A few bits and bobs

June has seen a few new arrivals on the Riverside Walk, both insects and flowers. One of my favourites is the Bladder Campion, seen above with one of the walk’s numerous Thick-legged Flower Beetles, or Oedemera nobilis, to give it its Latin name, here also seen on a Cow Parsley, unaware of the Crab Spider lying in wait!

I prefer the English name though, which, like so many, tells it like it is. Only the males have the thick legs though it seems. The Bladder Campion is so called because of the bladder-shaped bulge or sepal behind the flowers. It has only appeared in one place so far, with just the one plant springing up amid a tangled mass of brambles, nettles and cleavers.

Apparently the young leaves of the Bladder Campion are widely used in salads around Europe, and in Spain they even have specialist collectors and sellers called collejeros, as the leaves are known locally as collejas. Bladder Campion it seems is also one of the favourite foods of the Red and Black Froghopper, which cocoons itself on its leaves in the famous ‘cuckoo spit’. Which brings me to the next photo…

Not on the Bladder Campion, but on nearby nettles – I guess the Froghopper couldn’t wait for the Campion to appear.

Another favourite flower is one that appeared the other day on the lower river path, a Hedge Woundwort.

As its name suggests, in olden times it was commonly used in the healing of wounds, both to stem bleeding and as an antiseptic. John Gerard, the early 17th century herbalist, was a great advocate of the plant, while his now rather more famous successor Nicholas Culpepper believed it to be “second to none” for the purpose. Again, only the one flower so far, but hopefully it will spread.

On the insect front, the ladybirds are beginning to appear, although sadly they are all Harlequins at the moment. Fascinatingly though, the other day I spotted three stages of Harlequin development within a few yards. First a nymph…

Then a pupa…

And then the offending beetle itself

Fortunately there are only a few so far, but they can lay thousands of eggs, and eat anything, from aphids to the larvae of other ladybirds, as well as those of moths, butterflies and other insects. I have yet to see a native ladybird along the river this year, but hopefully that’s only because it’s early in the season yet – or because I don’t wear my glasses when walking!

And finally, the butterflies.

The Speckled Woods (above) have been around for a month or so now, but slowly others are beginning to emerge, like the Meadow Brown below, moving through the leaves like a shark through waves, and the Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell below that. Hopefully the first of many!

Bye for now!

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