Invertebrate life

The warm weather has woken up the reserve’s invertebrate inhabitants and set them about their business. Here are half a dozen that the Friends have met and photographed this week.

[1] by Ian Bushell [2] and header image by Clive Knight

[1] This is a female nursery web spider (Pisajura mirabilis) carrying her egg sac underneath her abdomen. Soon she will build a nursery web among the grass and put the egg sac inside. The eggs hatch into larvae and then into the first nymphal stage while they are still inside the egg sac. When they leave the sac, the spiderlings are safe in the web where they feed on the leftover yolk from their eggs and drink from water droplets, while outside their mother guards her nursery.

[2] A painted lady feeding from Ajuga reptans. Painted ladies are migrants from North Africa. They are headed to northern Europe, to the Arctic circle, where they will turn around to begin the high-altitude return journey. It takes up to six generations to complete the 9,000 mile round trip.

[3] Beautiful demoiselle by Ian Bushell [4] Cantharis nigricans by Ian Bushell

[3] An immature male beautiful demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) with an iridescent blue body and bronze wings. As he matures, his wings will become a dramatic dark blue. Female beautiful demoiselles also have bronze wings but their bodies are iridescent green, not blue.

[4] Cantharis nigricans is a common species of soldier beetle of the Cantharidae family. All Cantharidae are carnivorous. This one is hanging out in the nettles hunting the other species that live, breed and hunt there: a real predator.

[5] Early bumble bee by Clive knight [6] Small tortoiseshell caterpillars by Ian Bushell

[5] An early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) collecting nectar from a meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris). Early bumblebees nest usually underground in small colonies of fewer than 100 workers, but they also repurpose the nest holes of small mammals, old birds’ nests, and bird boxes. As the common name suggests, the queens emerge from hibernation early in the year, between March and May.

[6] Every year, small tortoiseshell butterflies (Aglais urticae) lay their eggs on the nettles that border the path as it goes uphill through Simpson’s field. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars spin a silk tent around the top of their nettle and the whole brood feeds inside it. With each moult, the caterpillars venture further away from the protective web and the safety of their group.

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