Wildlife Garden Autumn BioBlitz – Species Review

Continuing the blogs about the Autumn BioBlitz in the Museum’s wildlife garden, we would like to introduce you to more species found during the day! BioBlitzes are only one of the ways wildlife garden species are being recorded; biological recordings take place in the garden in many different ways all year round.

Read on to learn more about the autumn findings in the amazing wildlife garden including a species very rare to the UK and one which made it to a top 10 list!

Cream-spot Ladybird – Calvia quattuordecimguttata

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Cream-spot ladybird found in the Wildlife Garden during the Autumn BioBlitz

This maroon-brown coloured ladybird is quite common in England. It inhabits hedgerows and deciduous trees and can be found in parks, gardens, meadows and bushes. It can be seen from April to October and spends the winter in leaf litter and beech nuts. It has 14 spots six of which form a line across the wing cases. They mostly feed on aphids and psyllids (the small soft bodied insects that suck the juices of plants).

Parent Bug – Elasmucha grisea

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Parent Bug found in the Wildlife Garden during the Autumn BioBlitz

The parent bug is a species of shield bug common in most of Europe. It is known for releasing a nasty smell when disturbed, to deter potential enemies. Adults of the bug can be found all year round and younger adults in the summer. The males are smaller than the females. They feed on various woody plants (such as birch and holly) and they lay their eggs on leafs. It is called parent bug because the females take care of the eggs and then the juveniles until they become adults, behaviour rarely observed in insects. They are also known to form groups with other females to care for the eggs and juveniles.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee – Bombus terrestris

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Bumblebee photographed during a past BioBlitz event

It is one of the largest bumblebees and the first one to emerge. It is very common throughout Europe and in England. Relatively warmer winters in recent years mean that in big cities the buff-tailed bumblebee can be seen all year round. They feed on pollen and nectar from a wide variety of flowers. They nest underground in old mouse or vole nests. Their nests are large and can sometimes host more than 500 individuals!

Light Brown Apple Moth – Epiphyas postvittana

This moth species was originally Australian and it is thought that it was accidentally introduced into Cornwall in the 1930s from where it spread quickly and is now quite common in Britain. They appear in different shades of orange and brown colour and are most commonly found in gardens and orchards. They lay their eggs on leaves or fruit and a single female can lay hundreds of eggs. In their larval stage they feed nearly in all types of fruit crops and are therefore considered a pest in some areas. They fly in two generations between May and October.

Scarab Beetle – Saprosites natalensis

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The beetle Saprosites natalensis photographed under the microscope (credit: Katie Potts, curatorial assistant NHM)

An Australian species of small wood feeding scarab that has been established in the UK for close to 100 years but has always been rare. It was first described in South Africa and its thought to have been introduced there, and also in the UK, with horses, in the wood chips used in travelling horse boxes. Until recently it was known only from Richmond Park and even though it has now been found in a few places in London it is still rare and difficult to collect!

Collared Earthstar – Geastrum triplex

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Collared Earthstar from the Wildlife Garden (credit: Naomi Lake, wildlife gardener NHM)

And to finish with something completely different, a non-poisonous but inedible fungus usually found in the debris and leaf litter of hardwood forests. It is widespread globally and has a history of use in the traditional medicine of North America and China. It is a saprobic fungus, meaning it takes its nutrients from decomposing organic matter. It is most commonly found in groups often around rotted tree stumps. When matured the outer surface opens and splits into a star revealing the inner ball which contains the spores. Due to this unique appearance it made it into the BBC Earth’s ‘Ten of the UK’s most stunning Fungi’ list! The Collard Earthstar is just one of the many fungi that have been recorded in the garden, the earthstar was first recorded in the garden in 2015 and since then it is found every year.

Many thanks to Max Barclay for the scarab beetle information and Nicky Reilly and the Wildlife Garden team for their help!

The next BioBlitz will take place on 27 April 2019 in Hyde Park, join us to find out more about London’s wildlife and discover more fantastic species!