What a remarkable year for wildlife 2016 was. The long summer provided for the needs of multiple broods in many of our indigenous and resident species, vertebrate and invertebrate alike.
It was pleasant to see the ongoing work in the RHS gardens at Hyde Hall in Essex this September, as we toured prior to the AGM. The developments have a great deal of wildlife potential, and it was good to see Sympetrum striolatum (common darter dragonfly) making its home in their not-quitebig-enough-to-be-called-a-lake pond. I also saw small copper butterflies and soaring buzzards. With its position on a hill, surrounded by farmland and big skies, Hyde Hall looks like becoming a place to watch for native species management.
Back at Helmingham, a caterpillar left me a little confounded this year. Bright green, highly patterned and tucking into Dahlia ‘Bednall Beauty’, it defied my small library of reference books. I finally discovered the truth on www.ukmoths.org.uk a superb website offering thumbnail picture identification. The creature turned out to be a moth, very common in the south of the UK called ‘The Dot’, a near black moth with a white dot on the forewing – a very imaginative name! To me the dot resembled a little island, and I am sure that ‘The Archipelago’ would be a far more interesting name!! The reason my library had failed me was the variability of the caterpillar’s coloration. It was there, in a trusty Gem guide, sporting its jacket in shades of brown and grey.
With the summer stretching into early October at Helmingham, we had a good number of harvestmen, mostly Leiobunum rotundum (European harvestman). These spider-like creatures have no venom or silk glands, simply outflanking their prey with their long legs. Unlike spiders, the body and head are one piece with a pair of eyes on a little turret-like appendage. I was interested to discover, as I looked into this mini-beast for my article, that harvestmen lay their eggs in the soil – but hey, that’s what’s so fascinating about the little denizens of our workplaces; they always give us something new to discover.
Chris ‘Bugman’ Reeve
PGG Member, Helmingham, Suffolk