More highlights from 2022

What we enjoy about wildlife gardening is that even in a small area, there is an incredible amount to observe. You really don’t need to drive to the countryside to get your wildlife fix, although its not a bad idea to get out and about.

For example in just 18 months we have uploaded over 100 video shorts and clips to our YouTube channel for the sole purposes of sharing on this site. We could probably double this number with the ones we haven’t had time to work on. Likewise photographs of unusual behaviour and interesting species fill up a hard drive we own.

Below are some more of the things we had yet to organise and upload to during 2022.

Carrying young

Female Spotted Wolf Spiders don’t just lug their egg sack around with them. Once hatched the diligent mother also carriers the newly born young around for a period of time for extra protection. A formidable form of protection against any arthropod after a small snack.

Viruses. With the advent of home Covid tests, we questioned whether we should, after having contracted the disease and coughed repeatedly in the garden, add Covid 19 to our species list (remembering the objective of this project is to list all species we find in one small garden). This opens up the debate on whether viruses can be considered life at all. For now we will steer clear of that minefield and leave viruses off the list. But clearly plants and animals suffer from a wide array of viruses, whether they are considered life or not, they do have an impact on wildlife that we probably don’t fully appreciate.

As most gardeners can attest, there are a few species of bird that, provided you spend enough time in the garden, do eventually become accustomed to having a human about and will forage and explore around you with little concern. Just don’t make any sudden movements or noise. Two such common species are the Robin and Blackbird, shown in the video below looking for a wriggly snack following a little bit of soil preparation we undertook.

Often you get to save an insect from a pond/bucket of water and for a short period, as it dries itself, you get the chance to take a close look at the little fella. In this case a honeybee found itself in a spot of bother and using an old branch we managed to get her safely to dry land but not before she gave her proboscis a good clean. We’d never appreciate what a substantial organ the proboscis was, and clearly it needs to be kept in good condition.

Obviously the more wildlife friendly you can make your garden the more there will be to see. So keep your gardens a little untidy, reduce disturbance whilst at the same time creating better and more diverse habitats and you will be amazed what turns up. Beats watching the TV any day.

If we have time we will continue to add more photos and videos from 2022 until spring comes along and it all starts again.

DC: 18/01/2023

Lasius niger – Regicide

Back in July this year we recorded the video below. It shows a Lasius niger worker ant using its considerable strength to move the dead body of a fellow ant. This is likely a behaviour known as ‘Necrophoresis’, where dead individuals are removed from the nest for sanitation reasons, a behaviour often seen in certain Hymenoptera (Wasps, Ants and Bees).

Like many we were aware that ants possess incredible strength and also vaguely aware that dead ants were often moved some distance from a nest to protect the colony from potential diseases. The term Necrophoresis was something we hadn’t come across before and it would be interesting to see it in other species.

However what we seem to be looking at above is the removal of a dead queen! As we touched upon in a previous post back on new years day, Lasius niger queens have an extraordinary longevity for a species this size, typically surviving for 15 years (records of up to 29 years have been made). As such we wondered if we had filmed something unusual and were perhaps witnessing the death of a colony. As once the queen has perished the colony has no means to replenish its numbers and gradually dies off. Although new evidence suggests some species can ‘promote’ certain worker ants (which are female) to queen status.

It turns out a more likely explanation for Lasius niger is that the worker ants resorted to ‘Regicide’ and killed the queen themselves. Apparently, this happens near the time of the formation of the colony. From time to time more than one queen will help Found the colony. After a short interval and once the first worker class has been produced, all but the most productive queen are killed by the workers. The short video below was taken the day after the one above, in roughly the same location and appears to show another worker ant disposing of the abdomen of a queen ant, we assume a different individual.

It seems royalty does not protect one from Necrophoresis in the world of Lasius niger and what we possibly witnessed above is an ant preforming ‘Undertaker’ duties and removing the unwanted queens corpse.

DC: 22/12/2022

The Nosey Ninja’s

We never really thought about a favourite garden species before! However, it’s December, and that means a Christmas Break and some time to tidy up/organise all the thousands of photographs and videos taken throughout 2022. It was whilst doing this we came across a little video which we had totally forgot about (link below), featuring perhaps our all-time favourite garden species the Zebra Spiders, or as we call them Nosey Ninja’s.

We have touched on Anthropomorphism before, the tendency to apply human traits or behaviours to specific animals. It is generally frowned upon, unless you’re a primatologist, in which case it seems to be the stuff of books.

