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The Friends of Alexandra Park have organised several walks where we looked for, and identified insects and other small creatures.  The first walk, in 2011, was mostly aimed at adults but most of the subsequent events have been family events.

Talk: Plight of the Bumblebee, November 2018

We enjoyed a fascinating insight into the life and importance of Bumblebees by Gill Perkins CEO of the Bumbleebee Conservation Trust.

We found out that although honey bees are important pollinators, bumblebees are vital as the only pollinators of tomatoes, potatoes and strawberries amongst others.

We were show a short video illustrating the unique method that the bumblebees have for extracting the pollen from certain plants that don't openly offer their pollen. This method is called buzz pollination. Want to have it explained? Check out this little video.

We had insight into how bumblebees generate enough lift from 
such small wings and a large body. The body contains large muscles and the wings rotate generating lift on both the up and down strokes.

There are 24 or 25 species of bumblebee of which 6 are parasitic cuckoo bees so a manageable number to study..... 

The threats to the insects were also outlined with the 97% reduction in wild flower meadows since WW2 and the danger posed by neonicotinoids and other pesticides as well as the pests and diseases brought in via imported bumblebees (used for crop pollination).

An interesting Q and A followed with one answer being sugar solution (not honey) as a first aid drink for bumblebees looking a bit bedraggled.

Gill brought along an extensive amount of merchandise for the Friends to buy.... We purchased "Bumblebees, an introduction" and "What's that Bumblebee?"

What to help and join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust? Follow this link.

Family Bug Hunt, August 2018

A rush of last minute bookings contributed to a very successful Bug Hunt. Large and Small White butterflies were found as well as three different species of ladybird; Harlequin, 16 spot and the 24 spot (pictured left).

Shieldbugs were also scooped up including Green ShieldbugsBishop's Mitre Shieldbugs and Dock Bugs.

Roesel's Bush Cricket and Common Field Grasshoppers were found in the grass.

Spiders of all sizes were found including a particularly smart Garden Spider.

Rebecca explained to us that Ichneumon Wasps are the more primitive forms with the social wasps evolving more recently.

Earwigs were also found and we were told that the females look after their young.

One attendee was not so interested in the finds and had to entertained in other ways.

What else was found? Red spider mites and caterpillars as well as some other beetles.

Family Bug Hunt, August 2017

We welcomed Bex back to lead our Family Bug Hunt in August. 

Luckily summery, sunny weather was the order of the day. Youngsters and Oldsters were quite to grab nets and trays and set out see what beasties could be found. Mirid bugs and Harvestmen (spider relatives) were brought in a good quantity. 

On the ladybird front several Harlequin were found together with four or five 16 spots - this small species pictured. 

Ashy Mining Bee was admired as was a Grasshopper and several Earwigs. Butterflies eluded the nets, but Gatekeeper, Common Blue and some unidentified Whites were seen.

Probably one of the more impressive finds was a large Ichneumon Wasp.

Family Bug Hunt, July 2016

A great group of families turned up on the hunt for bugs and beasties. On hand was Rebecca aided by Dave to help identify the finds. 

The weather was warm so plenty of butterflies were on the wing includingMeadow Browns (pic of caterpillar also seen)Gatekeepers and a pair of mating Large White were seen.

Lots of Mirid Bugs were spotted and Soldier Beetles covered the ragwort.

Seen also was 7 spot ladybird as well as the Harlequin - also seen a Harlequin larva.

Grasshoppers and crickets were seen in the grass - this is a Speckled Bush-Cricket. (pic on left shows participants holding it up)

Some things found were very small like this weevil only about 3mm long.

A list of some of the bugs seen:

Mirid bug (leptopterna  dolabrata) - female, plus other varieties of this bug.
Shield bug (carpocorus fuscipinis)
1st & 3rd instars of shield bug
Soldier beetle - lots
Thick legged beetle
Small Mayfly
Seven spot ladybird
Speckled bush cricket
Field grasshopper
Caterpillar of meadow brown butterfly
Meadow brown butterfly
Rare beetle (bledius furcatus)

Looking forward to next year.

Butterfly Count and Insect Search,
June 2016

A small group of all ages met together on an overcast, but warm day to see what Butterflies we could count and what other insects we could see/identify.

The list of butterflies included Meadow Brown (pictured), Large Skipper, and probably a Small Skipper (could be Essex). 

