Sunday 10 April 2011: Puss or Tiger?
Today was a day of catching up with all the chores and preparing for the busy week ahead. I thoroughly enjoyed just being at home and pottering purposefully - I managed to clean out the fridge, do three loads of washing, mow the lawn and plant some shrubs and herbs. I even had time to fill in some of the gaps in my blog - something which hasn't been receiving as much attention as it should since I discovered Blipfoto!
It was hot and sunny again,and I decided it would be best to walk the dogs at dusk. Gemma has never liked heat, but now that she's getting older and a bit fatter, she seems particularly prone to heat exhaustion. It was the first proper evening walk of the year - pleasantly warm and the air blissfully scented with a heady mix of cherry-laurel and apple blossom, with notes of balsam poplar and a the green twang of netttle. And I had a lovely view of a kingfisher - when it was too dark for photographs!!
Photography was put on the back burner, and the only shots I took were of a fluffy male puss moth and a green tiger beetle. The puss moth had emerged from the cocoon of a caterpillar we raised last summer - the caterpillar is particularly smart and can be seen here. Which to choose? In the end I preferred the glittering colours and fierce jaws of the green tiger beetle, but it was a close thing.
Buglife have chosen the green tiger beetle as their insect of the month and have the following information about it on their website:
The striking colouration of the green tiger beetle makes them easily recognisable. The adults of the green tiger beetle can be seen from April to September and are 10.5-14.5mm in length. Long legs that make them agile when hunting for prey and large eyes make them the perfect predator. If disturbed they will fly for short distances very fast and they make a buzzing sound in flight. Green tiger beetles have strong sickle shaped jaws (mandibles) that have several teeth. Adults feed on any small invertebrates they can catch including spiders, caterpillars and ants.
Green tiger beetles breed in the summer and their eggs are laid separately in small burrows in the ground. When the egg hatches the larvae stay in the burrow over the winter feeding and growing. The larvae have strong jaws (mandibles) that they use when hunting. The small burrow in which the larvae lives acts like a pitfall trap and they actively wait for passing prey to fall into their burrow which they then grab with their mandibles. The larvae feed on spiders, ants and anything else they can drag down their burrow. The larvae have a spine on their back that anchors it to the side of the burrow. Green tiger beetle larvae go through three larval instars and before each molt they need to enlarge their burrow.
Green tiger beetles are often found at ground level and prefer areas of bare ground with little vegetation. They are most commonly seen in warm and sandy habitats in heaths, hillsides and dunes, and they are also seen regularly at Brownfield sites. Bare ground warms up rapidly in sunshine and this is perfect for both the larvae and adults of the green tiger beetle. Warmth is extremely important as a warm animal is a faster one and they can then hunt and avoid being preyed on more efficiently. Soil under bare ground is significantly warmer than the soil under vegetation and eggs and larvae of the green tiger beetle will be able to develop more rapidly.
PS Photographs of the two-coloured mason-bee making a nest in the snail shell can be found here.