Tag Archives: maybug

Biodiversity Week!

You probably don’t realise it with all of the big news stories, referendum issues, etc. but this is Ireland’s National Biodiversity Week, and here is a little celebration of the biodiversity you will see in Wicklow right now, in no particular order:

   This is my first proper photo of a Red Kite (Milvus milvus), a large and very beautiful bird-of-prey which mostly feeds on carrion, and can often be seen soaring above the roads of Wicklow on the watch out for roadkill. It is a huge bird, and has only been back in Ireland for about a decade having been reintroduced, with the first released in Wicklow. They have since thrived.

Wicklow loves its cherry trees, and in spring they are everywhere blooming. Here’s a handsome double-flower cherry. Most are now gone out of bloom but you might still find some stragglers.

After the mass blooming of dandelion flowers seed-eating birds come into their element, with beauties such as the Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) and Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) coming into gardens to feed on them. The bird in the photo is a male Bullfinch.

Butterfly numbers have been steadily climbing in May, and these dainty creatures can be found almost everywhere. The one in the photo is easily identified as it is the only Irish species with eye-spots, the Peacock butterfly (Inachis io).

Apple trees doe very well in Ireland, and Wicklow has no shortage of them. Here is one with immense blooms. Once fertilised by a pollen-covered bee or hover fly, each flower will gradually develop into an apple, but it will take a few months. And here’s a close-up of the beautiful blossoms.

Here (below) is one of the best of all the pollinators and in 2018 it seems to be enjoying a population explosion in Wicklow – the Chocolate Mining Bee (Andrena scotica), which doesn’t mine chocolate, but is chocolate-coloured. It is often confused with the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) but has no pollen sacs on its hind legs, and no sting. The one in the photo is collecting pollen from a potentilla flower.

May is the time of the Maybugs – large, clumsy beetles best known as Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha), which emerge from pupa having spent a year or two under ground as large white grubs feeling on the roots of dandelions. They appear in May and June and fly about at night, and are attracted to lights. You will see them now almost every night until the end of June.

And, of course, there are also moths to be seen:

   Many moths, like the one above, are attracted to window lights at night. This handsome species is the Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata), which is quite common in Wicklow, and which appears as two different generation of moths. This one belongs to the first, and in late summer a second generation of moths will appear.

On leaves all around gardens in Wicklow little green eggs appear. Some belong to moths, some to butterflies, some to true bugs and some to beetles. These eggs (above) belong to the Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina).

Finally, to end my little showcase, here is a very beautiful game bird, the Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus). These birds used to very much belong to the countryside, but in recent years they have begun coming to live in gardens, and can even be found in the centre of Dublin city, especially in universities with trees and green areas, such as Trinity College. However, in Wicklow they are in much larger numbers.

 

 

National Biodiversity Week

Usually National Biodiversity Week in Ireland begins on a Saturday and ends the following weekend. However, this year it is a two-week event which began the week before last and will be ending next Monday, June 1, the June Bank Holiday. However, it was only late last week that the cold Arctic winds abated and a tropical current took over, and what a weekend we had. The birds are nesting now and are interesting to watch – such as these Jackdaws nesting in one of our chimneys:

Jackdaws at their chimney nest - it's almost impossible to differentiate the male from the female but she is usually slightly smaller, making her the one with the bread in its beak.
Jackdaws at their chimney nest – it’s almost impossible to differentiate the male from the female but she is usually slightly smaller, making her the one with the bread in its beak.They take turns at nesting duty.

Also, the insects are now making their presence felt – keep an eye out for this creature:

This is a male Poplar Hawkmoth, which is the largest moth most people see in Wicklow, and not all that often either. But they are always around.
This is a male Poplar Hawkmoth, which is the largest moth most people see in Wicklow, and not all that often either. But they are always around. They have a funny way of holding their wings when at rest, but this makes them look very like dried leaves.

This is the largest moth species most people encounter in Wicklow and is far bigger than people expect Irish moths to be –

In daylight hours this moth can be handled easily and is not usually stressed in the least bit.
In daylight hours this moth can be handled easily and is not usually stressed in the least bit.

However, although it’s large there are several much larger species found in Ireland, and the largest that does visit Ireland, albeit only occasionally, the Death’s Head Hawkmoth, is about twice the size of this species and far more robust.

Moths are not the only large insects flying about our short late May nights – you can still find Maybugs, aka Cockchafer beetles blundering about and crashing clumsily into windows, cars and the occasional forehead. They are not our biggest beetle species, but they are probably our most common big beetle species, but they fly for only a short time in late spring and early summer, spending most of their lives as white grubs feeding on the roots of plantains and dandelions.

Many people find the large Cockchafer quite frightening, but it is completely harmless and spends its relatively short adult life searching for a mate.
Many people find the large Cockchafer quite frightening, but it is completely harmless and spends its relatively short adult life searching for a mate.However, it does have hooks on its feet which means it can cling onto clothing and even skin and be a little difficult to remove.

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.