Saturday, February 13, 2010


The cold weather that has been going on for so long it has depressed almost to nil the number of insects I find as I go about the garden.  Today, despite the still lying snow, I decided to take a tussock of cock's-foot grass from Emthree and see what I could find in it and to alleviate my invertebrate withdrawal symptoms

Metre tussock 017Tussocking is a time-honoured technique for finding invertebrates especially during the colder, wetter months.

The method is simple: the tussock is cut off just below ground (I find a bread knife with a serrated edge is best for this), put in a bag and brought to some place where it can be examined (the dining room table is often quite handy).

Metre tussock 020

This excision leaves a hole of course, but this might fill up with interesting things in due time.  Or you may even find something in it - I found a mauve plastic clothes peg, a survivor from the days when a washing line passed over the area.

Once indoors the tussock is teased out and shaken in a garden sieve over a white sheet like a tea towel.  Any insects that fall through the mesh onto the white can then be pootered up.

Today's tussock was far from the best I have ever had but it contained two garlic snails Oxychilius alliarius; several Entomobrya nivalis springtails; the bark louse, Lepinotus iniquilinus; two rove beetles, Stenus flavipes and Tachyporus chrysomelinus; two herb hammock spiders, Neriene clathrata;and a woodlouse, Trichoniscus pusillus.

The bark louse, the garlic snail, the spider and the two beetles are new records for Emthree and the only other records of the bark louse in Sussex are from our house and green house here, though I expect it is widespread.

It just goes to show what can be found even under snow (I had to get the snow off the tussock before I could cut it.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow again

For the third time in the last four months we have had heavy snow.  Last night it was mainly east Kent and East Sussex near the coast that was blessed and we woke up this morning to a deep white mantle.

snow 'South View' Metre 012

It is very cold too: an unusually hard winter.  I rather suspect the effect on Emthree will be beneficial rather than the reverse.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Still a cold winter

Now well into February, it has been snowing much of the day and promises to do so much of the night.  Phenology aside, most things seem to be delayed by cold - crocuses, hazel catkins, snowdrops etc are not yet in bloom in our area.

The pictures below were taken on 1 February after a hard frost when a dawn snow shower spread writhing plaits of white powder across the hard ground.

20100201 Mtre 2

When there is any amelioration - temperatures up to 5 centigrade or more - there is a scatter of invertebrates.  Winter gnats and midges swarming in the lee of the hedge, the occasional green flash of a leaf-hopper (Empoasca vitis) darting from the cover of the evergreen box.

Midsummer Pond has frozen several times.

20100201 Metre 3

The leaves of heath speedwell (Veronica officinalis) always stand out well after frost.

20100201 Metre 5