The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Close-up Dorset – insects

Tristan Bantock takes us up close and personal with photographs of a tiny fraction of Dorset's vast array of insects

The cliff tiger beetle's long legs allow it to speed after prey before catching it in its large and rather fearsome jaws. Even when young they are voracious eaters; the larvae live in burrows in damp sand, where they lie in ambush for unsuspecting victims which are grabbed and pulled in to be eaten.

Mention ‘bugs’ to many people, and they may react physically with the immediate appearance of an involuntary and idiopathic itch followed by a self-comforting scratch.

Eristalines sepulchralis, with its crazy two-tone eyes, is nothing more sinister than a hoverfly

As with insects generally, Dorset’s invertebrates vastly outnumber all other animal life, but whilst we are all aware of bees (although probably only a fraction of them), wasps, house-flies, dragonflies and butterflies, these are but a tiny slice of the insect life which clears up after us, provides food for birds and generally gets on with its life without the general public being even aware of its existence.

The largest native moth in Dorset: the privet hawk moth (Sphinx ligustri). Its wingspan can be bigger than the breadth of a man's hand (about five inches). When disturbed, the male can make a hissing sound by rubbing scales and spines on its abdomen.

 

A Chalkhill blue (Lysandra coridon)

Insects are not only prey species, though, many are expert hunters in their own right and when viewed close-to, the evidence of how well they are equipped to catch and kill their prey becomes clear.

A rather less benign-looking view of the cliff tiger beetle

 

The common wainscot (Mythimna pallens) looks almost as if it is made of wood veneer. The name comes from the riven-oak boards its texture resembles.

Some insects are, in effect, solar powered – after soaking up the warming rays of the sun, they are able to carry on about their business with the addditional energy. Dorset’s coastline is a particularly good place for these to live.

Cryptorhynchus lapathi – a weevil which attacks poplar and willow trees, bears a striking resemblance to the Muppet Show's Gonzo

 

Nowickia ferox – a fly. The adults feed on nectar, but they are endoparasitoids – as pupae they eat their way out of their hosts (dark arches moths) from the inside.

For all their scary features, few insects bother humans directly so, as Nick Ross would say on Crimewatch: ‘Don’t have nightmares’.

The scarlet tiger moth (Callimorpha dominula) feeds largely on comfrey

 

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