Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Nemesis

Malcolm and I set out this morning with the idea that we might have to cut our walk short if it started to rain. The clouds looked rather threatening to begin with, but as we walked along, the clouds dissipated and the sun came through, bright and strong.
There is one, big problem associated with the warm weather, particularly when walking near to the horse stables and farms of the area. That problem is Cleg Flies (Haematopota pluvialis). Even with a good covering of insect repellent before we set out, they were a nuisance this morning. This one was 'zapped' as it landed on me, so while it was still stunned, I took the opportunity to take its photo as it sat on my hand.
Closer inspection reveals a fantastically marked insect. Its wings are patterned and its eyes show the most vivid, iridescence. attracted to movement and also the carbon dioxide from our breath as we walk along, it is the female flies which are the problem. Males do not have the biting mouth-parts of the females. An adult female fly inflicts a painful bite as it makes a meal of blood which it needs to aid egg development, while the males feed on nectar and pollen.  By this time, the fly was beginning to 'come round' from its stupor so time was of the essence before it sank that needle-like sucker into my hand.....
But, just look at those eyes!
Returning home and there were more small creatures to be found around the garden. The Common Froghoppers (Philaenus spumarius), which have, until now, been in their larval form, hidden away within their frothy Cuckoo-spit homes, are emerging as adults.
These engaging little insects, are the true champions of the high-jump. At only 6mm long, they can easily leap 700mm. This is matched by fleas, but considering the flea is about 60 times lighter in weight, the Froghopper's achievement is all the more extraordinary. The G-Forces exerted upon the little insect as it leaps at such high speed, are incredible. An astronaut will experience forces of about 5G when blasting into space. The Froghopper, by contrast, endures forces in excess of 400G. In comparison, the flea, when it leaps only endures about 135G! Incredible forces which would crush a human instantly.
Lastly an extraordinary little moth which was on our shed door the other day. It is one of the Grass Moths (Chrysoteuchia culmella). Normally a nocturnal moth, this one was caught out in the daylight.
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