But sometimes it’s hard not to see a slice of ourselves in the other inhabitants of the Garden. In this case it’s hard to ignore the fact that Zebra Spiders, or more accurately Salticus scenicus, are just darn right nosey, or at the very least super inquisitive.

They seem fearless of humans and stroll, run, jump or descend upon you for no other reason than to look you up and down. Reminding us that in the Garden you are not just always being watched, but also judged by these nosey critters.

In the video below, for a short while we follow one such Ninja as he (check out the big head…boys have big heads!) investigates our placing pots and seed trays on the roof of the wildlife hotel. As if to say ‘Yer fella! What’s this all about then?’

The Nosey Ninjas

Biologically speaking these guys are not of course nosey, but simply looking for their next meal. They initially depend on eyesight alone. Then their speed allows for a fast approach, with that final jump allowing them to bring home the bacon.

A garden resident we hope will always be about to cheer us up!

DC: 16th December 2022

Candle-snuff Fungus and Soil Condition

The sad truth is fungi are under recorded in the garden, in no small part because of past gardening practices. The garden was dug over twice in ten years which isn’t great for fungi as it can destroy their hyphal networks.

Fungi can be difficult to identify further adding to a lack of confirmed species on the Garden species list. This we demonstrated recently when we tried to identify a rather drab brown mushroom found in the wetland area, click HERE to see how we got on. Thankfully we have over the last couple of years found a small handful of distinct species such as Jelly-ear, Turkey Tail and Green Elf Cap to at least make a start on a fungi list.

Today we recorded one of our favourite species, the Candle-snuff Fungus, so called because it looks reasonably like the smoke you get when extinguishing a candle (although our garden example isn’t the best).

It is a widespread and common species, but like all the above mentioned species it is very much associated with rotting wood. We are still clearly lacking grassland fungi and this we know hasn’t always been the case.

The latest thinking suggests a lack of grassland fungi can be symptomatic of poor soil condition, not just through digging but also compaction and the impact both these can have on other species such as earth worms. In Amy Stewarts brilliant book, The Earth Moved (Ref 15: Click HERE), Stewart explains how earth worms and their slimy tunnels help fungi spread beneath the ground. Healthy soils mean more earth worms, which in turn means more fungi and bacteria breaking down vegetable matter and adding organic materials to the soil structure. This in turn helps air and water to penetrate the soils further improving the soils natural ability to recycle plant nutrients.

A priority for the Garden is to now prevent any future damage to the soil structure and allow it to fully recover, hopefully it is already well and we are just waiting for the fungi to catch up. This will mean not walking excessively on it when wet (we’ve always tried to avoid this), avoiding adding nutrients and pesticides and adopting a no-dig approach wherever possible.

DC: 29.10.2022

Now how did that happen?

On the 19th June 2022 we came across something we couldn’t really explain, but have just found a possible (if unlikely) answer to. Dangling from a bramble stem, by a single thread of silk (around 15cm long), we found a dead black ant and three green aphids, also dead. How they all ended up in this predicament we were unsure.

We do appreciate the quality of the video is not great, it was a tad windy, but you can clearly see this wasn’t your typical case of ‘spider captures prey’. The victim/s wasn’t wrapped in silk or it seems damaged in any particular way. In short it wasn’t processed. Suggesting the perpetrator was unaware of it’s success.

We were baffled and then we forgot all about it. However we just read about a species of spider called Cryptachaea riparia, which has an unusual way of setting its trap. It spins single threads from its web directly down to the ground where they are secured with a blob of gum/glue. Ants, being busy fellas, are frequent prey for this species, as whilst rummaging around if an ant accidently wanders into the gum, it becomes instantly stuck. To make matters worse the thread then snaps, and being under tension retracts, lifting the poor ant to its fate.

In all likelihood this isn’t what happened. For a start it doesn’t really explain the three dead aphids, then again we are not sure what could. Secondly this species of spider is nationally scarce. However until we can find a better explanation we will consider this an interesting possibility…

DC: 13.10.2022

500th Species

A bit of a milestone for was reached today. We have listed the 500th species recorded in the Garden.

There were actually a few species we could have chosen from but we settled on a bit of a mystery. The honour we decided would go to a beetle, and why not, after all the Order to which they belong is the largest in the animal kingdom, the Coleoptera.

The species itself? The Hazel-leaf Roller Weevil, Apoderus coryli. The mystery? Well, we haven’t actually seen one yet! We’ve only seen the cigars they make…

This rather neat roll-up was undertaken by the female of the species. Tucked away inside as you may have guessed are representatives of the next generation. The image was taken in June this year.