We managed to identify five different moths; Yellow Shell, Silver Y Moth, Large Yellow Underwing, Heart and Dart and a caterpillar of the Six Burnet Moth.

We spotted Rosel's Bush Cricket and Speckled Bush Cricket as well as a Meadow Grasshopper.

Among the bees were Honey Bee, Common Carder Bee, Red Tailed Bumble Bee, Leaf Cutter and Vestal Cuckoo Bee.

Yellow Longhorn and Swollen Leg beetles were spotted in the the grass.

Several Meadow Plant Bugs were observed as well as vibrantly coloured Weevil (Phyllobius roboretanus or virideaeris)

We spotted Flesh flies - with the beautifully discriptive Genus name Sarcophaga - and one colourful fly spotted was the Pellucid Fly. (Volucella pellucens) - pictured

Ants were also seen, but not identified.

Also found was a Nursery Web Spider, but that is not an insect......... 

Family Bug Hunt,
July 2015

It was a lovely sunny Saturday for our Family Bug Hunt. We found at least 3 types of ladybird, lots of 7-spots, a few 16-spots and a 24-spot and one small ladybird lava was spotted.

Top among the numbers found were soldier beetles in their striking orange colour. We also found a Rosel's Bush-Cricket and another grasshopper.

A ground beetle was captured and proceeded to eat a stint bug which looks a bit like mini grasshopper. Other intriguing finds were an immature Bishop's Mitre Shield Bug and a Mirid Bug.

We scoured the ragwort looking for the colourful cinnabar moth caterpillars and finally one was found.

Several types of butterfly were seen including skippers, whites and meadow browns. What else? Several types of spider including a Green Orb Web Spider.

The kids (and adults!) enjoyed the hunt a lot and the bugs were released back into the park. Rosel's Bush-Cricket and 7-spot ladybird pictures from another occasion. Pictures from the day.

Family Bug Hunt, August 2014

We had a good turn out for our Family Bug Hunt on Saturday, 16th August. Sun and a bit of wind. We managed to find some grasshoppers and a common blue butterfly.
Among the highlights found were a green mosquito, a large number of cinnabar moth caterpillars, an ant lion (lacewing lava) and this juvenile Green Shield Bug.
Thanks to Bex assisted by Dave for providing the expert identifications.

Here is a list of what was found:

Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus) - 2

22 Spot Ladybird (Psyllobora 22-punctata) - 5

Common froghopper (Philaenus spumarius) - 3

Lacewing larva (antlion relative) - 1 (picture)

Green Shield Bug nymph (Palomina presina) - 2 (picture)

Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) -1

Harpalus affinis - 1

Ladybird larvae - (10+)

Mirid Bug (Polymerus unifasciatus) - 1

Mirid Bug (Stenodema laevigatum) - 1

Ichneumon wasp (Coelichnewmon delirorus) - 1

Family Bug Hunt, August 2013.

Over twenty adults and children turned up for a hunt for bugs in Alexandra Park on a sun-blessed Sunday in August, 2013.  

Rob Wallace
kindly helped out as an expert identifier. He gave a quick briefing on how to use the sweep nets and where to search for invertebrates.

Lots of bu
tterflies were seen including small copper, small blue, meadow brown, large white and gatekeeper. Both kids and adults enthusiastically hunted in the grass and shook the trees for creepy crawlies.

Small Copper

We found out about ladybird lifecycles and spotted many of them including 7 spot, 22 spot, harlequin and the best spot, an adonis ladybird. On the larger side, colourful buff-tip and cinnabar moth caterpillars were found and admired.

Bug Hunt, July 2012

We held our first Family Bug Hunt in July, 2012.

We  provided pots, nets and magnifying glasses, together with guidance of what to look for and how to identify it.

It was a fine warm day, and the event was attended by around 30 adults and children.

Thanks to Rob Wallace, who was our local 'expert', a fun time was had by all.

Insect Hunt, August 2011

An insect hunt took place in Alexandra Park on Sunday 14th August, 2011.

Tristan Bantock, a local entomologist, led a fascinating walk showing us some of the many insects species in the Park.

It ended up by going up the southern slope to see the fine specimen trees at the top of the hill, where the cafe was conveniently near for a closing cup of tea.

This is a picture of the Parent Bug (Elasmucha grisea) guarding its offspring, which was taken during our Insect walk in August, 2011. 

Other pictures taken on the day:

 Gatekeeper Butterfly  Lesser Marsh Grasshopper  Birch Shield Bug Nymph