Tree climbing earthworms and other nocturnal creatures- 18 December 2020
I had a trip down the garden about midnight in the rain to look for Winter Moths and also to see what else was about.
Indeed, there were many creatures enjoying the dark wet conditions, here are ten of them.
Completely unexpected was a caterpillar climbing the woodshed and it turns out that this was the less common brown form of the Angle Shades moth larvae (image 1). Further along the woodshed the nocturnal Walnut Orb-weaver spider was sitting on its web hoping for some food to arrive (image 2).
Another surprise was that several earthworms were climbing up the bark of our oak tree (image 3). Apparently, they do this by creating a suction between their bodies and the tree and using their sharp retractable body hairs (chaetae) to push themselves up. I have no idea why an earthworm would want to climb a tree! Also up on the tree were woodlice of at least two species, that in the photograph is an orange coloured Rough Woodlouse having a surface covered in small tubercles giving it a rough appearance (image 4).
Not unexpected were snails and slugs which rather like wet weather. On the oak tree was a Strawberry Snail, apparently a pest of strawberries (image 5), and on the water butt was a Leopard slug (image 6). Leopard slugs are carnivorous and will chase and eat other slugs.
On the decking around the pond, a black ground beetle (image 7) was hunting. These beetles are carnivorous and actively hunt their prey such as other insects and slugs. Also on the trees were delicate little Chironomid non-biting midges with hairy antennae almost as long as they are (image 8). Apparently there are 450 species of these midges in the UK. Climbing rapidly up the oak tree was a Brown Centipede (image 9). These predaceous carnivores have modified front legs designed to inject poison into their prey.
Yes, I did find a few Winter Moths but they were all hunkered down on the ground on the leaf litter rather than flying in search of wingless females (image 10).