It’s been a long winter, very little spring and then back to winter again this year. Well, that was until this Sunday when the sun finally came out to shine for a full day, and it seemed the perfect time to honour the promise that I made to my little boy, Orin, to go out bug hunting!
I’d bought him a special bug-hunting T-shirt at Christmas for when he was a little bit bigger, so he’s been waiting for a good few months. We decided the adventure would take place at a special little nature reserve near to wear I live, in fact, it’s the nature reserve where I first gained my practical conservation experience before spending several years at university studying. It’s a lovely place, covered in remnants of ancient woodland, although sadly, I’m not sure how much longer it will remain this way, as the adjoining area has recently been purchased for development and the promise of some 3500 new homes, new railway station and shopping centres – just what’s needed!!!
We started our walk through the grassland and through the numerous hedged pathways, when we spotted the first ‘BUG’ of the day, a mail scorpion-fly, something that many people seem unaware of, but they’re really quite interesting, and as threatening as they may appear with their scorpion-like tale (males only) they can’t actually sting at all. They almost look like a cross between a bird and an insect, with a beaked face. They use this beak to free themselves from spider’s webs which they frequently find themselves in due to their somewhat clumsy nature. My little boy was proud of his first spot, so in the bug pot it went for closer inspection before being released.
As we progressed on our walk listening to green woodpeckers laughing in the distance we found pill-bugs, orange-tip butterflies, damselflies, soldier beetles, cardinal beetles, and many species of flowers such as Wood Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides), teasel, dogs mercury, selfheal, ground ivy, stitchwort, lesser celandine, campion and even the elusive pignut in quite good numbers. Although the best find of the day was something that has always eluded me, the nut weevil (Curculio nucum), a species of weevil that has been on my ‘find’ list for many years, but for whatever reason, I’ve never managed to spot one until now.
Nut weevils are amusing looking little creatures and one that my little boy found quite comical to look at. The females have an astonishingly long snout or rostrum that they use to gnaw into young hazel nuts. They then lay their egg inside the nut so that the larva feeds on the sugar-rich kernel as it develops. In the autumn, when the hazel nuts fall to the ground the grub chews its way through the hard shell and burrows into the ground to pupate. It was very windy, so I struggled to get a decent photo of the nut weevil, but I persisted and eventually got something half useable. We were also lucky enough to find another uncommon weevil, this time the small red (Apion miniatum) which I just collared before it hid in the undergrowth.
Later, we visited my old university ground and had a nice walk around, although the wildlife seemed far less frequent there, although it always seems at its best in the autumn and early spring months. Still, Orin enjoyed his time here too, as can been seen from him playing on the edge of the field where we made grass whistles and grass rockets!
Until next time……
Catch you on the trail