As part of the NHC project, I have been recording every species of invertebrate found in our Cambridge garden (at least the ones I have been able to identify) and at the time of writing the number found is 633. In order to maximise the numbers, we have been taking steps to encourage more by planting more native species. 3 years ago we ripped out a non-native hedge, replacing it with one composed of only native species. This has been a rich source of species not recorded before, especially Hemiptera (true bugs).
This year we gave over 5m2 of our lawn to creating a mini wild meadow by removing the existing turf and replacing it with wild meadow turf which was laid down in late March. By early June it had produced a healthy crop of flowers and grasses.
We have already had several new species, including a number of meadow specialist bugs such as the Bishop’s Mitre Shieldbug, Stenodema laevigata, Javesella dubia and Dicranotropis hamata.
Some of the wild meadow flowers contained in the mix are foodplants for specific species. Oxeye Daisies provide a home for a number of species such as the leaf mining moth Bucculatrix nigricomella and the rather attractive fruit fly Tephritis neesii, which lay their eggs in the flower head. Campion Moth caterpillars feed internally in the seed capsules of various Campions.
Two of the latest interesting finds from the meadow are the Longhorn Beetle Grammoptera ruficornis and an Ornate Tailed Digger Wasp.
I am expecting many more finds over the summer and autumn and will post the highlights here.
A visit to the gardens last Friday in order check out late summer dragonflies and damsel flies, turned out to be one of the best trips for wildlife I have had to this site. Starting out at the fountain we had our first dragonfly species, a single female Southern Darter ovipositing on the pond vegetation, along with a lone Blue-tailed Damselfly.
On the main lake there was plenty of dragonfly activity in the form of Common and Ruddy Darters, Brown Hawkers and hovering Migrant Hawkers. There were also small numbers of Common Blue Damselflies. The main entertainment here however was provided by a pair of Kingfishers who performed a number of flybys over the lake.
On the western edge of the lake we found two Water Voles, one of which was content to feed just a few feet from us allowing great views and photo opportunities.
At about this time last year, I had photographed a pair of mating Willow Emerald Damselflies which was a first for this site and I was hoping to find evidence that they had become established here. We found one male specimen in the exact location the pair had been seen the previous year, and the following day another observer found five. This along with other sightings suggests this species is now well established in Cambridgeshire.
Other observation of note were a number of Speckled Wood butterflies, good views of one of the resident Jays and an unknown species of wolf spider walking on water carrying her bundle of eggs behind her.
Now that things are warming up and at last we have a few sunny days, the first of this season’s Hoverflies are appearing all over Cambridge. As more plants come into flower their numbers will rapidly increase, assisted by migrating insects from the continent as summer progresses.
Over 270 species of hoverflies have been recorded in the UK and many of them are spectacular bee and wasp mimics, although all of them are totally harmless. Their larvae are well known as the gardener’s friend for eating aphids, but in truth only around 40% of species do this. Some feed on plants, some on decaying matter, while others live in the nests of ants, wasps and bees, either scavenging or feeding on the host’s own larvae.
Hoverflies will be with us right through to the autumn, when large numbers can be found feeding on the late blooming ivy flowers.