INSECTS AT THE WOODLAND
By Jane Lakelin
This is a Meadow Grasshopper, one of the commonest grasshoppers in the UK. Grasshoppers hatch out of their eggs as tiny versions called nymphs.
Grasshoppers eat a wide variety of vegetation and are generally not fussy. They are foodstuff for frogs and toads, lizards, birds and some rodents.
They are mainly active through the day and make their song by rubbing a leg and a wing together. They are the only UK grasshopper that is unable to fly.
Dark Bush Cricket
Crickets are similar to grasshoppers, and female grasshoppers and crickets both have an upturned ovipositor on their rear end which they use to place their eggs into the ground (seen clearly in the picture). But while grasshoppers have two short antennae which point forward, crickets have very long antennae that may sweep backwards over their body.
While grasshoppers are herbivorous and are more active in the day, crickets are omnivorous and tend to sing at dawn and dusk. Grasshoppers and crickets can often be heard rather than seen but you may occasionally see one jump in the vegetation.
Common Darter Dragonfly
The woodland is a good place to see dragonflies. They can be seen flying over the vegetation between the trees or resting on seed heads or low branches. On a warm day in summer, Common Darter dragonflies can often be seen basking on the circular seat in the middle of the woodland area.
Dragonflies and damselflies have voracious appetites. A dragonfly larva (known as a nymph), which lives underwater for up to two years, will eat almost any creature smaller than itself.
Once emerged as adults, dragonflies eat mainly mosquitoes, midges and other small flying insects, catching them while in flight. Dragonflies control the population of biting insects. They are eaten in turn by birds, frogs, large spiders and fish.
Male (above) and female (below) Common Darter dragonflies.
There are approximately 250 species of hoverflies in Britain. Some look similar to bees or wasps, but they cannot sting. Hoverflies can be easily spotted by their hovering flight and can be seen on many types of open flower. Their ability to dart suddenly at sharp angles in flight helps them to escape predators.
Whilst feeding on numerous flowers, hoverflies also pollinate plants. Their larvae eat aphids and other soft mites, so are excellent for pest control. Hoverflies will be food for numerous animals, including birds and dragonflies. The most common one seen in the UK is the marmalade fly.
Red Soldier Beetle
These beetles may be found on any open-structured flowers in any setting, where they feed on nectar and spend most of the summer mating.
Adults eat aphids and nectar. The larvae feed on slugs and snails. Numerous soldier beetles can be spotted in the woodland.
As the name suggests, this bug is shaped like a shield. Both larvae and adults feed on plant sap. They can be found in numerous areas where there are herbaceous plants and are sometimes known as a “stink bug” as they can give off a pungent smell to deter predators.
Shield bugs are not beetles, but are true bugs, which means they have a mouth shaped like a straw with which to suck up plant juices. Shield bugs overwinter in leaf litter.
The UK is home to one hornet, the European Hornet, which has been seen at the woodland. It is like a very large wasp with a yellow stripey abdomen. It preys on large insects such as beetles, dragonflies, bees and butterflies, but also eats sugary foods such as fallen fruit.
The non-native Asian Hornet is an invasive species that is a serious threat to bee colonies and should be reported if seen. It is slightly smaller and much darker bodied than the native hornet (see https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife/how-identify/know-your-hornets). It may be seen between April and November, but most likely in August/September.
Four-spotted Orb Weaver
Several of these spiders have been seen on the ‘butterfly bank’ making webs to catch Meadow Grasshoppers. They spin their webs close to the ground and often build a little funnel shape at the edge of the web in which to wait for their prey.
The females are larger than the males and have spherical bodies. They can be quite variable in colour as they can change colour to match their surroundings but always have four spots on the back of their abdomens.