Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Gardeners Friend

The daytime temperatures for the first half of October were well above average and therefore there were still plenty of Hoverflies about. This picture was taken on the 14th at 14:48 on a pleasant sunny Saturday afternoon.

My identification skills for Hoverflies are still at the beginners level, but I'm pretty sure this species is a female Eupeodes corollae. The male has rather quadrate spots and the female more crescent shaped or lunulate spots.

This is one of the commonest hoverflies in open habitats and can be abundant in some years, particularly when numbers are boosted by a migration or mass emergence in midsummer. It can be found from March to November, peaking in July and August. Therefore there is still time to spot this endearing critter.

One interesting statistic that I have found for this species is that a single E. corollae larvae can devour more than 800 aphids - wow!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Strange goings on in the Conservatory

This picture is of the adult Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina), taken on the 7th October. I noticed it crawling up the outside window of my bedroom, and I think it must have been looking for somewhere to hibernate. Most shieldbugs over-winter as adults and this species changes to brown during the winter, but quickly regains the green colouration when it becomes active again in spring. It is very common and widespread in southern and central England, Wales and Ireland, becoming more scarce further north. It is found in woodlands, hedgerows, parks, gardens and waste ground.

What is interesting for me is this picture, taken on the 29th May. There was a cluster of eggs attached to my conservatory wall, which I had noticed earlier in the month. I checked them every day and imagine my surprise and delight when I saw that they had hatched out into these beautifully decorated little rascals. At the time, I had no idea that they were the larvae of the Green Shieldbug, until I obtained the wonderful book "A Photographic Guide to the Shieldbugs and Squashbugs of the British Isles" by Martin Evans and Roger Edmondson. The larvae normally hatch out between June and early October, therefore mine were a couple of days premature probably due to the heat in the conservatory.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rhodo Soulmate

I noticed this engaging little chap on my one and only Rhododendron plant on the day after my lovely daughters (Jen) wedding (24th Sept). Funnily enough it is called the Rhododendron Leafhopper or Graphocephala fennahi.

I went away for a few days bird watching to recover from the festivities and stopped at Dysons nurseries near Sevenoaks in Kent. These nurseries are situated in the Great Comp gardens and are well worth a visit, especially later in the summer when the Salvias are in full bloom. It was here that I also noticed several of these same leafhoppers, and so I guess these little critters must be fairly common. Please go and check your Rhodos and let me know if you find any.

This unmistakable leafhopper was introduced from N.America and is now found on Rhododendron leaves all over southern Britain from June to October.

According to the RHS, this naughty little chap is a real pest and causes bud blast.
The symptoms are such that m
any rhododendron buds fail to open although they remain on the bush looking silvery. Later in spring they become covered with black 'bristles'. The leafhopper lays its eggs in slits in the flower buds and so provides a point of entry for the fungus Pycnostysanus azalae. All good gardeners only use non-chemical control and so the best way of removing the source of the infection is to pick off and dispose of the infected buds. Do not add them to the compost heap.

While I was busy observing this critter, I noticed it projecting missiles out of its rear end. Whether these were eggs or not I would be delighted know. However from the description above it sounds as though the egg laying process is rather more precise than the haphazard action I was witnessing.