Beetles, wasps and toads

by Richard Jones

With luck she will now find a hollow in some secluded bank or hedge and make her nest away from any more human interference...

Oedemera nobilisIt's always nice to be shown a 'find' by an excited child, so when I was told of a bright green iridescent beetle found in a neighbour's garden I could hardly wait to see what it was.

As it turns out, it was Oedemera nobilis. It's very common and widespread, but more an insect of rough flowery grassland, verges, meadows and commons than of domestic gardens. The larvae burrow in plant stems, but only wild flowers so it's never a pest. It's easy to see how this noble-looking beetle got its scientific name, but despite its bright colours and striking form it has no common English epithet. I've always had to call it just 'fat-legged flower beetle'. Only the males have the enlarged back legs, but no one really seems to know why. It doesn't use them for jumping or burrowing like similarly endowed insects, nor does it seem to use them in any peculiar mating ritual. And, as my finder asked, if only the males have fat legs what do we call the females?

15-cell embryo wasp nestOn the allotment, spring has arrived in the form of a queen wasp making a nest in the shed. Much as I like wasps, and no matter how long I bang on about them being 'the gardener's friends' - helpful, interesting and attractive - I can't have a nest of 10 thousand of them guarding the rakes and spades.

The nest is only at the 15-cell embryo stage, about half the size of a golf-ball, so when the queen left to go foraging I simply plucked it off of the roof. This is a particularly vulnerable time for wasps, with each new nest being founded by a single queen working alone. As well as cautious humans removing them from allotment sheds, the nests are also prone to flooding, mould and disturbance from predators. The queen will have to look elsewhere for another suitable site. With luck she will now find a hollow in some secluded bank or hedge and make her nest away from any more human interference.

ToadAt home the cats were molesting something in the long grass around the pond. A small toad was marching up the garden. We sometimes find them hiding under the sandpit or in the flower pot store. With frogs and newts, that's three amphibians in the garden this year.

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Gardeners' World Web User 06/06/2007 at 20:06

There's a new beetle on the block, or should I say lavender plant. Its shiny black with stripes ranging from pale orange to dark red, about the size of a ladybird, could be mistaken for one i guess, except its unusual colours. Did check out the harlequin bug and glad to find its not one of them. Don't know if it fly's, doesn't appear to be harmful, no sting, from a distance looks like goblets of water/oil on branch. quite pretty but am afaid if its pretty it could be a pest? would like to think its not and is a beneficial bug for the garden. If so what does it eat, and what eats it? any photos, pics, websites, ideas or info would be greatly appreciated. But am being driven mad by the fact that no one seems to have seen it before or can tell me what it is, and my curiosity is very piqued.please help my curiosty, thanks

Gardeners' World Web User 05/06/2008 at 15:42

Thank you for advice on the wasp nest, as I had one in my shed, I left it because it looked pretty and had just the one wasp, I was told it was a wood wasp , anyway it was just the size of a golf ball so I waited till the wasp had gone and knocked it into a pot and through it into the garden, there was nothing in it so I did not feel guilty killing anything. once again thank you.

Gardeners' World Web User 09/06/2008 at 12:03

Thanks for the info on wasps nests. I have a golf ball sized white one at the entrance to my shed so I shall try to remove when the queen is absent.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/06/2008 at 08:55

Reply to Jay. You have the rosemary leaf beetle (which also feeds on lavender). It's spreading quickly across England, but is often not included in garden bug identification guides because it really only arrived a few years ago.

Gardeners' World Web User 12/06/2008 at 19:54

i to have had loads of problems since early april I live in south west France, with wasps trying to make nests in my greenhouse - i did just what you have all done, waited until it was empty then knocked it off the roof- particularly dangerous to me as i am extremely allergic to there sting, however it doesn't stop me gardening!

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