Tag Archives: meadow

August Colour and a Little Rain

There were times in July when there was some worry we could have a drought, but after several bouts of rain over the last couple of weeks those fears have been allayed and the sunburnt lawns have recovered. However, one of these rainy periods is coinciding with the August Bank Holiday, which is usually the high point of the Irish summer. Thanks to all of the good weather, and some helpful rain, we are having a great summer and a colourful one. There are many interesting creatures about. You might find circles cut from rose leaves, both wild and cultivated forms, and you might also see a leaf flying through the air, carried by the Leaf-Cutter Bee, a beautiful solitary species.

The species in the photo, which is the most likely one you will see, is the Patchwork Leaf-cutter Bee (Megachile centuncularis) which likes to make nests in nail-holes in fence-posts which it stocks with leaves for its larvae.

There are also lots of dragonflies and damselflies around, and many will fly along hedgerows, green areas and even gardens with or without ponds, although they all need ponds or slow moving rivers in order to breed. Some damselflies are very dainty, and they can be difficult to tell apart from one another. This one was in a meadow garden, and it is almost certainly an Azure Bluet (Coenagrion puella), and is a very handsome species which can easily go unnoticed despite being as long as an adult’s little finger:

   There are some very interesting little creatures which you can find absolutely everywhere right now, in meadows, gardens, hedgerows and pretty much wherever there are flowers. These are Pollen Beetles (Meligethes aeneus), tiny beetles which can be seen in almost every flower everywhere across Wicklow right now. They are important but barely-noticed pollinators of many species of plant and they often appear in huge numbers. Here are quite a few of them in a poppy:

Spit on the flowers…?

Right now Cuckoo-spit is appearing on the flowers of meadows and hedgerows. At first glance it looks like someone came along and spat on the plants, but on closer inspection it appears to be more like washing-up liquid foam.

A classic Cuckoo-spit I photographed today.
A classic Cuckoo-spit I photographed today. Note the greenfly aphid just above it on the leaf branching to the right.

And you might be thinking, because of its name, that Cuckoo-spit is the saliva of the cuckoo bird. It’s not, but get’s its name because you usually hear the cuckoo around the same time you begin seeing this “spittle”. It is in fact an elaborate defence mechanism of a tiny creature that lives beneath the Cuckoo-spit. This insect is known as the Cuckoo-spit Aphid, but is actually a juvenile Froghopper or Spittle-bug.

A Cuckoo-spit Aphid on my hand. They look somewhat like a strange type of childrens' toy of some sort.
A Cuckoo-spit Aphid on my hand. They look somewhat like a strange type of child’s toy.

This little insect cannot hop to escape predators like the adult bug, so instead it blows bubbles of water, from its backside. These rigid little bubbles cover it, but also allow air between them so that the nymph (juvenile bug) can breathe. A truly fascinating defence-mechanism.

There are several species ranging in size from a few millimetres to about 1.5 cm in length.

 

The Greatest Show in town…

In Wicklow Town, that is. And this show might not last all summer long, so get down to the Murrough in Wicklow as fast as you can on a sunny day. A beauiful little accident has occurred. An area by the coast that was off-limits due to some public works taking place was supposed to be ploughed and then rolled so that the area would return to grassland. Instead it was ploughed, but due to an oversight it was not rolled. Instead of grass growing “weeds” began to appear, and many local people were very angry about it. But now the weeds have blossomed and this small area of Wicklow has turned into a little piece of heaven on earth.

The incredible wild flower meadow on Wicklow Town's seafront.

It is brimful of fantastic meadow flowers as only newly ploughed ground can be. This is their rare window of opportunity and so they don’t hesitate to take advantage of it, with seeds that have lain dormant for years bursting into life, and plants bursting into blossom. Sun yellow flowers of Corn Marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum) and bright white Corn Chamomile (Anthemis arvensis) dominate, but their colours are speckled by the bold red of the Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), stunning blue of the Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) and the purple and pink flowers of Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis).

A wall of colour, prepare to be stunned.