Volunteers play an essential role here in our Wildlife Garden. They help with practical tasks including planting and pruning, composting and coppicing or messing about on the pond – more about this later…
Observing wildlife is also part of the day’s work for wildlife gardeners and volunteers.
Since the day the Garden opened, our gardeners, volunteers, Museum scientists and other specialists have recorded some of the many species that have colonised or visited it. Of the 2,300 taxa entered on to our database, notable records have been collected over the years from groups including moths and butterflies, dragonflies and waterfleas, bryophytes and lichens - and more.
The image below shows a sample of sightings this year - mainly collected during mid week ‘lunch-time recording sessions’ when some of our scientists come outside and share their knowledge, sandwiches and survey methods. Below are some photographs of those lunch-time moments, from August and September this year.
A small selection moths from the previous night’s trapping including Jersey tiger moth (foreground)
Image: Jonathan Jackson NHM
We set our moth light trap as often as weather permits (so not very often this year!). Martin Honey, Lepidoptera curator, who has recorded and identified over 500 species of moths in the Garden, has a wealth of knowledge, and has patiently taught some of us all we know about moths. Once identified, the moths are carefully released back into the Garden.
We spotted the sawfly larvae below during a walk exploring leaf mines and they were initially mistaken as caterpillars but, as Museum lepidopterist Alessandro Giusti explained, the larvae of sawflies (Symphyta) have at least 6 pairs of abdominal legs (pro-legs) compared to 5 or less on Lepidoptera caterpillars. When disturbed, as these were, the larvae lift and curl their abdomen over their heads. Lepidoptera caterpillars also have sclerotized hook-like structures at the end of their prolegs, called crochets. These allow the caterpillar to hold on to surfaces. Sawfly larvae don’t have crochets. However, one might need a hand lens to see these structures.
Sawfly larvae on willow – taken by volunteer Sophia Pomiakowski
Stuart Hine, Manager of the Angela Marmont Centre and 'bombuslucorum' on our Identification forums identified these sawfly larvae as Nematis species.
Blow flies have been studied in the Garden but up to now, very few other families of flies (Diptera) have received the same attention.This year, we are learning to love flies, and records have greatly increased since the Museum’s Erica McAlister and Duncan Sivell set up a ‘malaise trap’ earlier this summer. We will be reporting on malaise trapping in the next few weeks so more on the ‘what and how’ at a later date.
Wildlife gardener, Daniel Osborne examining the malaise trap with a little help from our sheep
Adrian Rundle, Learning Curator, has led pond life workshops in the Garden for the past 12 years, and has been running training sessions for Wildlife Garden volunteers this summer. We'll share more pond moments in future blogs.
Image: Naomi Lake (c)
More of our wildlife sightings in the Garden next week...