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Miranda Hodgson

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An empty pheasant nest and looking at lily beetle larvae

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 11 Jun 2010 at 11:12 AM

When I last wrote, the pheasant was still on the nest and we were eagerly awaiting the first sight of the chicks. That weekend, there was a big wedding celebration in the field next to the vegetable garden and we decided to stay away. Typically, when we went to the garden again, only a day later, the nest was empty with no pheasant and no chicks to be seen.



It’s difficult to say if all the chicks hatched and some of the shells were trampled in the process, or if some were predated but, as there were only a few broken shells left in the nest, it seems clear that most of them got away. A neighbour said she had spotted a pheasant with chicks in a nearby lane, so maybe that was them.

Back in the ornamental garden and the lily beetles (Lilioceris lilii) are doing their work. Both the adults and the larvae eat the foliage of lily plants, as well as Cardiocrinum and fritillaries, and can chew through the lot in a short time. The bright red adults are easy to spot, though not easy to catch because they drop off the leaf as soon as you touch the plant. I’ve found it easiest to hold a trowel under the leaf and catch them in that. Then I squash them or, depending on how squeamish I feel, put them in the green composting bin and shut the lid.

 



The larvae don’t stand out as much as the adults and when you first see them, it’s hard to believe that they’re alive. They look like a dab of mud or a bird dropping, but then you notice that this blob of slime is moving. What they use to hide themselves is their own excrement, though how they manage to cover themselves is a question I have not yet answered for myself and, to be honest, right now, I’m not sure that I want to.

 

 Lily beetle larvae - the orange one is not in disguise.

 

It’s a fine camouflage and it certainly works but it has to be the most repulsive disguise I’ve ever come across. Cover yourself in excrement and who is going to touch you, let alone consider eating you?

If that wasn't 'too much information' for you, there is more here: RHS information on lily beetles

 

Comments

EvaInNL said:

Welcome back Miranda, was waiting for your next post!

Shame you missed out on seeing the chicks, they're so adorable runnning after the hen. I was looking forward to the pics!

About the lilybeetles, ok they are a nuisance but what a spectacular little beasties, that colour is just amazing!

Least said about the larvae is best I guess... ;o) Cunning though!

on 11 Jun 2010 at 03:48 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thanks, Eva! Been away a bit, but back now. Yes, and I was looking forward to taking pictures of the chicks. Typical of them to do a runner!

Aren't those larvae just gross, though...

on 11 Jun 2010 at 05:49 PM

Willow said:

Hi Miranda I'm delighted to see that your pheasants seem to have hatched.  We were thrilled to find a nest in one of our borders, counted the eggs up to 8 and then waited with baited breath for them to hatch.  We kept an eye on Mum's coming and goings and were worried when she seemed not to be about.  Closer inspection found her dead on the nest, most eggs hatched but no chicks to be seen (dead or alive).

on 16 Jun 2010 at 09:30 AM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Oh that's sad, Willow. I wonder what happened to her? It's possible she could have been egg-bound, when an egg gets stuck in the tube. Poor bird.

on 21 Jun 2010 at 10:01 AM

richardpeeej said:

Nice to see you back again Miranda I have missed your posts. Hope the pheasant and chicks managed to get away. It seems that you have been very busy with your gardens-take care, Richard

on 26 Jun 2010 at 04:18 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thanks, Richard! We didn't ever see the pheasant or the chicks again after they left the nest, but there is a lot of open country here so hopefully they're okay.

on 28 Jun 2010 at 09:17 AM