Congested Airspace – A weekend of insects on the wing

We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.” Richard Vaughan

Southern Hawker dragonfly on the patrol

Southern Hawker dragonfly hunting on the wing

This weekend it was difficult to be outside in the garden without breathing in winged insects or scratching at limbs tickled by the tiny feet of said winged insects. The place was humming, buzzing and vibrating with life. Smallest and most numerous (and annoying) were the thunderbugs and pollen beetles. (I can’t grow rocket without the telltale holes appearing in the leaves and this year I’ve discovered that they are as ruthless with Pak Choi and Mizuna.) The local paper says that these are the second generation this year and that we are stuck with them until the weather cools in the autumn.

Pollen beetles on marigold

There are so many pollen beetles in Cambridge this summer, they are even writing newspaper articles about it

Enjoying this airborne bounty were the large dragonflies. Somewhat unusually, this female Emperor dragonfly bothered to land briefly to eat a bee that it had caught. Emperor dragonflies are Britain’s bulkiest dragonflies and are vividly coloured. They have a bright, apple-green thorax and green or blue eyes.

Emperor dragonfly consuming a bee

Emperor dragonfly, Anax imperator, consuming a bee

Banded demoiselle are so beautiful and terribly hard to approach when stationary, as they are very skittish. Luckily this one seems to have taken to patrolling our pond, so I can watch from the pergola to pick my moment. They are easy to identify due to the large black spots on their wings.

Banded demoiselle

Banded demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) basking on the dogwood

The Southern Hawker is another large dragonfly (~7cm). They are known to be inquisitive and will deliberately fly close to check out nosey photographers! I thought that this chap was newly emerged because its hind wings weren’t fully inflated. However, the response from the Open University website (ISPOT) was that whilst the dragonfly is immature, the damage looks permanent and probably occurred as a result of emerging in thick vegetation.

An immature Southern Hawker

An immature Southern Hawker, Aeshna cyanea, hanging on to a poolside tassle of Carex pendula

The meadow patch at the back of the garden has been very successful in terms of drawing common grassland butterflies. I am in awe of the ease with which these relatively large winged butterflies slip through the maze of grass blades, hardly bothering to fly in the open space above at all. There have been lots of Meadow browns, Gatekeepers, Large Skippers and Ringlets:

Meadow Brown Butterfly

Meadow Brown Butterfly (Maniola jurtina)

Gatekeeper butterfly

Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)

Large Skipper

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) with distinctive chequering on wings

Ringlet butterfly

Pair of Ringlets (Aphantopus hyperantus) enjoying the Eryngiums

With the opening of the flowers on the Buddleia our cheerful, colourful butterflies are out in force. So yesterday there were plenty of Small Tortoiseshells, some Peacocks, one or two Blues and the first Red Admiral I’ve seen this year (admittedly none photographed on the Buddleia):

Happily the ladybirds are now all grown up and beginning to eat the blackfly in large amounts. Here is a 7-Spotted and the (dreaded) Harlequin.

And finally, I love the name of this shiny, green bug:

Fat thighed beetle

Swollen-thighed beetle (Oedemera nobilis)

Let me introduce you to the Fat or Swollen-thighed beetle. No judging, please!


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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13 Responses to Congested Airspace – A weekend of insects on the wing

  1. Chloris says:

    Wonderful butterfly and dragonfly shots. It is amazing how many butterflies there are around at the moment but I haven’ t seen any blues. The pollen beetles are driving me nuts, what a plague we have of them. I hope it is not going to be like this every year now.

    • Thanks. There are not many blues around now, they were more present in May. Re. pollen beetles – I hope not too. They are everywhere. I made the mistake of wearing a burnished gold (ok mustard) top the other evening and I was covered in them in about 15 secs!

  2. Fascinating! Your post reminded me of the July when my (then-young) son and I visited England and took the train from London to Long Melford one day. When we got off the train and walked to where we needed to go, we were enveloped by clouds of tiny gnatlike insects. We were virtually covered by them! We were told later that the bugs had something to do with the nearby wheat fields… were these the ‘thunderbugs’ you mention? Just curious, because 25 years later those bugs are still a vivid memory for us! 🙂

  3. Christina says:

    I’ve seen the swollen leg beetle on my garden too, great shots of the dragonflies.

  4. Christina says:

    I meant to say that the Olsen beetles you have are different to the ones we have; I’ll check the Latin name so that I can understand the difference to yours.

    • I first noticed these shiny metallic beetle last year, but now I seem to spot them everywhere. My shot doesn’t show the fat thighs very well though. I’ll look up Olsen beetles to see what they are like.

  5. Wonderful images, plus a lovely quote.

  6. Wow, such a great collection of insect images. Your garden really is humming, which is a very good sign. And all those different kinds of dragonflies! I love dragonflies, and we have one occasionally, but nothing like what you have there.

    • Thanks. We have quite a lot of water around, both in the garden (pond, pool, fountains and birdbaths) and in the immediately vicinity (ditches and streams, rivers) so we are fortunately in the right habitat for them. It’s great to hear/watch them patrol.

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