Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kentish miscellany

In early June I spent a delightful week meandering around East Kent. I am trying to catch up in the blog as I saw so many interesting things and my head is full up to bursting.

I couldn't resist the lure of orchids, so mooched off to Park Gate Down to see what was about. Whilst bemoaning the rather small orchids on display I noticed this dapper horse fly (thank you to Jason Green on ISpot for id) hanging about on the encroaching blackthorn scrub at the lower end of the field.

I was just walking back to the car for lunch, when a female hummingbird hawkmoth (HBHM) zipped past me, clearly frenetically searching for something in the grass. She landed briefly on a lady's bedstraw plant. Then she zipped off, flying to and fro. She landed briefly, then off again. After a few minutes (having sent a query down to long-term memory retrieval) I sussed that she was ovipositing. I gave up trying to get a photo of the moth as she was darting about like a lunatic. I looked at one of the bedstraws (with my hand lens) to see if I could find an egg. Sure enough, there was a tiny egg near the top of one plant.

The county recorder told me that this was the 2nd record for HBHM for this site.

I'd parked a little way down the road, as there was no room next to the reserve. I'd noticed a path leading into the plantation woodland nearby so headed in to find somewhere to picnic with my cheese sarnies & apple.

The wood was lovely, and not a soul about, so I sat down in the middle of a wide ride to eat lunch. Wood ants (Formica spp.) trekking across the path voraciously attacked a piece of cheese I'd dropped.

I found a large ant nest of pine needles, a little way off.

On my way back to the car, I noticed some red beetles on a leaf. At first I thought they were ladybirds.

They are Clytra quadripunctata. Now, the deliciously interesting thing about seeing these beetles is that they are intimately associated with wood ants. They are inquiline viz. their larvae live in the nests of other species, in this case, wood ant nests. The female beetles lay their eggs near to wood ant nests, and the ants then hoist the beetle eggs off into their nest. The larvae live in the nest and it is thought they eat detritus. How utterly exquisite!

I also spotted this freaky long-necked bug, which turned out to be Apoderus coryli, a hazel leaf rolling beetle.


BTW my visit to Park Gate was 2nd June.


  1. Interesting post Mel. Hummingbird Hawkmoths are fiendishly difficult to photograph. The only time I might have got a decent photo was in the garden some years ago... before I had a camera! They really are incredible little creatures though.

  2. It was the first HBHM I'd seen this year. I always see one in my sister's garden in Kent and did so, the day after seeing this one at PGD. Didn't get a photo of that either!