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Nature

Harry’s advent calendar of insects day 6: a leafhopper

The last couple of insects have been interesting rather than beautiful, so here’s a real stunner. I don’t actually have a species name for this one — I just found it on Flickr by searching for bugs — but it was photographed by the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory, and their description of the photo reads:

‘Leafhopper, Sharpshooter Collected in November 2012 Dominican Republic at high elevations in central highlands, photgraphed in hand sanitizer in a quartz cuvette. Yes, those are the real colors.’

Here’s another shot of the same beastie (you can click through for larger versions of either photo):

Wow.

» Leafhopper cuvette, U, side, Dominican Republic_2012-11-28-15, and Leafhopper cuvette, U, back are © the USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory and used under a CC attribution licence.

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Nature

Harry’s advent calendar of insects day 5: Poecilobothrus nobilitatus

It’s tempting to just concentrate on the showiest insect families — butterflies, moths, beetles, dragonflies — at the expense of the incredible variety of flies, bugs, fleas, ants, termites, cockroaches and so on.

But let’s have at least one fly. There are lots of things with ‘fly’ in the name — butterfly, caddisfly, scorpionfly and so on — but the true flies, the diptera, are the ones with just one pair of wings: house flies, bluebottles, mosquitoes, gnats, midges, craneflies, horse flies, hoverflies and so on.

This particular fly is Poecilobothrus nobilitatus.

You can see that it’s a bit prettier than some fly species, but it’s not exactly a showstopper.

So why I have I picked it for my advent calendar? Because it dances.

This video was taken at my garden pond, in June, three years ago (I think it’s the right species!). Look particularly in the top right corner.

You can see a couple of males flashing their wings towards a female. OK, it’s not the most dramatic courtship display in nature, it doesn’t compare to birds of paradise or capercaillies; but still, it’s a neat thing to find in a suburban garden, all these little flies earnestly lekking on the lily pads.

» Langbeinfliege Poecilobothrus nobilitatus 110615 005.jpg is © Jürgen Mangelsdorf and used under a CC by-nc-nd licence.

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Nature

Harry’s advent calendar of insects, day 4: pygmy mole cricket

This is a pygmy mole cricket:

It’s just 6mm long, which is one reason why it looks a bit weird, even for a grasshoppery-crickety thingy.

I heard of these South African critters for the first time today via some brand new science, as reported in Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science blog, and in Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True.

So what’s so cool about pygmy mole crickets? well, they can jump straight out of the water.

Which, if you’ve ever seen a bee stuck in a swimming pool, is sort of cool.

Check out the two blogs I linked to for more details.

» Photos and video by Michael Burrows.

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Nature

Harry’s advent calendar of insects, day 3: Lunar Hornet Moth

I can’t believe I’m already falling behind. I’m afraid I just forgot yesterday, so I’ve set myself a daily reminder.

Anyway, a quick one, this is a species I’ve wanted to see for years (still waiting!), the Lunar Hornet Moth, Sesia bembeciformis:

And yes, it is a moth. Looking closely, it’s too furry for a wasp, and the antennae are also a bit of a giveaway, but it’s a staggering bit of mimicry even so.

Just amazing.

» Both photos are by Ian Kimber of ukmoths.org.uk, used under a CC-BY-SA license. I got them from Wikipedia.

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Nature

Harry’s advent calendar of insects, day 2: Rose Chafer

In My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell’s book about life as a nature-obsessed child in Corfu, there’s a description of the ‘rose-beetle man’: a dumb peddler of, among other things, metallic green beetles on lengths of thread, sold for small children to play with, buzzing around in circles like little aeroplanes.

This is the Rose Chafer, Cetonia aurata. My own particular memory is of seeing one fly over a pub garden in Bristol when I was a student.

I can’t remember the name of the pub, or precisely where it was, or exactly who was with me; but it was summer, and the sun was shining, and I was with friends, and there was this amazing big metallic green beetle buzzing over the garden. So it’s a happy memory. Vague but happy.

» Big Metallic Green Beetle…Rose Chafer (Cetonia aurata) is © Mgeorge733 and used under a CC by-nc-nd licence. Cetonia aurata is © etrusko25 and used under a CC by-sa licence.

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Nature

Harry’s advent calendar of insects, day 1: The Herald

I decided to do this at the last minute and have done no planning at all — literally fifteen mintes ago I was still trying to decide whether to do insects or buildings or maybe birds again — but I thought it would be nice to start with a picture I took myself, so here’s The Herald, Scoliopteryx libatrix, as seen in my own garden.

I think it’s rather pretty, by little brown moth standards, with those orange and white details. And while it’s not the most extraordinary example of insect camouflage ever, at the back it genuinely looks like a dead leaf.