Whether it’s a fly in your home or a beetle in your back garden, insects are everywhere! They’re a brilliant way to connect with nature not only because they’re easy to find, but as you delve deeper, you’ll discover fascinating lifecycles, superb survival strategies, and beautiful morphologies, right on your doorstep!
In this blog post, we’ll show you some of the most common UK insects that you can find in your garden or on your daily exercise.
Tawny mining bee (Andrena fulva)
These gorgeous ginger bees can be a common sight in gardens at this time of year, buzzing around collecting pollen for their larvae. One of the tell-tale signs of mining bees is the volcano or mini-mole hill which signifies the entrance to their nests. After collecting pollen and nectar from common flowers such as dandelions, buttercups, and hawthorn, they return to their subterranean homes. Here they deposit the food in chambers, laying an egg in each. The eggs then hatch out and feed on the protein-rich food source!
Bee-fly (Bombylius major)
With its fluffy body, long proboscis (mouthparts), and habit of hovering in front of flowers – the bee-fly is a pretty convincing bee mimic. But as its name suggests, it is in fact a fly – and one with an awesome lifecycle!
The bee-fly’s lifecycle is closely linked with mining bees like the tawny mining bee above. Bee-flies can be seen resting on the ground wiggling their backsides to collect dust which they use to cover their eggs to make them heavier. Hovering a few centimetres off the ground, bee-flies seek out the nests of mining bees. Then with a flick of their abdomens, they skilfully launch the dust-covered eggs into the mining bee’s nest! A true insect Olympian! Once the larva hatches out, it feeds on the pollen stores collected by the bee and then consumes the mining bee eggs.
Ruby-tailed wasp (Chrysis sp.)
Many people may think of wasps as being the black and yellow creatures that sting you and live in large numbers in paper nests. But these types of wasp only equate to around 0.1% of all the wasps in the UK. There are a total of 9,000 species of UK wasps and some are beautifully iridescent like this ruby-tailed wasp. Despite their exotic appearance, these wasps are common and widespread but hard to spot due to their small size (~1 cm) and rapid movement. They are parasitic, laying their eggs in the nests of mason bees and wasps. So if you have a bee hotel there’s a possibility you might be able to spot one!
Shield bugs & dock bugs
Shield bugs are also known as stink bugs due to their ability to produce a foul smell when annoyed. A strategy designed to deter predators or curious humans! The most common species at the moment are the common green shieldbug (Palomena prasina), and the hawthorn shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale).
Both can be found in abundance in gardens, parks, and hedgerows, feeding on a range of trees and shrubs. The hawthorn shieldbug is found across the UK. Whereas the common green shieldbug, although concentrated in the south, has been spreading north relatively rapidly due to climate change. The dock bug (Coreus marginatus) is a close relative of the shield bug but its distribution is very much confined to the lower half of England.
For more information and ID help with bugs of the UK, check out British Bugs.
Violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus)
They are a fairly common visitor to gardens and parks, although not always seen due to their being nocturnal hunters. Make sure to look under logs and stones in your garden or park for a chance to spot this beetle.
With a bit more time on our hands and the weather getting (slightly) better, many of us have had the opportunity to do a bit of gardening. As you’re digging, it’s likely you’ll come across some chafer larvae like this one. They can spend up to 5-years in the soil eating the roots of plants, but only 6 weeks as adults.
Chafer grubs are c-shaped with the end usually fatter than the rest of the body. There are several chafer species, but the largest larvae are likely to be that of the cockchafer (see below).
Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)
They’re often attracted to the light of lamps or windows, so can find their way into homes on warm evenings! Rest assured that, although they are noisy and large in size, they are completely harmless.
For help with identifications check out the iNaturalist and Seek apps – brilliant tools that are able to identify plants and animals from your photographs. Their ID abilities are quite impressive but be cautious as they aren’t always correct. Alternatively, tag us in your photos on Twitter or Instagram and we’ll do our best to respond!