Mr stag - spotted in my garden this week (one of three males). This was the smallest though he is still 6cm long. I was forced to lob the largest one very gently over the fence to get him out of the clutches of my cat.
Nobody knows for sure how long it takes in the wild for a stag beetle to complete its life cycle, their life underground is very mysterious. Amazingly, probably takes 4 – 6 years! It is this single fact that ignited my interest in this special little beetle.
Each of their eggs hatches into a creamy coloured larva, looking like a fat, wrinkly grub with an orangey-brown head and six stubby legs. It has tough jaws for tearing up and chewing decaying wood. This type of food is not very nourishing, so it takes three to five years before the larva is ready to turn into a pupa! It is thought that the adult either eats tree sap or nothing at all (nothing! can you believe that!?).
The stag beetle is Britain's largest insect and unfortunately quite rare. The male is easily recognised because of his mouthparts which have evolved into enormous jaws, resembling the antlers on a stag's head.
Adult male stag beetles emerge in May or June, depending on the weather, followed shortly after by the females. The male has strong wings underneath the wing cases and he flies at dusk in search of females. The flight can be rather erratic and the beetle sometimes flies indoors through open windows or doors, attracted by the light - and sometimes he bumps into things and crash lands. The flight season lasts only until August and by the time winter arrives, all the adult beetles have died.
The stag beetle is one of the species chosen by the Government to be included in its Biodiversity Action Plan. You can help too: By leaving any tree stumps in your garden to rot down naturally, and by making a log pile. Go on... why be tidy when you can help breed this stunning endangered species.
... part of my 'loggery' where the stag beetles hatched
Skeletons in the closet? I once went out looking like this (a mere youngster). Just the once because I wasn't sufficiently accomplished at the 'non smile' to be effective long-term (the skirts were bin liners, as if I needed to point that out).
The late autumn is a really wonderful time to go out to look for Cocoons.
The one Dad is holding here is the very one that he found when he was ten. It is 77 years old! I am now a proud Cocoon owner. Dad presented it to me when I visited recently. How special is that?!
So many Cocoons are made to look like leaves and nuts to disguise them from birds and other predators, but not this one - so bright and golden even after all these years. Dad placed this one in a glass canning jar with small air holes in the lid. It didn’t need food or water because while inside their Cocoons they don’t eat or drink. It took this silk worm approximately 3 days to spin its cocoon around itself secreting saliva from its mouth. This single strand of silk that the worm forms is about 1 mile long. Silk worms have to work in a figure 8 pattern in order to spin their cocoon around themselves. Dad took care because if their threads are disturbed by anything, the silk worm would have to start all over again spinning a new cocoon. He cannot remember quite what happened to the contents of this one.
All I know is that I feel that I have a little piece of Natures gold...
It was down to ME that Mrs H first discovered the 'spiderlings', I was about to lick them but she insisted I didn't, so I stomped off and tested the stability of her variegated euonymous instead. Check out the latest post on the nature blog shares with Denise.
While I am consoled by not being alone in having an irrational fear of spiders, I wish I didn't. I would never harm one, but I cannot stop the shudder that ripples up my spine when I see them with their legs akimbo. You would think then, to discover thousands in my garden recently would have had me admitted to the nearest Medical Centre. It didn’t, and this is why. They were spiderlings (this is the name for baby spiders and rather sweet, don’t you think?). One female may produce as many as 3,000 eggs in a series of several silk sacs over a period of time.
Marvelling at such a huge brood, inside I googled and went on to be further amazed by the following facts:
House spiders can survive for several months without food or water.
Spiders can actually taste things with their feet - it all has to do with the bristly hairs on their legs which are used to pick up signals and messages (something to consider for the 'shavers' amongst us).
Silk produced by spiders is so strong, that if it were woven into a thread one inch thick, it would be three times stronger than a similar rope made of iron, and could support a weight of 74 tons!
This is how a web is constructed...
sketch by E. Dale Joyner
The Greeks are involved too, the scientific name for a spider - "Arachnid" (uh-rack-nid) is derived from an old Greek story. In this story, a girl named Arachne loved to weave. Her weaving was so beautiful and perfect that the goddess Athena got jealous. To punish Arachne, the goddess turned her into a spider. But Arachne still loved to weave, even though she was a spider. The word, "spider," comes from the German word "spinner," because spiders spin or weave silk.
Less attractive qualities are perhaps epitomised by the fact that spiders drink the insides of their victims like soup (their poison contains digestive fluids which turns the insides of their victims into pulp). An insect version of Gazpacho?
I think I shiver most when I come across this particular type of spider, especially when it is unexpected and I am in my nightie ...
“Will you walk into my parlour? said the spider to the fly….”
Sorry everyone, we just haven't time to cavort at length for the camera this Thursday. A new neighbour has just moved in and we need to snoopervise his every move.
(this Viburnum is pretty camouflage and naturally Mrs H chooses all her garden plants based on how effectively they flatter US, but we come inside stuck all over with cream petals! Why can't what is in the garden, stay in the garden? - like us even! don't tell Mrs H we said that! he he).