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Category Archives: Insects

Britain invaded by Asian Ladies…

No this is not a blog on immigration, but those concerned certainly came from foreign shores. I’m not sure whether it was legal either, since they did not have passports when they arrived.  So who are the hundreds of thousands of Asian Ladies now residing in the UK?

Commonly know as Harlequins (Harmonia axyridis), because of their variety of looks, these are Asian ladybirds. They were brought to the UK in 2004 from East and Central Asia as a means of bio-control; they are the most invasive ladybirds on earth.  Between 5.5 and 8.5mm long and in a variety of colours (including red, black and orange) they are voracious predators who eat aphids (among other things); so you might say they are the gardener’s friend.  But the downside is that they are out-competing our native ladybirds for food and also eating their larvae and eggs. If they continue like this our native ladybirds, like this 7-spotted ladybird below might be confined to history.

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Over the last 5-years 7 out of 8 of our native British ladybirds have been in significant decline, with the 2-spotted ladybird having decreased by 44% since the Asia Ladies arrived.

So how do we recognise these feisty ladies?  Bigger than our native ladybird, their colour ranges from yellow-orange to black, and the number of spots between none and 22.  They are rounder than their British counterparts. Here are a few examples I photographed yesterday at Flag Fen near Peterborough.

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Harlequin Closeup Yellow 16-spot  Flagfen 100813

Harlequin red closeup Flagfen 100813

Harlequin yellow no spot Flagfen 100813

A single female can lay over a thousand eggs in her lifetime, so its not surprising that they are spreading across the British Isles.

Their pupa look like this…

Harlequin Pupa Flagfen 100813

So, what do you do when you see some?  Well, its important to monitor them so ecologist know what is happening. You can help by taking part in the Harlequin Ladybird Survey

Keep your eyes peeled for Asian ladies, and report where you have seen them, but also see if you can find our native British ladybirds before it is too late!

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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in Insects

 

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History on our doorstep

I’ve travelled the world to see historical sites, but have driven past this sign every morning on my way to work for the last five years and have never taken time to find out what is on my doorstep.

Flagfen sign

Well today was the day!

Situated just south of Peterborough Flag Fen gives you an opportunity to explore what life was like 3,000 years ago in Britain. During the 1960s and early 1970s evidence of Bronze Age farming was discovered on the site.  But is was not until a chilly day in November 1982 that archeologist France Pryor noticed an oak post in the mud in the dyke near Fengate. The post had been worked with a small axe.  Further exploration found this to be part of a timber platform the size of Wembley stadium, dating back to 1350 BC.

This causeway was made up of over 60,000 timbers and stretched for a kilometre from Whittlesey Island to Fengate (part of what is now the city of Peterborough) across the wet fenland. It is presumed that the small island part way across was where religious rituals were performed.  Flag Fen houses a small museum of artifacts and is trying to preserve some of these ancient timbers….

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You can also see examples of two round houses, giving a flavour of what life was like in the Bronze and Iron Age.

This is the one depicting a house of the Bronze Age, with the meadow on the roof 😉

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And the other is depicting an Iron Age roundhouse…. just like being back in rural Africa…

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Then there were their boats made from hollowed logs…

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This is a replica, but original  Must Farm Boats were discovered at nearby Must Farm and are in the process of being restored on the site.

Then as well as seeing an exposed section of the Roman road known as the Fen Causeway, you can walk along a reconstruction of a prehistoric droveway.  This is a great place for nature spotting.

Look at the 7-spoted ladybird…

7-spot ladybird (2) Flagfen 100813

Comma….

Comma Flagfen 100813

Meadow Brown…

Meadow Brown open Flagfen 100813

A small tortoiseshell caterpillar…

Small Tortoiseshell Caterpiller Flagfen 100813And lots of his friends…

Small tortoiseshell Caterpillars on mass FlagFen 100813

Then along the dyke were plenty of birds singing in the reeds…. although it was difficult to spot them…

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..including juvenile Goldfinches…

Juvenile Goldfinches Flagfen 100813

As well as Mute swans….

