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Beetles

About 40% of all described insect species are beetles. Some estimates put the total number of species, described and un-described, at as high as 100 million, but a figure of one million is more widely accepted. The largest family is commonly thought to be the weevils or snout beetles. They are found in all major habitats, except marine and the polar regions. Some are nonspecialist detritus feeders, breaking down animal and plant debris; some feed on particular kinds of carrion such as flesh or hide; some feed on wastes such as dung; some feed on fungi, some on particular species of plants, others on a wide range of plants. Some are generalist pollen, flower and fruit eaters. Some are predatory, usually on other invertebrates; some are parasites. Many of the predatory species are important controls of agricultural pests. Beetles are also the prey of various invertebrates and vertebrates, including other insects, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. All insects’ bodies are divided into three sections: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen.

Green Nettle Weevil

Green-Nettle-Weevil-1

Nettles are one of the best places to look for insects because all sorts of creatures can be found on them. Nettles may sting us but insects are immune from the effects. If you look closely at the leaves of the nettle plant you will sometimes see small whitish specks, which close up, prove to be the shiny Green Nettle Weevil. They are between 5mm and 8mm in size and the Green Nettle Weevil is often abundant on the nettle plant, hence its common name. The iridescent sheen of the adult Green Nettle Weevil comes from a coating of green scales, which covers its black body. Over time and with age, these scales easily rub off leaving a black ‘shell’ underneath resulting in a rather ‘worn’, patchy appearance, hence the variation between the green and blue colours. They can be found from April to late June. Re the nettle plant itself, our first childhood sting is a lesson learned about the darker side of nature but the treacherous weed can be tamed and put to good use – here are some examples. Butterflies can’t get enough of it. Nettles are butterfly food for at least two common British species – the Red Admiral and the Painted Lady. They’re medicinal. Nutritional therapists claim that nettles can be used to ease the symptoms of gout, among other ailments. The plants are packed with magnesium, iron and calcium – all essential minerals for healthy humans. They are survivors. The sting on the underside of the nettle leaf is designed to protect it. The fibre inside the plant can be spun into string and used to make fabric for clothing and even paper. A mature nettle is incredibly fibrous, like flaxen. The German army used nettle fabric to make army uniforms during World War One. They tend to come with their own first aid kit. Dock leaves are commonly believed to soothe the symptoms of a nettle sting, and they often grow close by. They are tasty too – nettle soup is slightly tangy and outrageously healthy. The ingredients for this soup are nettles potatoes, onions and seasoning. The sting disappears when the leaves are boiled so they can also be consumed in the form of tea. And finally, they can raise your spirits… literally. Nettle wine is a traditional country wine that’s enjoying a bit of a revival at the moment. It is a very dry, crisp wine that retains a bit of a prickle.

 

Weevil

Weevil

The Weevil species occur in a wide range of colours and body shapes. Many are slender or oval-shaped insects. Depending on the species, weevils range in size from about 3 mm to over 10 mm in length. They are usually dark-coloured – brownish to black. Some have scales or shiny hairs covering part of their bodies. The most distinctive feature of weevils is the shape of their head. An adult weevil has an elongated head that forms a snout. The mouth is at the end of the snout. Some weevils have a snout that is as long as the body. Weevils feed on plants in the larval stage and as adults. Some weevils can be very destructive to crops. For many years, one of the most destructive weevils was the cotton boll weevil. The black vine weevil is the species that is usually found in Ireland. Approximately 12 mm in length, black vine weevils are ovoid in shape and are covered with tiny hairs. They range from brown to gray in colour and possess short snouts. The antennae of these weevils feature elbows, and their wings bear small pits. Black vine weevils are known to attack various plants, trees, shrubs and herbs. Adults feed on leaves and stems of plants, while larvae feed on fine and main roots. The feeding behaviour of black vine weevil larvae causes more damage to affected plants than that of adults. Females emerge in early summer and will feed for about a month before laying eggs. She may lay almost 200 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the roots of the plant. Larvae spend the winter in a dormant state and will pupate the following spring. Black vine weevils can be challenging to control. There are very few natural predators of this weevil species. They are also nocturnal in nature and tend to dwell in subterranean environments.

 

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.

Ladybird

Ladybird

 

 

 

 

 

The Ladybird (also known as the ladybug) is a small colourful beetle found all around the world. There are thought to be more than 5,000 different species of this insect in the world, with more than 450 species found in North America alone. It is best known for it’s spotted body (normally red and black, but often orange and yellow are found), and their ability to rid gardens of their aphid pests effectively. It is thought to be good luck to find that a ladybird has landed on you, and most definitely bad luck if you then squash it! They are small sized insects rarely growing to more than a centimeter in length. They have legs that are black in colour and their brightly coloured shell protects the wings of the ladybird that are concealed beneath the spots. They are known to hibernate once the warm summer weather begins to cool. They  will hibernate in large groups in sites that are used year after year, and ladybirds are thought to hibernate in this communal fashion in order to increase their chances of surviving the cold winter. It is thought that pheromones are released by hibernating ladybirds that attract other ladybirds to hibernate in the same place. They are fearsome predators within their environment and are known as gardener’s friends as they munch all of the tiny pests that eat the plants. They primarily eat aphids, greenfly, plant lice and other small insects. It is thought that the average ladybird eats more than 5,000 aphids in just one year. They are prey to a number of animals in their environment that include birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, rodents and other insects. It is thought that the bright colour of the ladybird is used to deter hungry predators as they think that the ladybird will taste disgusting or is poisonous.

