Flanders Moss NNR
With summer comes the creepy crawlies. And the Flanders boardwalk is a great way to see some of the bog inhabitants. A warm day is probably better though these creatures become so active of hot days that you only see specks buzzing by. So, sometimes evenings or mornings are more productive than mid day if you are on the hunt for invertebrates. A slow walk with lots of stops is needed to track down some of these creatures.
Probably our most important butterfly is the large heath. It only lives on bogs so as bog habitats have been destroyed the large heath population is declining. They are on the wing at the moment so the boardwalk can be a good place to see them. They are not the most striking of butterfly but the caterpillars are really cool. They are so well adapted to bogs that when they are feeding on their food plant, the bog cotton, they can live underwater for up to 2 weeks at a time!
Some of the most obvious insects are the dragons and damsels. At the moment it is mainly four-spotted chaser dragonflies like this one. Or large red damselflies. But other species will appear as the season goes on.
Dragon and damselflies spend more of their life underwater than flying around. When the are ready to emerge they crawl up vegetation or any other structures close to the water and then burst out of their larval skin like an alien. At the moment hanging on the bridge on the boardwalk are lots of damselfly larval skins looking like ghosts of larva past.
When at the bridge it is well worth leaning over it for a while. Not only does this just seem to be the right thing to do but it means that you can also have a look for water beasties. Below are the whirligig beetles (whirlygiggle beetles to my daughter). If you see them you will know why they get their name. I like the fact that they have 4 eyes – 2 for seeing above the water and 2 for seeing below the water.
And dodging the whirligig beetles are the pond skaters. Big predators that wait for something to get stuck on the surface of the water and then they run in and pierce the body with a pointy mouth part and suck out the juices. They know when a creature is struggling on the surface by feeling for ripples with adapted legs. As you can imagine therefore when it rains they go hungry.
Also on the wing are some fantastic flies. I know that some can bite so are not popular but if you get the chance they are worth looking at. This cleg below is the silent leg chewer: somehow they produce no buzz and the first you know of them is the feeling of a hot needle going under the skin. But they have great eyes and beautifully patterned wings. There are also about some huge horse flies with bright metallic green eyes and red bodies. They are so big it takes 3 these flies to get you: 2 will hold you down while the other will bite. Naturally I didn’t manage to get a photo of them.