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Swans dipping Flagfen 100813

Mute Swans Flagfen 100813

There is a lakeside walk where I heard lots of action but is was hard to see the birds through the reeds. I did spot lots of Harlequin ladybirds though; a very interesting find and more will follow in my next blog. Here is just one as a taster…

Harlequin Closeup Yellow 16-spot  Flagfen 100813

Back near the visitor’s centre were the Soay Sheep…

Soay Sheep Flagfen 100813

Soay Sheep 3 Flagfen 100813

…..beautiful waterlilies…

Lily Flagfen 100813

and some very friendly swallows…

Pair of Swallows Flagfen 100813

Swallow Flagfen 100813

….. then you can sit on the cafe veranda and admire the view.

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All in all, an interesting few hours exploring a site of historical and natural interest, just 8 miles from my door.  I wonder what else I am missing?

Click here for more information on Flag Fen and for a location Map

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Bird, butterfly, History, Insects, Landscape

 

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Taking time to listen

What is prayer all about? Until a few weeks ago I think I would have said “talking to God”, because that is what I had always done during my prayer time…. jabber, jabber, jabber.  So much talking that God could not get a word in edgeways.  I was a bit like the bumble bee, buzzing here and there and never giving God any peace.

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Do you pray like a buzzing bee, noisily trying to annoy God into action to address your desires?

I would reel off my shopping list of things that I wanted God’s help with, thank Him for a few things (if I remembered) and then mentally tick off that I had had my prayer time. Then it was time to flutter onto the next thing in my busy schedule.

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Are you like a butterfly, unable to keep still long enough to focus on God?

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to realise that my prayer life has been more about ME than about God. I have been so busy talking I’ve never given time for God to speak. How can I expect God to guide my life if I am not taking time to listen to what he says?  You can’t have much of a relationship if one person never listens to the other.

But the light has now dawned….

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,,,,and I have come to realise the importance of being still and listening.

Now my prayer time is not so much God’s todo list, rather its asking Him to reveal his message to me through the scriptures. I ask God to speak to me and as I open the Bible He takes me to a passage and I reflect on it.  It’s an exciting spiritual journey that I am just at the start of and amazing things are happening which I am entering in a journal.  For example, many of the passages I read last week were the focus of the sermon on Sunday – God-incidence!!!

However, I find being still at home difficult, there are too many distractions, my mind often wanders.  Yet spending time outside, looking and listening to the beauty of God’s creation is just what I need to still my mind and focus on the Almighty.

Staring at the grace and beauty of a butterfly……

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,,,,,,or appreciating the colours, agility and song of a bird….

Chaffinch, Crowland 060813

Looking up at the cloud formations in the heavens….

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…. or listening to the wind blowing through the fields….

Oats Crowland 280713

…..the lapping of the water as the moorhen swims through the reeds….

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…..feeling the dew on my feet and the warmth of the morning sun on my skin….

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These things enable me to be still and rest in God; and oh what peace it brings!

Oswald Chamber states that “the point of prayer is not to get answers from God but to have oneness with Him”.

So if you feel distanced from God, ask yourself whether it is because you are not giving Him space to come into your life. Prayer is about a relationship with God, a special time of coming together.  It does not have to be full of talk and noise, it can just be resting in each others company and listening to what He has to say.

Even Jesus took time out to go to a quiet place to be with God and to listen to him (Luke 4:42).  So if it is good for Jesus then it must surely be good for us.

Find a peaceful place, be still and take time to listen, so he can refill you with His strength and reveal his plans for you.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Great promises, so be still, listen and give God the time to share them with you….

 
 

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Rain walk

I had planned a long walk for today after church but just before we set out I nipped into the garden for a few flower shots… this is one of the lilies on my pond…

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And there were are some hover flies around a flower. I’m not hot on names of flowers, so comment if you know the name of this one….

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Then the rain came down, so instead of venturing out I had a siesta.  When I woke from my Sunday slumbers the weather forecast said it would be sunny for the rest of the afternoon, the clouds threatened otherwise, but I decided to risk it.  Buddy and I headed past the gardens…. spotting a Red Admiral (but I was too slow to snap a photo) and a Comma on route…

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There were some brilliant yellow flowers covered with bumble bees….

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And then as we reached the fields it started to spit with rain.  Sheltering near the hedgerow I spotted yet another Comma, on the thistles this time.

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Some bees…

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And then the heavens opened!  Thank God for trees!  Buddy and I ran for cover and sheltered under this sycamore tree, waiting for the clouds to pass.

