A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
Lots of colour seems to have been the order of the day for the wildlife in Clewers Lane. This Green Woodpecker was sighted searching for ants on a garden lawn – and leaving many tell-tale little holes in the turf
GREEN WOODPECKER, CLEWERS LANE
On a much smaller scale, but equally as colourful, this Ruby Tailed Wasp seems like a tiny, animated piece of jewellery – ruby, sapphire and emerald as it scurries over a wall in the bright June sunshine looking for nests of masonry bees. The wasp lays its eggs in the bee’s nest and when the eggs hatch, the wasp larvae feed on the bee larvae. Pretty but deadly! :
RUBY TAILED WASP, CLEWERS LANE
Also putting in an appearance in the June Sunshine was this large and beautiful yellow-coloured Darter (a kind of Dragonfly) which goes by the splendid name of Broad-Bodied Lubellula. This is a female of the species and about 6 cms nose to tail:
BROAD BODIED LUBELLULA, CLEWERS LANE
Not to be outdone in the colour stakes, a couple of caterpillars were active. First the caterpillar of the Vapourer Moth, which is a hairy beast about 3 cms long whose hairs can cause severe skin irritation, so best not to touch:
CATERPILLAR OF VAPOURER MOTH, CLEWERS LANE
Bright colours are usually a sign that insects are either not very nice to eat or are just plain nasty and as a consequence they don’t bother to hide. This is the case with this brightly coloured caterpillar of the Mullein Moth, a gang of which will quite quickly chomp through Buddleia shrubs:
MULLEIN MOTH CATERPILLAR, CLEWERS LANE
The caterpillar is about 3 cms long at this stage, and is still growing and making no attempt to conceal itself.
A more subtle colour scheme usually suggests camouflage and this moth, which is about 3 cms from tip to tail, is called Angle Shades:
ANGLE SHADES MOTH, CLEWERS LANE
However, it doesn’t seem to be making a good job of camouflaging itself in this snapshot!
Another insect which doesn’t make much of an effort to hide is the Yellow and Black Longhorn beetle, so one can infer that they are probably unpleasant to the taste. The name refers to the colour of the beetle and its antennae, which are almost as long as its body (2.5 cms). The longhorn flies to pollen rich plants such as cow parsley and other umbellifers which grow in the verge. It’s pretty clumsy and covers itself with pollen as it lurches about on the flower heads:
YELLOW AND BLACK LONGHORN BEETLE, CLEWERS LANE
This little beetle is only about the size of a ladybird, but is quite eye catching nonetheless. It is the appropriately named Emerald Beetle:
EMERALD BEETLE, CLEWERS LANE
The Dog Rose plants show the presence of an insect which is even smaller than the emerald beetle: it is the Gall Wasp and it is about the size of a small ant. Although I don’t have a picture of the wasp, I do have a picture of the galls which it creates on wild roses, and which house the larvae of the wasp. The Galls are call Robin’s Pincushion and can be seen in this picture as red or green spikey growths. On the left of the picture, you can see the brown husk of one of last year’s galls, showing the tiny exit hole from where the new wasps emerged:
ROBIN’S PINCUSHION, CLEWERS LANE
The Common Mallow plants are now in flower along the verges of Clewers Lane. The plant is a relative of the Hollyhock of cottage garden fame. In mediaeval times, the mallow was regarded as an anti-aphrodisiac, promoting calm and sober conduct. I wonder if the derivation of the word ‘mellow’ is connected.
COMMON MALLOW, CLEWERS LANE
June is the time when many of England’s wild orchids are at their best. One of our tallest wild orchids is the Early Purple Orchid which reaches an impressive 50 centimetres or more. One of the gardens in Clewers Hill has a number of these perennial plants growing wild and I was given the opportunity to take a snapshot. Here is a small group:
EARLY PURPLE ORCHIDS, CLEWERS HILL
The West Country name for the plant was ‘long purples’ and in Hamlet, Shakespeare included the plant in the garlands which were used to drape the drowned body of Ophelia.
And finally, this month, to conclude on the theme of bright colours, here is a snapshot of a pretty butterfly basking in the sun on a brightly coloured flower – it must be summer!
SMALL TORTOISESHELL, CLEWERS LANE