Vine Weevil

Vine Weevil

 

 

 

 

 

The Vine Weevil is a beetle that attacks a wide range of plants, both indoors and outdoors, but especially plants grown in containers. It is one of the most common and devastating garden pests. The adult weevils eat plant leaves during spring and summer, but it is the grubs that cause the most damage over autumn and winter when they feed on plant roots, causing wilting, and often plant death. Plants growing in pots or other containers, outdoors or under cover, can be severely damaged by vine weevil grubs. Plants growing in the open ground are less susceptible.

Red Lily Beetle

Red Lilly Beetle

 

 

 

 

 

The Red Lily Beetle and its larvae are leaf-eating pests of lilies. The adult beetles occasionally eat other plants but lilies are the only plants on which they will lay eggs and the grubs can develop. Apart from spoiling the plants’ appearance, damaging attacks in early summer will result in undersized bulbs developing, which may not flower next year. The Red Lily Beetle overwinters as adult beetles that go down into the soil and leaf litter in the autumn. This could be anywhere, not necessarily in the vicinity of lilies. The beetles begin emerging on sunny days in late March and April when they seek out the foliage of host plants. Eggs are laid in small batches on the underside of leaves during April to mid-summer. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the foliage. When fully fed, the larvae go into the soil to pupate. The next generation of adult beetles emerges from mid-summer onwards.

Green Tiger Beetle

Green-Tiger-Beetle

The Green Tiger Beetle is a ground beetle, easily recognized by it’s iridescent green colour and the yellowish spots on it’s back. The adult Green Tiger Beetle can be seen from April to September and are between 10.5-14.5mm in length (they have a life span of 6 weeks). They have long legs that make them agile when hunting for prey and large eyes making them the perfect predator. If disturbed, they will fly short distances making a buzzing sound in flight. Green Tiger Beetles have extremely large jaws (mandibles) that have several teeth that resemble two curved swords with pointed blades. They are among the fastest insects on Earth, they can run at a speed of 5.6 mph, which relative to its body length, is about 22 times the speed of an Olympic sprinter & the equivalent of a human running at 480 miles per hour. In fact, Tiger Beetles run so fast that they actually lose the ability to see once they start moving. They have to visually lock on to their prey first, or run in short bursts to re-orient themselves as they chase their food. Either way they are so fast, their prey stands little chance of getting out of the way in time. Adults feed on any small invertebrates that they can catch including spiders, caterpillars, ants & other beetles. “If a military designer needed a model for a perfect combination of jeep and aircraft, able to switch from one to the other instantly, he need look no further than these feisty little creatures”…

Ground Beetles

Ground Beetles

 

 

 

 

 

Ground beetles are members of the Carabidae family, which contains around 350 species in Britain & Ireland. Most of these beetles are voracious predators. As the name suggests, many ground beetles spend their time on the ground and few can fly. The fusion of their wing cases acts as protecting armour. Both larvae and adults are carnivorous and often specialize in eating slugs and snails, as well as eating a range of carrion. Depending on the beetle species, they will also attack aphids and other pest insects. By encouraging them into your garden you can start on the road to a natural method of pest control. Many of these beetles are nocturnal and need some form of shade during the day. Provide them with shelter such as a log pile, leaf litter or just some large stones. They can be found throughout the year, although they hibernate during the coldest winter months. When threatened, ground beetles can discharge a noxious, highly irritant fluid (harmless to humans) from the tip of their abdomen. Females also use this as their own can of ‘pepper spray’ to deter over-amorous males. Many ground beetles eat by vomiting on their prey and waiting for their digestive enzymes to make their food more fluid and easier to eat.

Forest Bugs

Forest Bug

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Bugs (15mm in length), also known as Red-legged Shield Bugs, can be distinguished from other Shield Bugs by their square shoulders because they look like they’re wearing American football player padding. Their bodies are a dark bronze-brown colour with orange legs and antennae. The antennae are about the same length as the body. They feed on the sap of deciduous trees, particularly oaks growing along sheltered woodland edges or in clearings. This species overwinters as a nymph, the adults are present from July to November and the eggs are laid in August. Forest Bugs have a one year life cycle.

Green Shield Bug

Green Shield Bug

 

 

 

 

 

This Green Shield Bug or Stink Bug has a flattened, shield-shaped body and as the 2nd name suggests, it emits an unpleasant odor to repel many of it’s predators. It is bright green in colour with delicate flecks of black that look like small puncture marks. In November, the insects darken in colour and spend the winter hibernating with a dark-bronze colouration. Although the sexes are similar in appearance, females tend to be larger than males. Like all bugs, the Green Shield Bug has specialized sucking mouthparts, which in this species are used to feed on plant sap. This species belongs to a sub-order known as the ‘true bugs’ in which only the tips of the wings are membranous; the rest of the wing is hardened. When the bug is at rest, the wings are held flat over the body and the membranous parts of the wings overlap.