By this time, maybe you’ve read my previous two posts: Walking in Cantabria and Butterflies of Cantabria (of which there were so many they had to have their own blogpost!). This piece will focus on invertebrates, other than butterflies, that I spotted on the cliff paths.
One order of insects that particularly impressed me in Galizano this year was Orthoptera, or crickets and grasshoppers. There were so many and they were so big – all different colours and patterns too! I’ve had to do a bit of online research to be able to tell the difference between grasshoppers and crickets, as I’ve gotten myself quite confused in the past trying to ID either. From what I’ve read, it shouldn’t be as hard as I thought. Grasshoppers are diurnal, herbivorous, have short antennae and ovipositors and they stridulade by rubbing their hind legs together. Crickets are basically the opposite! Nocturnal and predatory with longer antennae and pronounced, extended ovipositors – they stridulate using their wings. All of these creatures were photographed during the day so one could assume that they are all grasshoppers but I have a feeling that might not be the case! Can you spot the odd one out?
Previously I’ve photographed a ridiculous number of bumblebees around Galizano, including a B. pascuorum nest in my dad’s garden that was brought the our attention when the silly dog tried to dig it up. This year, disppointingly I didn’t see so many. I suppose it was towards the end of the season but with so much other wildlife around it was still suprising to me that the landscape was lacking in bees. We did however, come across this extraordinary wasp nest while walking the cliff path towards Loredo. I’ve never seen anything like it! Alex & Stuart from the BWARS facebook group helped to identify these as wasps of the Polistes genus (possibly dominula species – also known as European Paper Wasp) of which only one small population has been recorded in the UK at Ham House, Richmond. These eusocial wasps build distinctive nests attached to stalks, as can be seen in the photographs below. I was surprised to find out that the nest we saw was almost completed – paper wasps don’t cover cells in the way that I’m used to seeing with England’s native wasps.
Following on from wasps – our next (non-butterfly related) discovery was this fantastic Wasp Spider, Argiope bruennichi. These spectacular creatures are native to the Mediterranean and were first sighted in the UK in the 1920’s. I haven’t seen one in England yet – they are slowly moving northward across the country – but fellow AFONer Megan, brought this species to my attention back in August when she blogged about one she found while working at Lorton Meadow Nature Reserve in Weymouth. Argiope bruennichi is a member of the Araneidae family, also known as Orb-Weavers. The name sends shivers down my spine – reminding me of the giant Golden Silk Orb-Weaver sitting as big as my hand in 2m webs in the forests on Victoria Peak, HK – this species used to be included in the Araneidae family but is now classed as Nephilidae. I never noticed the webs until I saw a spider a few metres in front of my face while looking out at a viewpoint. After that I saw them everywhere and was traumatised when my stepdad pretended one had fallen onto my head – 13 year old me burst in to tears and the Golden Orbs are now one of the few insects that I can’t stand! This Wasp Spider was a beaut though – and female; in this species sexual dimorphism is especially prominent, with the males being a third of the size of the females and much less spectacularly coloured. The Araneidae family of spiders spin characteristic spiral orb webs centred with a bold zigzag shaped stabilimentum, the function of which is currently being explored by scientists.
As I walked up the heaths from Galizano to Ermita de San Panteleón, I was bothered by this robberfly (family Asilidae). It was huge (at a guess 3-3.5cm in length) and looked dangerous. At the time I had no idea what it was but I decided it would be best to try and keep my distance (while still being close enough to get a photo – tricky task!) as it looked like a biter! It turns out (thanks to Insects of Britain & Northern Europe FB page for the ID help) that these flies are formidable hunters; some species of robberfly prey on grasshoppers and even dragonflies! They have been known to bite humans, but only when provoked as robberflies don’t feed on blood.
Finally, a few photographs of these funny little beetles. I think they might be from the Dor Beetle family – but I’m sure some Facebook friends will be able to help me with a truer identification. I just wanted to include them because they’re adorable! The two photographed below were seen on the cliff path, in cop. before going their very separate ways. How sad!
So that’s it for my Cantabrian Adventures this year. As I wrote in my first post of this series; Walking in Cantabria – this is an area of the world that I’ve fallen in love with so thank you very much to my Dad and Stepmother for introducing me to Northern Spain and giving me the chance to explore it! Of course, there is always more to see so I will be walking the Camino de Santiago next summer if all goes to plan. Watch this space!
All images subject to copyright. All opinions expressed on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the view of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust for whom I volunteer, or any other organisation.