+353 (0)86 836 3534
      

Desert Locust

Desert Locust

Desert Locust

 

 

 

 

 

The biblical locust was the Desert Locust, which has been threatening agricultural production in Africa, the Middle East and Asia for centuries. The Desert Locust is normally a solitary creature and actively avoids contact with other desert locusts. When conditions are right, particularly after lots of rain, contact becomes unavoidable. As the insects bump against one another, they begin to change. In an hour or so they become attracted to each other and swarm together. When they change into swarming locusts, they also attain the ability to adapt to a wide variety of habitats and food sources, making geography no barrier. These massive swarms can travel as many as 100 miles a day. In 1954, a swarm of locusts flew from Africa all the way to Great Britain, decimating crops along the way. Since the 1900’s, one of these epic plagues persisted for 13 years and covered as many as 460 square miles. A swarm that large would consume 423 million pounds of plants every day. To put this in perspective, a swarm the size of New York City would eat as much in one day as the human populations of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania combined.

Oak Eggar Moth

Oak Eggar Moth

Oak Eggar Moth Eggs

The Oak Eggar Moth (wingspan of 45 – 75mm), despite its name, does not feed on Oak, but is so-called because the shape of its chrysalis resembles that of an acorn. The food plants are mainly heather and bilberry, but also include bramble sallow, broom, sloe, hawthorn and hazel. They are often confused with butterflies but their flight is fast with sharp changes in direction as they sweep low, back and forth, tasting the air, over the vegetation in which females that have emerged the night before, are resting. The male Oak Eggar Moth is most often seen flying on sunny afternoons while the female flies early in the evening. Once a female has been found the male will mate with her and then move on to find another female. Egg laying for an Oak Eggar moth is a fairly random affair – sometimes, she simply drops the eggs (2mm in diameter) onto the ground whilst flying around and in some cases she will release them in a cluster in one location. The larvae of the Oak Eggar Moth can grow up to 6.5cm long. They are dark brown with a line of white spots along their flanks and sometimes a row of red markings is visible lower down. The hairs grow in tufts and act as a defence against predation since they can cause skin irritation, but they are still eaten by some specialists such as the cuckoo. It can take up to 2 years for the full life cycle depending on the warmth of the climate.

Cockroach

Cockroach

The Cockroach is a very interesting and resilient pest (the most adaptable creatures on earth) that exhibits some very odd behavior and survival tactics. They spend 75% of their time resting and can withstand temperatures as cold as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are ten of the most fascinating cockroach facts: A cockroach can live for a week without its head. Due to their open circulatory system, and the fact that they breathe through little holes in each of their body segments, they are not dependent on the mouth or head to breathe. The roach only dies because without a mouth, it can’t drink water and dies of thirst. They can hold its breath for 40 minutes, and can even survive being submerged under water for half an hour. They hold their breath often to help regulate their loss of water. They can run up to three miles in an hour, which means they can spread germs and bacteria throughout a home very quickly. Newborn German cockroaches become adults in as little as 36 days. In fact, the German cockroach is the most common of the cockroaches and has been implicated in outbreaks of illness and allergic reactions in many people. A one-day-old baby cockroach, which is about the size of a speck of dust, can run almost as fast as its parents. The American cockroach has shown a marked attraction to alcoholic beverages, especially beer. They are most likely attracted by the alcohol mixed with hops and sugar. The world’s largest roach (which lives in South America) is six inches long with a one-foot wingspan. Average cockroaches can vary in size from ½”- 2″ long. Cockroaches are believed to have originated more than 280 million years ago, in the Carboniferous era. There are more than 4,000 species of cockroaches worldwide, including the most common species, the German cockroach, in addition to other common species, the brown-banded cockroach and American cockroach. Because they are cold-blooded insects, cockroaches can live without food for one month, but will only survive one week without water.

Woodlouse

Spanish-Woodlouse

The Woodlouse may look like an insect, but in fact it’s a crustacean and is related to the crab and the lobster. It’s thought there are about 3,500 species of woodlice in the world, and 35 to 40 of these can be found in the British Isles. Woodlice are sometime called Pill Bugs and Slater’s. The Pill woodlouse gets its name because it can roll itself up into a ball. Woodlice like damp, dark places and can be found hiding in walls, under stones and in compost heaps. Some species such as the common sea slater are only found on the coast. A woodlouse has 14 legs and an outer shell called an exoskeleton. When a woodlouse grows too big for its exoskeleton it has to molt to allow a new shell to take its place. Molting takes place in two stages, first the back half is shed and a day or so later the front half falls off. They have a pair of antennae to help them find their way around, and two small ‘tubes’, called uropod’s, sticking out of the back of their bodies. The uropod’s help them navigate and some species use them to produce chemicals to discourage predators. Most woodlice are found on land, but their ancestors used to live in water and breathe using gills. Woodlice eat rotting plants, fungi and their own faeces, but they don’t pee. They get rid of their waste by producing strong-smelling chemical called ammonia, which passes out through their shells as a gas. After mating, females carry their fertilised eggs in a small brood pouch under their bodies. The young hatch inside the pouch and stay there until they are big enough to survive on their own. A common woodlouse can live for three to four years. Apart from man, its main predators are centipedes, toads, shrews and spiders.