Our understanding is there isn’t much else that creates something like this on hazel, so we were confident enough to add it to the species list as a ‘Most Likely Species’ record.

We would love to see the adults of this species as they are a striking red and black affair. For now though we will have to make do with this rather impressive construction…

We have also marked this milestone with a new look to the website. We thought the original design was a little flat so added some colour and structure to it, a lick of pixel paint so to speak…

DC: 09.10.2022

Common Field Grasshopper – New Garden Species

Earlier in the summer we got our first decent photograph of the grasshoppers we knew we had, but could never confirm to species level. Thanks to the image below we can now record our hoppers as being the Common Field Grasshopper – Chorthippus brunneus


We think most people are aware that grasshoppers make their iconic sound by rubbing their back legs against their rough wing cases, a process known as Stridulation. Luckily we managed to sneak up on one of the hoppers and record it making its iconic chirp…

…that’s some mighty fine stridulation fella.

So what are these guys doing in the garden? Primarily they are simply feeding. According to several online sources they like finer grasses. So the grasses typically found in our garden, such as rye grass, cock’s-foot, false-oat grass and yorkshire fog are all a bit coarse for their liking. However this year we have sown, as part of the meadow mix, several species of finer grass so hopefully we are gradually making our garden more hopper friendly.

It is of course important to retain some long areas of grass, which we do for the most part. They feed on grasses and little else, so all in all they should be happy to settle down with us.

DC – 09/09/2022

UPDATE 2! Garden Tiger Moth – Arctia caja

We thought it would be nice for a final word (perhaps!) on the Garden Tiger Moth caterpillars we previously blogged about. Picking up from where we left off (13th August), the caterpillars continued to happily munch their way through Green Alkanet and Bind Weed.

Later that day a flesh fly came visiting. It is of course wrong to anthropomorphise, but it was hard not to assign a distinct level of confusion to this lone dipteran visitor, who seemed to taste the caterpillars (via his taste sensitive feet) before deciding they were of no use and buzzed off…

The weather turned a little, especially between the 15th and the 19th August and we welcomed one or two heavy downpours. When we next checked on the caterpillars (20th August) they were initially nowhere to be seen. Our concern being they had been washed away by the rains, predated on, or perhaps both. However after a while we did start to find a few stragglers, some in rather unusual places. Such as this little fella out on the pond looking a smidge lost…

20th August 2022

We felt obliged to rescue the poor fella. Whether it actually wanted to be saved is another matter. We relocated him to a fresh patch of Green Alkanet and off he went, soggy but now at least on terra firma…

20th August 2022

Unfortunately not all the larva we found seemed in good condition. The specimen in the video below appears to have something frustrating it, perhaps some form of mite on its rear or some other parasite. We dashed off to get a macro lens to have a look but found no sign of the little fella when we got back…

The following guy didn’t seem to need saving at all, having found another species of plant to munch on. A young buddleia in this case, a large meal unto itself, we decided to leave it be…

20th August 2022

We continued to look for any larva that needed help and finding none we thought ‘Oh well!’ Picking up our copy of Great Britain’s Hoverflies to head inside, we were surprised to find three more of the guys crawling all over the book. Where these particular guys came from we have no idea, but off to the Green Alkanet patch they went…

20th August 2022

It’s the 28th August as we write this and there are no signs of the caterpillars anywhere, including the Green Alkanet patch we used for relocation. Fingers crossed some will make it and we will find latter stage larva elsewhere in the garden over the coming weeks.

DC: 28/08/2022

Lasius fuliginosus vs Lasius niger

A good rule of thumb if you’re into watching wildlife, especially in the garden. Is that if not much else seems to be going on, go see what the ants are up to. In the case below this paid off with a new garden species, as we finally discovered that our garden supports not one species of black ant (Lasius niger or the Black Garden Ant) but also the larger Jet Black Ant (Lasius fuliginosus).

We were really only aware of this for sure when we viewed both species together, as in the video below. The Jet Black Ant is just that, much blacker (and larger) and in this case embroiled in a scrap with several much smaller Black Garden Ants, who clearly are winning the battle. Which it has to be said went on and on and in the end after about ten minutes we left them to it. Although by that stage most the garden ants had lost interest as well and it was really just the large Jet Black Ant left running around in confused circles.

Anyway, the discovery of a second black ant species did make us revise not just our species list, but also some previous posts where we attributed some behaviour or other to L. niger when in fact it was L. fuliginosus.

So a case of live and learn…

DC: 20/08/2022