The Way I See Things



This was my very first find of the day - and the most exciting, because I'd never seen one before - though I don't think it's my best photo. If you have the time to take a look at my Facebook post you can pick your own favourite, but the image that makes me happiest is the tiny seed weevil, Oxystoma pomonae. He was certainly the least cooperative of today's subjects, though the shieldbug nymph ran him close, and I was almost as pleased as I was surprised when I saw the focus I'd managed to achieve.

Tearing myself away from the weevil though, this is a 24-spot ladybird, otherwise known as Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata, or (because there's a dispute about the number of 't's in its species name) Subcoccinella 24-punctata. I frequently find myself thinking that the guys in charge of the binomial system for naming invertebrates are having a private laugh at everyone else's expense. In this case, the beetle is 3-4mm long, and its name comes in at 6.8cm on my screen.

When I read that this is a species of rough grassland, my first thought was that it was probably another refugee from the hay meadow across the lane, but the odd thing about this particular ladybird is that it's flightless: in the UK no winged specimens have ever been found, and even in Europe where around 60% of the population are currently winged, they all carry a gene which causes wing atrophy. Being flightless, this little guy must be both agile and quite a walker, if it evaded the hay meadow harvester and marched three hundred metres to the honeysuckle in my back yard.

I always like to be able to tell you what things eat, but the half dozen sources I've consulted on the 24-spot ladybird seem to contradict each other: British Beetles says "a wide range of food plants", noting that in the USA it's a serious pest of alfalfa crops, but other sites, including Wikipedia, state that it eats fungal moulds. The fact that this one was noodling around my mildewy honeysuckle tends to make me favour it being mycophagous, but if anyone knows better please do drop me a comment.

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