creatures that are just as interesting, and I urge you to look at your flowers very carefully to see some very important little insects, pollinating beetles to be exact.

A tiny weevil, essential for the pollination of many plant species. These funny little insects are known as Pea Weevils, and they will run away and hide once they feel they have been spotted.
A tiny weevil, essential for the pollination of many plant species. These funny little insects are known as Pea Weevils, and they will run away and hide once they feel they have been spotted. This is a potentilla flower, from the same shrub that the spiders above were photographed in.

 

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