Close up photograph of a Chironomid by Prof Bill Amos

Insect-eye view

There is some amazing wildlife on your doorstep if you know where to look. Professor Bill Amos of the Department of Zoology writes about looking closely at insects:

‘In these times of lockdown, a little bit of nature goes a long way. We have a small garden in central Cambridge and I thought I would challenge myself to photograph a new insect every day. Of course, it starts easy and gets progressively more difficult, but it is great fun every coffee break or lunchtime to pop out and spend 10 minutes seeing what has turned up. There are quite a few regulars that appear every day, but also a wonderful stream of new species, some of which are quite surprising and which I might not have noticed without the challenge. I have particularly focused on hoverflies, a childhood passion, but I’ll take anything to keep my list going! Occasionally I take my exercise with a walk around Byron’s pool, and this helps add new beasties on slow days. I also switch a light on in the evening to see what turns up. The only camera I am using is an Olympus Tough, which is compact and has a macro setting that claims up to 50X magnification. As I am discovering, beauty is often found by going really close to something everyday like a gnat or a ladybird.’

A rather rare sawfly, Abia lonicerae, the honeysuckle sawfly, sitting on, honeysuckle!

Close up photograph of a Chironomid by Prof Bill Amos

A chironomid, probably Microtendipes pedellus.  These are common in our garden and this one was sitting on an outside light.  The body is a lovely green / blue colour.

Photograph of a mason bee

One of the commoner solitary bees, the mason bee, Osmia bicornis.  This one is a male.  The female is larger and has two ‘horns’ in the middle of her face, hence the name.  This is one of the species that will gratefully make use of ‘bee hotels’

Photograph of a batman hoverfly

The batman hoverfly, look at the bat symbol in its thorax!  This species, Myathropa florea, is a form of drone fly.  Drone flies are large hoverflies that mimic bees.  This one was hovering under a tree and when I went close to get a photo it seemed to feel that sitting on me was easier than flying.  Whenever I held my hand out it would settle on me.

Photograph of a greenbottle fly

The greenbottle fly, Lucilia Caesar, a Jekyl and Hyde insect.  The adult is a metallic beauty, while its larvae feed on rotting flesh.

Photograph of a seven spot ladybird

A seven-spot ladybird, Coccinella septempunctata.  In previous years I would find lots of the invasive harlequin ladybird but this year almost all the ladybirds are seven-spots.  I hope they are making a comeback.

  • Photograph of a pair of mating green-veined white butterflies
  • Photograph of a metallic green fly
  • Photograph of a tiny parasitic wasp
  • Photograph of a harlequin ladybird and an aphid
  • Photograph of a holly blue butterfly
  • Photograph of an adult aphid about to take off.
  • Photograph of a common hoverfly
  • Photograph of a brimstone butterfly feeding on campion
  • Close up photograph of a fly
  • Photograph of a pea weevil on cow parsley
  • Photograph of a comma butterfly

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