Even though their ickyness sends shivers through the spines of many a person, bugs are fascinating creatures...honest! Insects, spiders, and other creepy crawlies make up most of the animal life on earth.
Insects have been around for something like 350 million years. Many years before humans showed their faces. Humans appeared about 130,000 years ago.
With bugs being such a massive part of our world, you might as well learn more about them, and you never know, you might even grow to like them?
Alright, so you do not want to make friends with bugs. But you still might like to invite them to dinner – that is, if you are an adventurous eater! No being serious, there is a wealth of information at the click of a link here on NatureWatch. The BBC's Springwatch, and AutumnWatch sites are fantastic, as are the others, so get that mouse clicking and start learning.
You do not have to like insects to appreciate them. But now that you can see how interesting and beautiful they can be, you may not be so quick to squish the next bug you see. Instead, get that camera out and send us a photograph.
Send in your photographs of birds and butterflies too. In-fact, send in your pictures of all things to do with nature. Whatever it is, let us have it. We LOVE it!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Beetle of the Month by Bill Phillips


  Cardinal beetles or Fire-coloured beetles (Pyrochroidae) are a small family, with 150 species, three of which are European. Adult beetles are usually 14–18mm in length, flattened and soft bodied, with elytra (wing cases) that broaden noticeably towards the rear of the body. 
  Elytra are red or reddish orange, hence the scientific name (in Greek, pyr = fire and chros = body). The head narrows at the rear, giving the appearance of a broad ‘neck’. Photograph 1 shows a female Pyrochroa Serraticornis on a nettle leaf at the edge of Gorse Covert wood in late May 2008. This species is rarer and slightly smaller than Pyrochroa Coccinea, which has a black head.
  Sexes are similar but have different antennae – the female has more 
slender, serrate (combed) antennae whereas the male has feathery antennae.
 Cardinal beetles fly in May and June on sunny days, mainly in clearings, near footpaths, usually at the edge of vegetation. They feed on sweet fluids so can be found on fresh birch stumps discharging sap or on leaves with aphid honey-dew on the surface. They visit flowers of various shrubs e.g. hawthorn or herbaceous plants such as Umbillifers e.g. Hedge Parsley. 

The larvae (Photograph 2) develop under the bark of old, dry deciduous trees, old stumps and trunks felled some time previously (plenty of these habitats in Gorse Covert!).
  The flattened body of the larva enables it to crawl in tunnels under the bark where it is a predator on various insects including the larvae of bark beetles. It can also feed on fungal threads and can display cannibalism when food is in short supply. 
The larva pupates in spring in an excavated chamber.

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