Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bugs on Scarcroft Review

Despite Yorkshire being practically underwater on Friday 22nd June some hardy enthusiasts came to the very successful evening about small friends and foes on the allotments. Chris Malumphy from FERA was a very enthusiastic and knowlegeable visitor and told us lots about new invading pests which is his speciality, and helped us identify a number of insects and other invertebrates found on the site. Chris was impressed by how few pests we actually had, and suggested that the number of birds around was keeping down caterpillar numbers. 

We did find a few butterfly and moth caterpillars, Peacock caterpillars in particular. Peacock and related butterflies feed on nettles, a good reason to leave a few in a sunny position! Hopefully we will have some of these attractive butterflies on the site in a few weeks time.  More info

Peacock butterfly caterpillars on nettles

Mullein moth caterpillars on mullein

We also found the gardeners friend - the 7 spot ladybird and it was interesting to compare it to the Harlequin lady bird which we also found. Sadly it is possible that the introduced Harlequin lady bird will replace native ladybirds as it has in North America. We also delved briefly into the sex lives of aphids as we found some on sycamore and ragwort plants, both looked after by ants which tend the aphids and move them around so they can feed on the honeydew they produce. There were plenty of snails and slugs around although my new technique of putting sharp sand around my plants seems to be working!

Nail galls on a Sycamore leaf caused by tiny Aceria mites

Chris asked us to keep an eye open for a fairly new pest the Asian long horn beetle which has been found in Kent and is very damaging to wood and woodlands. More info In future we may be contacted to look out for new pests as allotment sites could be a good place to spot them with lots of gardeners and a variety of crops.
Altogether a really interesting evening and many thanks to Chris and his son Daniel the most succesful bug hunter!

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