Ladybird Life Stages

The leaves on the lime trees in the village are providing a natural platform on which red and black ladybird larvae can pupate and eventually hatch out. Here are some pictures from the other day (22 September 2021) showing the various life stages. I think the final-stage yellow and black winged adult may have recently emerged from one of the pupae (or are they late-stage instars?). There are still lots of these intriguing small creatures around if you want to look for yourself. Try the leaves on the lime trees that border the tarmacked road between Olympic Park playing field and the cricket pitch.

I think these bugs may be Harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) which are an invasive species that entered the UK in 2004 and have rapidly become widespread. They are considered to be a great pest because they eat all sorts of other native insects and do not restrict themselves to feeding on aphids like our local ladybirds.

Hedgerow Ivy Flowers

One of the most abundant sources of nectar and pollen at the moment – when most of our common wild flowering plants are already producing seeds, berries, and nuts – ivy is in full flower attracting clouds of bees, hover flies, and other winged pollinators.

Numerous pollinating insects on ivy flowers

Willowherb Seeds

Some of the magnificent stands of Great Willow Herb by the River Cerne have survived the recent general bankside maintenance work, and their seed capsules are now opening to release the delicate wind-dispersed seeds. They looked like multiple small cobwebs decorating the tall stalks.

Guelder-Rose Berries

Guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) is not as common as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder, and Dog Rose in the hedgerows and copses around our village of Charlton Down, but it has beautiful flowers in Spring and luscious red berries in Autumn. The best example of Guelder Rose can be found in the trees and bushes bordering the area of grassland that I have previously referred to as The Meadow: this is a triangular piece of land down the slope from Rowan Walk, and near the path that passes north and upwards to the barn on the crest of the hill as you walk to Forston Grange. Guelder-rose also grows in the hedge separating the Community Orchard from the road. The berries in the pictures are not quite ripe yet, still a bit orange in colour (24 August 2021) but should be ripe and a deep translucent red by now or pretty soon.

Oak Spangle galls

Galls smother the undersides of oak leaves this September in and around Charlton Down and further afield. The oaks in the Nature Reserve and in the grounds on the south side of Greenwood House are affected. The galls are common and I have often seen them in other years too. The exact shape is dictated by the type of wasp that has laid its eggs in the leaf. The ones like small rough brown discs with a raised centre are Spangle Galls made by the Cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The small round golden galls with a depressed centre, a donut-shape of silk threads, are made by the wasp Neuroterus nimismalis. Some leaves have both species of gall.

Click on any image to enlarge and view in a gallery.

Acorn Knopper galls

Acorn knopper galls can be found on the young oak trees behind Greenwood House and also in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve. They are acorns which have developed in a distorted way because a particular species of small wasps have laid their eggs in the acorn flowers. The irritation as the egg hatches out causes a proliferation of tissue growth on which the larva can feed. Sometimes a whole acorn is transformed this way. Sometimes only part of it. And on some stems a perfectly normal acorn in its cup grows side by side with the gall acorn. The shapes are variable as you can see from the photographs.

If you would like a little more information about these galls, ten years ago I wrote in my other blog about some of the same type of galls that I noticed in Kew Gardens.

Hedgerow Elderberries

Elderberries are also common in the Dorset hedgerows. The Elder shrub or tree provides flowers in spring for cordials and elderflower wine or ‘champagne’. In July and August the berries start to form and change from green, through red. They ripen to black in autumn. The berries are popular with birds so not all bushes are laden around Charlton Down but, here and there, they are laden and ripe for picking and making wine, jam, or syrup. There are lots of recipes on-line.

Hedgerow Sloes

Sloes, the fruits of the Blackthorn, are ripening in the hedgerows around Charlton Down. They resemble small grapes or damsons. They look delicious but they seem to be used mostly for flavouring gin.

Hedgerow Blackberries

There are loads of blackberries in the hedgerows around the village right now, but most of them aren’t ripe yet – just one or two shiny black and juicy.

Hedgerow Rosehips

Rosehips are the fruits of the Dog Rose which grows in the hedgerows near Charlton Down in Dorset. These were photographed 3 September 2021.