Its been a while since my last post and Warwick Gardens has burst into life. It seems the warm winter and the recent hot weather has allowed certain species to flourish. The new edible hedge is doing well with the first fruit being a fine crop of fat gooseberries, the thistles are back with a vengeance and a new patch of black horehound has sprung up. The insect life is certainly abundant with record numbers of bees, beetles, bugs and butterflies. There have been new sightings of red-headed cardinal beetles, the plant bug Leptopterna ferrugata, bordered shield bug and a tiny wasp which i am trying to get an ID for… But this post is about all things tortoise!
The Green tortoise beetle is what I would call a paranoid beetle in the way it has equipped itself to avoid detection. I usually find them face down tucked between the thistle leaves but this year they have decided to hang out on the Lesser burdock. The vast leaves of this plant are a playground for these beetles – I have never seen them so active! Running across the leaves, flying, mating and, of course, when you approach them they behave just like tortoises, pulling their antennae and feet in and pulling their ‘shell’ tight down around them. They really blend into the green background, making them difficult to spot. The larvae are equally careful about being detected: these little spiky beings carry their poo on their backs!
Another new sighting in the park has been the Tortoise shield bug. I have been really pleased to find these as they have been on my ‘wish list’ for a while. I spotted the first one amongst the comfrey bushes when I was photographing flower bees. Since then I have found five. They seem to differ in colouration – from a rather dull brown to wonderful pink/brown mottled ‘tortoise’ markings. They have been mating so the next challenge is to find the nymphs. I will keep you posted!
Our best known British butterfly has to be the beautiful Tortoiseshell butterfly. One of the first butterflies out in the spring, they are the denizens of urban gardens. Their bright orange tortoiseshell markings really brighten up the day. This year they have been in abundance in Warwick Gardens, with a fine showing of caterpillars on the nettles.