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  • Grasshoppers in summer and a change in the world of wasps

    Miranda Hodgson on 23 Jul 2010 at 02:17 PM

    One of the loveliest experiences of high summer is to stand in the vegetable garden, listening to the chirping of grasshoppers. Just now, at any time of the day, the air is soft and warm, so you never need think about shivering or covering up – that’s all months away - you can just stand there for as long as you want, wallowing in the luxury of standing still outdoors in the UK and not feeling cold, whilst you listen to the grasshoppers. It’s one of those timeless, perfect moments of summer, one that humans must have been enjoying since time began.



    The grasshoppers I’ve been hearing are mainly common field grasshoppers (Chorthippus brunneus) and they live amongst the long grass that we leave to grow around the edge of the garden and come to jump amongst the vegetables. They first appeared in the garden in June and we’ll be hearing them for the rest of summer as the males chirp their rivalry songs at one another. Common field grasshoppers eat mostly grass, unlike crickets which will eat almost anything, so we’re not concerned about them and can simply enjoy them.

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  • Ladybird larvae come to the rescue

    Miranda Hodgson on 12 Jul 2010 at 09:35 AM

    Thousands of aphids have suddenly appeared in Oxfordshire. I can squish them, blast them with a jet of water from the hose or spray them. I don’t like spraying because it harms the beneficial insects as well as the pests, so generally squish or blast. As luck would have it, this year the predators have arrived at roughly the same time as the aphids and are saving me having to do much myself. They have come in the form of ladybird larvae. These are about 1cm long, though smaller when young, and have dark grey, segmented bodies with some orange spots down each side. They don’t look like ladybirds at all and can be seen in such large numbers that they could easily be mistaken for a pest themselves.



    Along with ladybird larvae, the larvae of hoverflies and lacewings will also eat aphids. During a ladybird’s year of life, it can eat up to 5,000 aphids which makes them a welcome guest. Several parasitic wasps kill aphids, too, by laying their eggs in the aphids themselves. Looking at the underside of leaves affected by aphids, you may see a tiny, bloated, slightly metallic insect which never moves. This unfortunate creature has had an egg laid in its body by a parasitic wasp. Get a magnifying glass and keep an eye on it; in a couple of weeks, the new wasp will chew its way out, in a similar way to the monsters in the film ‘Alien’. I’ve wondered if that’s where they got the idea for that film, actually.

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  • Apples for blackbirds and an update on the wasps

    Miranda Hodgson on 05 Jul 2010 at 10:01 AM

    I keep bits of food in my gardening bag – apples, cereal bars, biscuits – and they mingle with the tools. Accidents happen; one of the apples got speared on the little gardening fork, a fork covered in soil. It had also been bruised and didn’t look very appetising anymore, so I cut it in half and put it out for the blackbirds (Turdus merula).

     

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