Seeing things through a four-year-old’s eyes is endlessly fascinating and often very amusing. Frankie went to play in the conservatory as usual the other day and came running back in great distress. He had seen a ‘big, black thing’ on the floor. I went to investigate and found the cats surveying a large stag beetle with five and a half legs. I don’t know whether the cats were responsible for the amputation but the beetle seemed unfazed and I picked it up and deposited it in the garden. The next day it was back again.
I returned it to the wild. A couple of days later a female stag beetle was being studied by the felines and a day after that another male with six legs. Clearly the cats are budding entomologists.
Stag beetles are an endangered species, though they are doing relatively well in the south of the UK. They may be further endangered by our cats, although the cats have not attempted to eat them. I should think they’d be rather crunchy. There have been no further beetle guests in the conservatory.
We spotted a tiny, pretty day-flying moth on the herbs and discovered it was a Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata). It’s very common but we had never seen one before.
A few days later I noticed an unusual spider on a tomato leaf. In fact, there were two, but it was the colourful one that caught my eye.
It was a Candy stripe spider (Enoplognatha ovata), an appropriate name for such a pretty creature. Its companion on the leaf was more soberly dressed in silver, not so flamboyant but nonetheless attractive.
Again, the Candy Stripe spider is quite common but we were pleased to make its acquaintance. If only all spiders were so pretty – and stayed outdoors.
When Frankie saw the enlarged photos of the moth and the spiders it kindled his interest and it wasn’t long before he was reporting sightings of spiders everywhere and asking Barry or me to take photographs. The smallest one he found was a Money spider or Dwarf weaver spider in the conservatory and its presence was duly recorded for posterity.
He named it ‘Tiddles’ and was pleased to see it near the front door the next day though we suspect it was probably a friend or relative of the conservatory resident.
We told him how Susannah, his mummy, had a pet spider when she was little.
She called it ‘Sid’ but again we think there were probably several ‘Sids’. Sid was a Garden spider or Cross or Diadem spider (Araneus diadematus), an orb web weaver, and was probably a female. The females weave the webs and remain in the centre or nearby with one leg hooked on the web, waiting for prey. Sometimes Cross spiders eat their mates directly after mating.
Clearly the fascination with arachnids is genetic. I must remember to tell Frankie that Cross spiders will bite if threatened. Apparently the bite is like a mild bee sting.
Frankie was watching a bumble bee recently and asked if he could stroke it.
Their furry bodies do look quite inviting.
Anyway, not long ago I think he attempted to stroke what he thought was a bee but it was a wasp which expressed its disapproval of his presumption by stinging him. He howled, poor little boy, but the lesson has been learnt.
Does my bum look big in this?
Is this one better?