Many people will probably be glad to know that spider mating-season won’t be lasting very much longer and soon those male spiders will be very few and far between. However, some are very interesting and I recently managed to video of a smallish species called the Segmented Orb-weaver, which has a very neat tendency – the male brings a gift-wrapped prey item to the female and tries to get her to accept it so she will then allow him to mate with her. Here is the video:
The spring blossoming continues, with the next wave of flowers coming out in succession, as happens every year. But now, thanks to the first blooms and blossoms and warming temperatures there are many insects around. Some are less welcome than others, but are very important to the food chain, such as the Rose Aphid (Macrosiphum rosae) , the original ‘Greenfly’ which gardeners detest although they’re not as destructive as they’re supposed to be. Here’s a winged female which has landed on a tulip blossom and given birth to two live young, which stand behind her.
Greenfly reproduce mostly asexually, meaning they are females and don’t require a mate to fertilise them, although there are occasionally males which do mate with females. And Greenfly give birth to live young. These ones disappeared soon after I took this photo, probably because the tulip wasn’t to their taste, or because a predator spotted them. Aphids are eaten in huge numbers by some flying insects, such as this female Large Red Dragonfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) , which I photographed nearby:
Of course, even damselflies don’t have it all their own way. They have to be careful where they land. Take this dandelion flower for example – can you see the predator lying in ambush?
This predator, the Flower Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) can also turn yellow and this one soon did, making it impossible for me to photograph it in any meaninful way, as it simply could not be seen against the flower. In the close-up below you will notice yellow flecks on its abdomen, the first signs of the colour change it underwent.
The sunlight, and longer days are warming the valleys of Wicklow. The smaller wildlife, on which all others depend, are starting to steal the show. While strolling in a garden or along a village lane you might see a scarlet-coloured fluttering object drop from the sky and out of sight. It might appear a little later, but if not, look on the low-growing foliage for the beautiful and aptly-named Ruby Tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa), which emerges from its pupal coccoons in April and May, to take to the sky. This species employs bright colouring to warn of distasteful toxins in its body.
At the other end of the colour spectrum is the Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus), a stunning little spring butterfly that loves to bask on wide hedgerow leaves. This butterfly likes woodland glades and narrow laneways, aswell as gardens.
If you are very lucky you might even be fortunate enough to see a mating pair. Mating is a quiet and symmetrical affair. The lovers rest, joined by their abdomens, but facing in completely opposite directions. They only move to angle their wings in the sun.
However, the sunlit leaves are not necessarily safe places. Predatory invertebrates brazenly wait, motionless in the undergrowth, for unwitting visitors to arrive to provide them with lunch. Crab spiders wait on the leaves, and will soon be hiding among the blossoms.
However, many small creatures are fortunate enough not to hide on leaves. Your best chance of seeing the Early Thorn moth (Selenia dentaria) is now in April, usually perched on timber door or window frames, and garden sheds. The first generation male, pictured, is perfectly coloured to match dark timber, and dry leaves in the hedgerows.