Carrickfergus in Bloom Creature Calendar
We want young people throughout the town to focus on wildlife and help champion wildlife gardening in their community. The Creature Calendar below lists creatures to look out for throughout the year. Young people can then report their finding to us, this allows you to share local knowledge, swap tips, and be part of a community of wildlife gardening enthusiasts.
There are over 22,000 species of insect in Britain, many of which can be found in gardens, parks or other public-access open spaces. Insects are most abundant and active during the summer but they can be found throughout the year.
JANUARY: Seven-spot ladybird
Description: This bright red ladybird has seven black spots on its wing cases and is approximately 5-6mm long. While looking for 7-spot ladybirds you may encounter other species of ladybird. They can be identified using the website www.ladybird-survey.org.
Where to find them: Overwinters as adult beetles that can be found resting either on twiggy shrubs or on winter leaves, either singly or in groups.
Interesting fact: During the summer, this ladybird and its larvae are important predators of greenfly and other aphids.
Description: Springtails are a group of white, black or yellowish brown wingless insects about1-3mm long.
Where to find them: In leaf litter and compost heaps. To find them, sift through some damp leaf litter and look for small globular or elongate insects that jump. Alternatively lay some damp white paper on top of a compost heap; 24 hours later there should be springtails on the underside.
Interesting fact: Springtails feed on decaying plant material and fungal growth. They can jump up to 10 times their own body length when disturbed.
Description: Bumblebees are about 20mm long. The large bumblebees seen in the spring are queens (fertile females), which have emerged from hibernation and are beginning to establish their nests.
Where to find them: Feeding on nectar and gathering pollen on early spring flowers
Interesting fact: Bumblebees and other bees are of vital importance in gardens as they help pollinate fruit blossom and other flowers. Without them there would be no fruit to eat. For more information on bumblebees, see www.bumblebeeconservationtrust.co.uk.
APRIL: Orange-tip butterfly
Description: Orange-tip butterfly males are unmistakable because of the orange wing tips. The females lack the orange markings but are otherwise similar with yellowish green mottling on the underside of the wings. They have a wing span of approximately 30-35mm.
Where to find them: Adult butterflies visit flowers to suck nectar with their long proboscis. Eggs are laid on the flower stalks of wild flowers, such as hedge garlic and lady’s smock, where the pale green caterpillars feed on the seed pods. This butterfly is on the wing from mid April-mid June. For more information on butterflies and moths, see www.butterfly-conservation.org.
MAY: Pond skater
Description: Pond skaters are about 8-10mm long and have long slender legs that enable them to stand on the surface of ponds, lakes, canals and slow-moving rivers. They hop across the water surface in search of other drowned insects on which they feed.
Where to find them: On the surface of ponds from spring to early autumn.
JUNE: Banded demoiselle
Description: A type of damselfly about 45mm long that is active during May to September. The males are unmistakable because of the vivid blue blotch on the wings. The females have uniformly pale green wings.
Where to find them: The nymphal stages develop in slow-moving rivers and streams and also sometimes in ponds and lakes.
Interesting fact: Both adult damselflies and their nymphs are predators. Adult damselflies catch small insects in flight, using their spiny legs to seize their prey. The banded demoiselle is widely distributed in England, Wales and Ireland but appears to be absent from Scotland. In mid summer, there are many other species of damselflies and dragonflies to be seen near ponds, lakes, canals and streams, including in Scotland. For further information see www.dragonflysoc.org.uk.
JULY: Marmalade hoverfly
Description: The Marmalade hoverfly is unique amongst the 276 species of hoverflies in Britain in having double black stripes on some of the abdominal body segments. It is about 8mm long.
Where to find them: It is one of the most common hoverflies and can be seen visiting garden flowers to feed on pollen and nectar from spring to early autumn. It has larvae that feed on greenfly and other aphids.
Interesting fact: Hoverflies have the ability to hover in flight, hence their common name. For further information on hoverflies, see www.hoverfly.org.uk.
AUGUST: Black-tipped soldier beetle
Description: A reddish brown beetle, about 9mm long, with black tips to its wing cases.
Where to find them: They are frequently seen in late summer on the flowers of thistles, hogweed, wild parsnip and ragwort in meadows and on waste ground.
Interesting fact: This species is sometimes called a blood sucker beetle, presumably because of its colour but it does not bite or suck blood! The adult beetles feed on nectar and pollen; their soil-dwelling larvae prey on other soil insects.
SEPTEMBER: Green shield bug
Description: Green shield bugs are about 10mm long and have broad, flattened bodies with a shield-like shape. The adults are pale green with a blackish-brown triangular area at the rear end.
Where to find them: The adults overwinter in sheltered places and can be found after they have emerged in late spring but are more readily found in late summer-early autumn. At that time they can often be seen sunning themselves on the foliage of a wide range of plants
OCTOBER: Red Admiral
Description: Red Admiral is a 60mm wingspan migrant butterfly that flies to Britain from elsewhere in Europe. It can be found from spring to autumn but is most frequently seen in late summer-autumn.
Where to find them: This butterfly visits the flowers of ivy, Michaelmas daisy, buddleia and many other garden flowers to feed on nectar. The caterpillar stage feeds on the leaves of stinging nettles. For further information on butterflies and moths, see www.butterfly-conservation.org
NOVEMBER: Winter Moth
Description: Only the males are winged and have a typical moth appearance. The females are wingless, with much fatter bodies than the males, and resemble six-legged spiders. Males have a wingspan of 18-22mm.
Where to find them: They are active during November-mid January. Examine the trunks of fruit trees and other deciduous trees, such as oak, lime, hornbeam, sycamore and birch, where you should find males resting. If you are lucky you may also find the more elusive females. Like most moths, winter moth is active at night, so search for this insect by torchlight on mild evenings. Winter moth caterpillars feed during March-early June on the foliage of many deciduous trees and shrubs.
DECEMBER: Holly leaf-mining fly
Description: The small adult fly is rather inconspicuous and it lays eggs on the young foliage in early summer. After hatching from the egg, the maggot bores into the leaf and feeds on the internal tissues before pupating inside the leaf in the following spring.
Where to find evidence of them: When gathering holly for Christmas decorations, have a look at the foliage. Some leaves may have yellowish or purplish white blotches on the upper leaf surface. This is where the inside of the leaf has been eaten by the maggots or larvae of holly leaf miner.