Dead Man’s Finger

Dead Man's Finger

 

 

 

If you have black, club-shaped mushrooms at or near the base of a tree, you may have dead man’s finger fungus. This fungus may indicate a serious condition that needs your immediate attention. The fungus shows a preference for apple, maple and elm trees, but it can also invade a variety of ornamental trees and shrubs used in home landscapes. The fungus is the result of a problem rather than the cause because it never invades healthy wood. On trees, it often begins in bark lesions. It can also invade damaged roots, which later develop root rot. A dead man’s finger “plant” is actually a mushroom.   Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies (reproductive stage) of fungi. It is shaped like a human finger, each about 1.5 to 4 inches tall. A clump of the mushrooms looks like a human hand. The mushroom arises in spring. It may be pale or bluish with a white tip at first. The fungus matures to dark gray and then black. Trees infected with the disease show a gradual decline. Apple trees may produce a large number of small fruit before they die. When you find dead man’s finger, the first thing you want to do is determine the source of the growth.   Is it growing from the trunk of the tree or the roots? Or is it growing on the mulch at the base of the tree? Dead man’s finger growing on the trunk or roots of a tree is very bad news.   The fungus breaks down the structure of the tree quickly, causing a condition known as soft rot.   There is no cure, and you should remove the tree before it becomes a hazard. Infected trees can collapse and fall without warning.

Dog Stinkhorn

Dog Stinkhorn

There’s no polite way of saying it: stinkhorns are gross, and they stink so strongly you usually smell them before you see them. The Dog Stinkhorn spreads its spores, which are present in the slime, by attracting flies and other creatures that like decaying flesh. The slime sticks to the insects, which then transport the spores.   This is quite an advanced method of reproduction, paralleling flowering plants (which didn’t evolve until toward the end of the age of the dinosaurs), the most advanced members of the plant kingdom, which use insects for pollination (not all flowering plants depend on insects — some use less efficient wind pollination). Stinkhorns are too disgusting to eat but they are supposed to be a delicacy in China, once the slime is removed. Stinkhorns are one of nature’s most foul-smelling creations, but they’re nothing compared to decomposing stinkhorns!

Woodlouse

Woodlouse on Snail Eggs

 

 

 

Snail eggs have taken France and Spain by storm and now suppliers are desperate to turn it into a hit with Britons. Snail’s eggs could soon be lining the shelves in the UK as chefs throughout Europe rediscover the delicacy, known as ‘WHITE CAVIAR’.   Already stocked in tiny cans by Harrods, the tiny pearl-like eggs have been used in banquets for wealthy Romans, Egyptians and Greeks for centuries.

Matchstick Lichen

Matchstick Lichen

Matchstick Lichen got their names because of their similarity to redhead matches. This means that they are sometimes referred to as ‘Devils Matchsticks’. It grows up to 30mm high and can be found in the bogs of Ireland (This one was photographed in the Bog of Allen in County Kildare). It can also grow on rotting timber. About 70000 species of fungi have been described; however, some estimates of total numbers suggest that 1.5 million species may exist.

Puffball Mushroom

Puffball Mushroom

 

 

 

Unlike most other groups, puffballs contain their spores inside, so they’re somewhat rounded.  When mature, any pressure from outside, such as a raindrop or a kick from a child’s shoe, ejects the spores in a cloud of dust. Immature puffballs are roughly globular, and white and soft inside, like cream cheese (or, if you’re a vegetarian, like tofu). They are ideal for beginning mushroomers because there are no poisonous species, and they’re easy to tell apart from other groups if you pay attention.  If a Puffball Mushroom has no stalk or “legs,” and is pure white, soft, and undifferentiated (no separate parts) inside, then it’s in an immature state, and it’s a choice edible mushroom. Puffballs beginning to turn yellow inside or are already forming powdery spores are too late to eat. They have a rich, penetrating, earthy flavor. These gourmet mushrooms won’t get lost in a recipe, even when there are lots of other ingredients or strong seasonings. They can stand up to virtually every form of cooking. You can sauté them, simmer them in soups, cook them with grains, and even bread and bake them in a casserole if they’re large enough.

Candlestick Fungus

Candlestick Fungus

 

 

 

The Candlestick Fungus is sometimes called the ‘Stags Horn Fungus’. This is quite a strong and rubbery fungus.  You can actually bend it without breaking it. It is black at the base, grey in the middle and white at the tips. Just like a snuffed candle wick – hence the name.