30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-four.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: For the last Close Up Monday of 2019’s 30 Days Wild, I am focusing on dragonflies.

My interest was piqued after reading that these large, colourful insects spend most of their larval stage in water. When they emerge as adults they shed their exoskeleton and are found clinging to nearby foliage for two hours whilst they pump blood into their wings for flight.

There are three stages to the life cycle of a dragonfly: egg, nymph and adult.

life-cycle-of-a-dragonfly-coloring-pageegg: mating occurs whilst flying and afterwards the female will lay her eggs on or near water.

nymph: or larvae is the longest stage of the dragonfly life cycle and can take up to four years. During this time the nymph is aquatic and eats other nymphs.

adult: once the time and conditions are right the nymph will crawl out of the water and shed it’s exoskeleton or exuvia, whilst resting on a plant. On the wing they look for food (they are voracious hunters) and to mate (to begin the cycle again). The lifespan of an adult is two months.

There are 23 species of dragonfly in the UK. Along with damselflies, dragonflies are of the Odonata order, meaning ‘toothed jaws. Both species have four sets of wings. Dragonflies can beat each pair of wings together or separately, and can fly at almost 30mph. They breathe through spiracles in the side of the abdomen. Dragonflies predate on flies, mosquitoes, bees and butterflies. Dragonflies have the largest eyes of the insect world and 80% of their brain is devoted to vision.

It was during the hot summer of 2018 when I saw the most dragonflies.

Have you seen any dragonflies this year? What’s your favourite?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further Reading:

The Wildlife Trusts

The Woodland Trust

British Dragonflies

Animal Corner

YPTE Factsheet

Dragonfly Site

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-one.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_21Day 21: Happy Litha or Summer Solstice!

2019’s longest day, saw the UK welcome 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. However, after all this celebration of light, the shorter days and darker nights begin from here. Today the weather for the NW of England has been fair and warm. Perfect weather to release my painted lady butterflies.

I was sad to see my butterflies fly but knew I had given them the best start in life.

painted lady butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

After coming home from work David and I headed out to a sun drenched yarden. The chirrup of sparrows and the cooing of pigeons sounded in the air. Once I had opened the habitat one butterfly, (I would like to think it was my little caterpillar who hadn’t made it to the top of the cup), flew straight up into the air! The other four butterflies needed a little more coaxing. I noticed one feeding on the watermelon I had given them before he/she took to the wing.

All five butterflies safely flew away. I hope they enjoy the sunshine on this solstice and manage to breed and begin the cycle again.

It has been a wonderful experience. I was amazed at how quickly I grew attached to the caterpillars and then saddened when they became chrysalids, but soon celebrated the emergence of them as butterflies. Nature is truly miraculous!

Would I do it all again? Probably, though I stressed about feeding the butterflies and when I couldn’t release them. But the positive experience more than out weighed the worries.

Have you been inspired to give the experience a go? If so, you can read more about butterfly gardens from Insect Lore.

Thanks for following my caterpillars to butterflies,

Stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Four.

download (1)Day 4: For this year’s 30 Days Wild, I ordered in preparation five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore. I’ve known about this activity for a while now and decided that 2019 was the year to focus on the miraculous metamorphosis of caterpillar to butterfly. My butterfly garden and pack of five live caterpillars arrived a week before June. It’s been amazing watching them grow(doubling in size daily) for twelve days now.

I’ve grown very fond of my hungry caterpillars, but it won’t be long before they’ll create chrysalises and the next stage of the metamorphosis will begin. For today’s post I want to focus on the larval stage. Below find photos showing the caterpillars incredible growth.

Have you tried a butterfly garden? Watched your own caterpillars grow into butterflies?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eleven

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_11Day 11: For today’s Close Up Monday, the species in question is the tiny but mighty tadpole.

In our minuscule wildlife pond we have at least two tadpoles. It has been thrilling to see them develop. At present they have grown their limbs and will soon emerge from the pond. Let’s look more closely into their life-cycle.

A female frog or toad can lay up to 50,000 eggs known as frogspawn. Tadpoles are the larval stage of the cycle and hatch from around 1-3 weeks. They eat vegetation and have adapted jaws to do this.

tadpole

Tadpole with legs

The tadpoles in our yarden have been undergoing a fascinating metamorphosis. Unlike the butterfly, who goes into a crystals to morph, the tadpole changes before our very eyes.

Lungs develop, gills vanish, and limbs grow. I thought one of our tadpoles looked pretty mean! You can see its limbs clearly in the picture. Over time the tail is absorbed and the frog/toad becomes terrestrial.

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Lifecyle of Frog/Toad

Frogs and toads are Anuran which means tail-less. Their skin is permeable to water meaning that if a frog is thirsty they just have to jump into water, while toads just need to find a muddy spot in which to absorb moisture through their stomachs. Frogs and toads are carnivorous and eat mosquitoes, files, snails and other invertebrates. Frogs reach maturity at three years old whereas toads at four. Frogs can live up to eight years and toads 12 years. I found most of my information from the Woodland Trust website, here. and Arkansas Frogs and Toads.

Do you have any frogs/toads living in your pond?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild.

Christine x