Butterfly body language

Finding a mate is one of the biggest challenges facing any animal which relies on sexual reproduction. For butterflies, the process of finding, recognising and attracting a mate usually rests on a combination of sight and scent (1). The task of finding, or locating a mate is usually carried out by males, although females can…

Common but extremely beautiful: The small tortoiseshell

We are in the middle of The big butterfly count which is a nationwide survey run by Butterfly Conservation, Friday 14 July to Sunday 6 August, to assess the status of the nation’s butterflies (and moths). The Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) is one of the species the Great British Public is being asked to look out for, partly because sightings were significantly…

Decomposition of a mole

I came across a dead mole as I was walking along a logging tract in a pine forest in Galicia, northern Spain. It looked as though it had only just died, as the first wave of colonisation – by  blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) – was only just in progress. Green bottle flies (probably Lucilia sericata) were already…

Mating Blue-tailed Damselflies

When damselflies mate, the male grasps the female by the front end of her thorax (the pronotum); but only if she is willing! Accepting his advance is not compulsory according to Chandler and Cham (2013) in their excellent book: Dragonfly. Together they form a heart-shaped tandem that can last for up to an hour. The…

Canoodling bee-grabbers

These remarkable flies, known as Thick-headed Flies (Conopidae), are larval parasitoids of bees and wasps. Females of this species, Conops quadrifasciatus, attack bumblebees in flight, which has earned them the name ‘bee-grabbers’. Apparently, they grab the poor bee, and use a specialised pad-like structure at the end of their abdomen (called a theca) to prise apart the bee and implant…