Friday, 14 September 2012

Were you right?

Yesterday I asked you if you knew what this little creature was (left). If you're still not sure, I'll put you out of your misery. It's the caterpillar of a small tortoiseshell butterfly, which will look like this picture on the right when it's an adult. Isn't that amazing! The adults hibernate over the winter but if the weather is mild they will wake up early. They can be seen all year round but more commonly hibernate until around March or April.They lay their eggs on nettles as this is the food that the caterpillars like to eat strangely. I have tried nettle tea and nettle soup and both were quite tasty but I think I'd like a bit more variety in my diet.

I also asked you if you could find out the common name for this helophilus pendulus hoverfly. Well, appropriately, it's also known as a sun-fly and I could see why yesterday. It looked like it was having a lovely time basking in the sun on the ivy. This is a very widespread and common hoverfly, with amazing markings. Hoverflies are really important pollinators and many have bright yellow and black patterns to mimic wasps and bees and keep predators away.

The larvae of this particular species are called rat tailed maggots and live in the water, so I imagine this one came from the pond at Callington Road NR. In the larval stage they eat rotting organic matter in the water and breathe through a long 'snorkel' that runs from their abdomen to the surface of the water.

These sunny days are great for spotting wildlife so next time you're out and about, keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you might see.

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