Sunday, 26 June 2016

Post 426 - Dancers & Damsels - more fabulous bugs for National Insect week

A Dance-fly sharing a bit of nectar with a smaller fly
Hi all, Post 426 today and I can't believe it's the last day of National Insect week already. I hope you've all enjoyed it too and managed to join in the fun of bug hunting!

It's been a great event for me, I've discovered new bugs in my local patch and learnt a lot about some of the bugs I see quite often. In fact the whole family has enjoyed it so much that we've just ordered a four-fold net so that we can do proper bug hunts more often!

I've covered some of the insects I found in my posts this week but today I thought I'd cover two insects that I'd not seen before but with the help of Dr. Roger Key and his wife Rosy on one the bug hunts we had I now know about these great creatures.

The first is a Damsel Bug which I saw at Ripon. This is a really interesting bug as it looks quite like a preying mantis. So what did I find out about them?

A Damsel Bug - side shot

  • The first thing is that they are found all around the world.
  • They can grow to between 3 and 12 millimetres, so it is quite easy to miss them!
  • Despite them being small they are aggressive predators. They will eat moth eggs, spiders and other insects. 
  • As they eat a variety of plant pests they are useful to farmers. I found a website from Australia that sells them as a biological pest control.
  • If their food is scarce they have to watch out though as they may turn on each other!
Looking from above
  • Throughout the the world, there are 500 species and 20 genera of them! They seem to have adapted to live in a variety of habitats.
  • Their family is 'Nabide' but their genera can change between the 20 different ones that covers the 500 different species.
  • The species in the UK grow to between 6.5 and 7.5 millimetres, so you can see the difference worldwide!
  • They can be seen all around the year, but are more common in the Summer and warmer months.
  • Adults over-winter inside leaf litter and there are usually between 1 and 5 generations of them per year.
  • The mating and egg laying is seen in the Spring, and larvae can be seen throughout June-September. The next generation of adults is seen from August and on-wards.

The second bug I saw at my favourite local forest - Silton Forest. Now I know what it is I've seen them most times I've been there. These are quite an interesting little fly too:

Feeding on  Cow Parsley
  • They are true flies so are part of the order of insects called Diptera. Their family is Empididae which still has overall 212 species.
  • Dance-fly, their common name, comes from their behaviour in mating swarms. They fly up and down sort of dancing for the females.
  • As well as doing this they have a captured insect wrapped in silk to offer to the females, though some of the males may cheat and just offer a ball of silk!
  • Females choose the mate with the most attractive present and while she eats it the male mates with her.
With lots of little flies.
  • All of the larvae are predators. They live in a variety of things like soil, rotting wood and some are aquatic.
  • Many of the adults are too and have grasping legs and piercing mouthparts. Some though feed on nectar which the one in my picture seems to prefer.
  • Adults like moist areas. Some species like forests others like grasslands.
I've not seen these flies dancing yet, I will be looking out for that, but it's great to be able to identify them now when I go on my walks.

Hoping to get back to Silton Forest in a while but it's looking like it might rain. I don't see as many bugs then!

Hope you enjoyed!


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