5 unique and unusual insects

Stag beetle (Lucanus cervus)

Stag beetles get their name due to their large jaw resembling the antlers of a stag. They spend most of their life cycle underground as larvae, emerging only in the summer for a few weeks to find a mate to reproduce with. Stag beetles are completely harmless and pose no threat at all. The stag beetle is commonly found in woodland areas such as hedgerows, orchards, parks, and gardens across southern England, especially near the Severn Valley and coastal areas of the southwest.

The stag beetle can be identified by their shiny black head and thorax and their antler-like jaw. A male beetle can vary in size – anything from 35mm to 75mm and tend to be spotted flying at sunset in the summer looking for a mate. Female stag beetles are slightly smaller, between 30mm and 50mm and their jaws are much smaller. They are often found crawling on the ground looking for somewhere to lay their eggs.

Norfolk hawker (Anaciaeschna isosceles)

The Norfolk hawker is a rare type of dragonfly that only emerges in June and July. It is commonly found in the marshes and the fens of the Norfolk Broads, hence the name. For the Norfolk hawker to survive, it needs unspoilt grazing marsh with non-saline water. After spending up to two years in the water, the dragonfly larvae climb onto vegetation at night. This is when they change from a mature larva to adult and leave behind a case known as an exuviae.

The rare dragonfly can be easily be identified due to the yellow triangle at the base of their pale brown body. They are 67mm in length and have piercing green eyes and clear wings. The female Norfolk hawker lays her eggs into living plant material below the water surface which will hatch within 3-4 weeks. The larvae will then take up to 2 years to reach adult stage.

High brown fritillary (Fabriciana adippe)

The high brown fritillary is a large and powerful butterfly which is found flying over the tops of bracken or low vegetation in woodland clearings. Both male and female butterflies can be often found on flowers such as thistles and brambles, showing off their distinctive underside wing markings. The high brown fritillary butterfly was widespread across England and Wales in the 1950’s however the numbers have rapidly declined since then. Conservationists are working hard to save this exceedingly rare butterfly from extinction.

The wingspan of the high brown fritillary is approximately 65mm and the wings are a beautiful shade of orange with flecks of black. The underside of the wings is a darker orange with white and brown markings. The high brown fritillary is remarkably like the dark green fritillary as they share a lot of the same features.

Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum)

The shrill carder bee is one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees and is only found in seven areas of southern England and Wales. The rare bee can be found in various environments such as dry grasslands of Salisbury Plain and wet grazing marshes of the Somerset and Gwent Levels. The worker bees are seen from mid-June onwards to collect nectar and pollen to support the nest. The queen bee will then stop producing worker bees to rear males and daughter queens which emerge in late August, early September. Once mating is complete, the daughter queens will go into hibernation and not emerge until the following May.

The shrill carder bee has distinctive features which can be identified by its pale grey/yellow colouring and black bands of hair between its wings. Their tail is a reddish-orange colour and has a noticeably high-pitched buzz. Queen bees are approximately 17mm long, whereas workers are much smaller.

New forest cicada (Cicadetta montana)

The new forest cicada is mostly found in the New Forest, although they can also be found in areas of southern England too. The male cicada is also known for their characteristic high-pitched singing, which they perform to females when trying to mate. they are often found out of sight high up in trees, making them extremely difficult to find. The new forest cicada will only sing in still air conditions and in temperatures above 20°C.

The female new forest cicada measures at approximately 50mm, whereas the male os much smaller. They have distinctive clear wings with prominent veins which fold over their back when resting. Their abdomen is grey/black in colour with dull orange stripes. Their legs are also a dull orange colour.

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