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The rain seemed to bring out new creatures, like snails…..

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And slugs……

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But the treat of the day had to be this beetle.

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I was amazed to find out that one fifth of the 1.5 million species on earth are beetles.  How come I have not seen them before on my walks…. am I not looking carefully enough? They range in size from less than a millimeter to over six inches.

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This is a type of longhorn beetle. Can anyone shed light on the species?  I understand there are about 60 species of longhorn beetles in the UK and this is the first time I have ever seen one!

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Next was a ringlet….

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Then as I headed home I heard a noise in the trees and just turned round in time to spot a robin…

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Then it was down past the field

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and home. Praise God for the wonders of nature!

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Bird, Flowers, Insects

 

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Living still

I’ve been reading a book by Abby Lewis called ‘Living Still‘.  It says, “Being B-U-S-Y can be thought of as Being Under Satan’s Yolk. Under this influence, we typically neglect resting in God’s Presence and are often distracted from what He is calling us to do. When I hear people say they are too busy, I encourage them to seek God’s direction on how to structure their time. God calls us to be active servants, but He does not desire us to be so active that we feel chaotic and lose our joy.”

I’ve been so busy lately that God has been pushed out. I realised while in Malawi that work had taken over my life and I needed to get the balance back.  Now, Iike Abby, I am trying to reconnect with God not just through setting time aside each day for reading scripture but also by appreciating the beauty of his creations and having times of stillness as I walk in the countryside.

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Walking is a great way to escape the BUSY and be still.  I am amazed at the creatures I see.  Yesterday there were hundreds of dragonflies.

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Lots and lots of Large Whites (including this female).

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All amazing creatures, but ones I had seen before. I prayed to see something new to admire.  A few steps later I saw my first Comma (Polygonia c-album).

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I’m not sure how many species of butterflies there are in Crowland but I have seen quite a few now; I hope there are more to come.

As I was walking I thanked God for the beauty of the Comma and the Peacock butterfly I had seen the other day at Ferry Meadows.  I had had to wait for it to open its wings but it was worth the wait to see its beauty.  No sooner had I prayed this then look what landed on the grass right by me….. wings outstretched in the sunshine.

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What a beautiful creation God has made and how God knows just what we need to uplift us.

 

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Flying machines

It was a dull, very cloudy morning with a cool breeze as I walked Buddy and I didn’t think I would see much of interest. But even on a dull day it is surprising what creatures are out and about.  I’ve had quite a problem identifying some of them though so your comments are appreciated if you can help me out.

Sitting on the brambles was a large brown butterfly that I think might be a slightly shaggy Ringlet or a Meadow Brown – can someone help?  It seemed bigger than the other Ringlets I have seen and the rings were not very clear. It certainly liked the brambles.

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Then there was a male Large White on a nearby leaf…. I could name that one!

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Next to that a ?? fly, help!

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And a flying yellow and black stripy thing… is it a hover fly?

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With a friendly bee….

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And then a few bigger flying creatures…. I guess the one below is a Herring Gull sitting on the chimney.

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And sitting on the garden fence… is this Mrs Blackbird?

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I wonder how many different flying creatures there are living in Crowland.  Clearly I have a lot of names to learn.,,,, help appreciated……

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2013 in Bird, butterfly, Insects

 

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Flutter buzz

This morning I spotted some old favourites and captured some new ones on film (or should I say SD card).

First was our garden friend the Large White (Pieris Brassicae).  There were lots of males and females fluttering around the gardens and the hedgerow by the fields this morning. This one is a female, you can tell by the spots. Know as ‘Cabbage Whites’ they are the only butterflies in this country that cause damage to crops.  Beautiful through, aren’t they!

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But perhaps more exciting for me today was my first glimpse of a Small Copper (Lycaena Phlaeas)…

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Its a tiny butterfly with a wing span of just 35mm and rather swift, so great to catch it sitting still.  Here is a close up…. it’s a stunning colour.

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On the same plant were a huge number of bees…. will need some help to identify these though…

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And nearby another new one for me… I knew it was a dragonfly but had to look up what type?  I think it’s a Common Darter, but am willing to be corrected.

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I wonder what new treats will be in store tomorrow?

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in butterfly, Insects

 

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