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  • Looking at a Harlequin ladybird larva

    Miranda Hodgson on 20 Jul 2012 at 09:25 AM

    Despite the rain and chilliness of the last three months, ladybird larvae have appeared at almost the same time as they did in 2010. Back then, the first sighting was on the 12th of July and this year I spotted the first one on the 18th of July. But,it wasn’t a British ladybird larva, it was a harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) larva, an invasive species which has been spreading north and west throughout the UK since it was first sighted in the south east of England in 2004.

    Harlequin ladybird larva

  • Chafer beetle on the lawn - tread on it or let it go?

    Miranda Hodgson on 16 Jul 2012 at 03:06 PM

    Arriving at a garden the other morning, I just missed treading on a chafer grub beetle, otherwise known as a May bug or Melolontha melolontha. This one was sitting very still in the middle of a lawn, which was not a good place. I wondered if had been there since the previous night as these beetles are active at night, resting on trees during the day.

    Not wanting to tread on it, and thinking it would be better off in sunshine (yes, there was actually sunshine that day!), we encouraged it to crawl onto a leaf and deposited it on the wooden edge of a cold frame. After sitting in the sun for a couple of minutes, it suddenly woke up and crawled away quite quickly.

    There have been few chafer beetles seen around this year, no doubt because of all the rain we’ve had this year. In other years, they can be seen flying at night during the months of May and June. Attracted by the outside lights of houses, they often annoy people by flying in through open windows and buzzing around their heads. That hasn’t happened this year, but maybe it’s partly because it’s been raining much of the time and we haven’t had the windows open as much.

    The grubs of chafer beetles, chafer grubs, are familiar to farmers and to those with lawns, as they eat the roots of plants and can cause damage to grass pastures and crops. The grubs are easy to recognise, being up to 4cm long, with white bodies, brown heads and grey ‘tails’. They live as grubs for three years and cause damage during this time.


  • Grey squirrels and young birds visit the garden

    Miranda Hodgson on 02 Jul 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) visit the garden regularly – there is plenty of wild food for them here – nuts, fruit and seeds. The growing number of tree peony (Paeonia lutea) seedlings springing up in the lawn is the result of their burying the seeds, though whether they come back and eat any, I have yet to discover. The plump little seedlings are carefully dug up and put in pots; I have no idea what I’ll do with them all. As far as bought food goes, the peanuts are reserved for the small birds and woodpeckers – a squirrel can empty a peanut feeder in less than half a day, whilst it will take the birds up to a week. We’ve had a squirrel-proof nut feeder for some years but I’d never seen it in action before the other day.