The wildlife definitely think it is spring around here, even though today is damp and cloudy, but it isn’t cold! My robin threesome have finally decided to split up, which means that one lonely depressed robin sitting outside my window singing its sorrows. But its been drowned out by a ‘peewit’, and bird lovers should know that means the lapwings have arrived! We have a pair of lapwings that usually arrive mid spring and spend the summer trying (and sometimes succeeding) to breed. But today my theme is something your more likely to find closer to your door step. As it is damp, but still warm our detritivores and other invertebrates, are on the wander.
86) White-legged Snake Millipede (Tachypodoiulus niger)
Millipedes are always going to be one of my favourite organisms. As a kid I always dreamed of having a giant millipede as a pet – who wants a fluffy cat when you can have something with 100-400 legs, and its vegetarian so you don’t have to worry about it eating your garden birds! I have to admit that when I was in the ecuadorian rainforest I spent much more time looking out for millipedes than anything else – but how often do you get the chance to find giant colourful millipedes in the UK?
What your much more likely to find in the UK is the very common white-legged snake millipede. Which, of course, has white legs. But can be confused with the almost identical looking Cylindroiulus londinensis, but if you can get magnifying glass (and it to stay still) there is a clear difference between the tail – the common WLSM has a point, while rarer C.londinensis has a much smoother end.
They vary in size (depending on how many times they moult), but mine are mostly between 3 to 7 cm. They have been wandering slowly around the house all winter, but now that its got warmer they are appearing everywhere!
87) Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)
Woodlice aren’t easy to tell apart, but the Natural History Museum have an easy to follow questionnaire to help you out, called Walking with woodlice. Although they generally give you the most common species, so best to double check. There are 5 common species throughout the UK, and several others that are listed on wiki.
The Common Rough Woodlouse, is one of the most common, and we’ve got a little colony in the cellar. Just to be confusing woodlice come in all different colours, these can be grey, yellow, brown or orange, and different sizes, most of ours are small about 10mm, but can be twice that size. The general ways to tell them apart are explained in the NHM link. One feature of the rough woodlouse is that the rough name comes from the bumps on its shell, that are often a different colour to the rest of the shell.
88) Common Shiny Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus)
Shiny woodlouse, is of course shiny (ecologists aren’t very original with names). More importantly it is still one of the common 5, it is also a little larger than the rough woodlouse. But it also has pale spots on it shell, but are generally smoother. Ours can be found in the cellar and in the wooden frames. But if you are a normal person and don’t have an old damp farmhouse, you are more likely to find woodlice in decaying wood.
89) Sylvicola genus
We’ve had quite a few gnats appear in the kitchen window over the last few days. But gnats are hard to tell apart, I think they are most likely Sylvicola punctatus but there is no easy way to tell. But if they are of the Sylvicola genus then they aren’t going to bite, they tend to eat decaying vegetation instead.
90) Wood Ant (Formica genus)
There are nearly 200 species of wood ant, and all look pretty similar to me. We most likely have the Southern Wood Ant (Formica rufa), but again I’m not 100% sure.
Most wood Ants are red and black. Usually with a black abdomen and head, but some species’s heads can be dark red or red. The legs also change colour between species. The Southern species is small, about 4-8 mm, has red legs and a dark red head.