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A voyage of discovery around a Black Country back garden

By john workman  |  Posted: June 28, 2013

The ghost-like remains of an insect after shedding its skin.

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Viewed from space, the earth is seen as predominantly blue with no apparent movement except for the shift in cloud formations and, of course, its orbital spin. So it is, perhaps, hard to imagine that the world is the bustling home of over seven billion human beings.

It is the same scenario when you view a garden or an open field, which at first glance appear still, apart from any movement caused by the wind, or the occasional passing bird. And yet the flora is teaming with a multitude of insects that cannot be seen other than at very close quarters.

It is a rich and diverse world of living creatures to be marvelled at.

During a few days of favourable weather in the early part of June, and based undercover in a back garden in Wordsley, the Bugle cameraman set out his stall to capture a passing glimpse of the entomological world in which we live, and the following photographs illustrate the wonderful world of the insect kingdom.

The first picture could almost have been taken at the dawn of time, when creatures scrambled out of the water and sought refuge on land.

During the Carboniferous period, when the coal measures of the Black Country were being laid down, the air would have been buzzing with insects as big as birds.

Perhaps the insect that climbed up the reed before shedding its skin and leaving behind skeletal remains is a descendent of those giant prehistoric flying machines.

This particular garden in Wordsley has a small kidney shaped pool which attracts a wide range or airborne insects, including the damselfly, a thin, rakish creature with an abdomen, in this particular instance, made up of red coloured segments. At rest its wings are held along and parallel to its body, but when flying its silky wings light up like the shimmering waves of the ocean under a sunlit sky. For something so small, like all the other insects in close-up, its structure is incredibly complex.

The water beetle, as its name suggests, is adapted to living in pools and streams, but on this occasion the cameraman caught it unawares taking an extended breather on dry land.

Water beetles have to rise to the surface to take in air into their tracheal systems and often carry an air bubble underneath their abdomens to enable them to remain underwater for longer periods.

They are sometimes called “water devils” because of their rapidity in the water, and just seconds later this handsome specimen jumped back into the pool.

Hoverflies are common in most gardens and are normally seen stationary, feeding on the nectar of flowers, warming themselves under the rays of the sun, or hovering in mid-air. For several minutes before the photograph was taken two hoverflies were performing aerobatics, before settling on a bush to do what comes naturally in the insect world.

A very small butterfly with a wing span not more than a centimetre across alighted on one of the flowers in the garden, extended its proboscis to enjoy a drink of nectar, and then flew off in a higgledypiggledy fashion to more flowers further away.

But not all aspects of insect activity during the summer months is about buzzing through the air or skipping along the surface of a pool.

The gall wasp is elusive, but the effect it has on an oak tree when the female lays a single egg in developing leaf buds has introduced the oak apple to the English language.

Oak apples can range in size from 2 to 5 cm in diameter and are caused by chemicals injected by the larva into the leaf bud and the tree’s reaction to try and counter its unwanted guest. The developing wasp remains in the gall until boring through the wall to release itself.

Until 1859 Oak Apple Day was a public holiday that commemorated the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 and oak apples were worn as part of the traditional dress.

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