Thursday, 3 May 2012

life-cycles - in search of evidence

The excitement of finding froghopper nymphs had happened only a minute or two into my evening stroll.  You can imagine that I was pretty optimistic about the rest of the walk!

And sure enough, a step and a half further on, I spotted one of these.

red poplar leaf beetle

I say spotted.  This adult beetle of course isn’t spotted.  No, even though it is red, it isn’t a ladybird (I didn’t find any of those on my walk).  In fact he is a red poplar leaf beetle.  Except that I don’t believe it’s a poplar leaf he is munching on.  Still, he seems to like it - I watched him on this willow leaf for quite a long time, chomping away!

Here is another stage in the life-cycle of an insect; these adult beetles are mating…..


and soon the female will lay her eggs.

What do you think is going on here?


Something has rolled up the leaves on this young tree.  I didn’t investigate too closely, but it is most likely a safe ‘nest’ for the eggs of an insect.  Or it could be a caterpillar, cocooning itself.

Talking of caterpillars…..


I think we all recognise what’s going one here!  Do you see the leaf he has just nibbled ? 

Finding a hole in a leaf is often a good way of spotting an insect or other small creature (not that I found who was responsible for these particular holes).


Nor did I see who had just nibbled on this tree trunk…..


but I know who had.  Do you?  Something rather bigger than an insect!

I noticed a few of these…..


all of whom (?) seemed to be tightly closed ready for the night.  I discovered something interesting when I viewed one from the other side.


Do you remember what Tanisha told us she had found out about snails?  That, ‘While the snail grows, his spirals get more.’  Well, here you can see where the new part of the shell has grown.  How interesting!  This must be an adult snail and not a baby snail like the one that Yanis brought to show us.

I found one of these…..


but I didn’t get any closer than this!  See all those long legs?  It’s an adult spider - and not an insect (because as we know, insects have just 6 and not 8).

Here is something to talk about.


A dandelion flower with at least two beetles in amongst the petals.  The bigger one is covered with yellow stuff.  See?


‘Is it nectar?’ asks Maddie.

‘I know,’ says Tanisha.  ‘It’s pollen.’

And yes, she’s right; it is pollen.  Without knowing it, that beetle is doing something very important connected with the life cycle of that plant.  When he visits it to feed (on the nectar, Maddie) he gets coated with sticky yellow pollen.  Then, when he flies off and visits another dandelion flower, some of that pollen rubs off and in that way the plant is fertilised.  Does anyone know what that means?

‘I think it helps the seeds to grow,’ Lakeisha tells us.

Talking of which, let’s go back to the previous photo.


Do you see that fluffy stuff caught in the petals on the right hand side?  Any ideas what that is?

‘I think it’s the nest of a bug,’ says Ella.

‘It might be a spider web,’ suggests Melchior.

Itaru, thinking perhaps of my glossy locks, thinks it might be ‘grey hair’ caught there.  Hmm!

‘It’s the fluff of a dandelion,’ Tanisha informs us.

And yes, it (probably) is.  But what exactly is the fluff of a dandelion?  Remember what Lakeisha said earlier?  If you look closely at dandelion ‘fluff’ you can see the tiny seed attached.  And if you look closely at the catkins (flowers) of the willow tree, you will see that they also have fluffy seeds.

_MG_6502   _MG_6514

In the second photo the dark seeds are already starting to drift away on the breeze, helped by that lighter-than-a-feather fluff.  And some of them might just begin to grow into a new willow tree.  In the same way that the dandelion seeds might just begin to grow into a new dandelion plant.

Here’s a little challenge to finish with.  Can anyone remember what is responsible for making this foamy drippy stuff?


There’s a lot of it about at the moment.  Cuckoo!

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