GARDEN

Invertebrates

GALLERY

A photographic review of the butterflies, bees and other bugs that visit my garden

Tiger Hover Fly
Helophilus pendulus
on Verbena bonariensis
Sep 2021

All photos © Keir Watson 2021

BIODIVERSITY
One mark of a healthy garden is the diversity of invertebrates that it supports. The most conspicuous of these are the butterflies and bees, but no less important – ecologically speaking – are the smaller insects, bugs, flies, spiders, snails, grasshoppers and beetles. I love watching them go about their business in my garden. Photographing them, reveals details I would never normally see.

PHOTOGRAPHY
In this post I am making a visual record of the bugs and critters that I have managed to photograph in my garden over the last decade. Getting a good shot of these little folk can be tricky. For one thing, they won’t keep still, so getting them in focus is a hit and miss affair. Also, they tend to be camera shy: happy to mind-their own business while I keep my distance, but move in for a shot and they quickly buzz off.

ALIVENESS
Garden invertebrates can bring the garden alive in summer: especially the pollinators, who can fill the air with their whirring wings. A single lavender bush in full flower will positively hum with comings and goings, perching and hovering, fluttering and dive-bombing of hungry insects.

FLOWERS
Certain plants and flowers are especially attractive to pollinators. Particulartly those with many small flowers such as lavender, sedums, alliums and verbena. It is notable that I find far more pollinators in sunny beds than in the shade. Read on to find out which plants were the most visited.

Gastrophysa polygoni Jul 2010

HELP! It was a real challenge identifying all of the different invertebrates in this post. I am no expert so had to trawl the internet to track them down. I have probably made numerous errors, so please feel free to correct me. If you spot a mistake, leave a comment and I will gratefully update the page.
– Keir Watson

◤ Tiger Hover fly

This distinctive hover fly (Helophilus pendulus) certainly has tiger stripes! Verbenas provide late summer nectar for pollinators. He was so distracted by all the free food that I was able to get some good close-up shots. Sep 2021

bombastic
bees

White tailed bumble bee
Bombus lucorum
Sep 2020

Bombus lucorum Sep 2021

Sedum ‘Strawberries and Cream’. This aptly-named stonecrop attracted bumble bees all summer long. All sedums are good for attracting pollinators, especially the larger s.telephium, s.spectabile and their hybrids. Sep 2021

Salvia ‘Caradonna’. Pollinators love flowers of the labiate family, such as this purple flowered sage, which was buzzing with visitors all summer. Jun 2021

Red-tailed bumble bee. Common in the UK, but rare in my garden. Jul 2010

Bombus lapidarius
Bombus terrestris Jun 2020

Buff tailed bumblebees Bombus terrestris on salvia ‘Snow hill’ Jun 2020

mellifluous
bees

(Salvia ‘Caradonna’)

Apis mellifera May 2020

Honey bees ◢

Attracted to
Allium senesces glauca
Sep 2021

There are many kinds of bee that visit UK gardens, including honey bees, solitary bees, leaf cutter and mining bees. I believe the bees in these photos are all honey bees, but I’m not 100% sure as there are some variations in colouration and stripe patten. Please let me know if I’m wrong!

These beautiful pink flowers are the rock rose Helianthemum ‘Wisley Pink’. They flower in May for several weeks, when they attract many pollinators, such as this honey bee. Planted in a well-drained sunny soil, this grey-leaved sub-shrub produced hundreds of flowers in succession. Each one lasts just one day, before dropping its petals like confetti.

critters & bugs

European drone fly (female)

Eristalis arbustorum
This pretty little hover fly seems to mimic the honey bee. It even appears to have pollen sacs on its sides. I snapped it feeding on Moroccan daisy Sep 2021

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  1. Common Green Bottle Fly
    Lucilia sericata, on Salvia ‘Light Pink’. Aug 2021
  2. Marmalade Hoverfly
    Episyrphus balteatus, in rose ‘Jacqueline du Pré’. Jul 2021
  3. Hawthorne Shield Bug – Final Instar Nymph
    Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale, on Vitex agnus-castus. Aug 2021
  4. Meadow Grasshopper
    Chorthippus parallelus, on garden wall. Aug 2021
  5. Zebra striped hoverfly
    Scaeva pyrastri, on tree lily stamens. Jul 2021
  6. Baby grasshopper
    On a fig. Jun 2021

Photography
2018 onwards: Nikon D3300
Nikon 40mm f2.8 G AF-S DX Micro Lens
Nikon 50mm f1.8 G AF-S Lens
Pre 2018: Olympus E1, 14-54mm f2.8-3.5

Thick Legged Flower Beetle (male)

I snapped this little critter on the rough verge outside my house. The fact that insects like him are found just outside my garden, but not inside, shows how important wildflower ‘weeds’ are to native invertebrates.

Oedemera nobilis on common ragwort Sep 2021

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  1. Seven Spotted Ladybird
    Coccinella septempunctata, on Euphorbia myrsinites. Feb 2021
  2. Pollen Beetle
    Meligethes aeneus, on star flower. Mar 2021
  3. Grove snail
    cepaea nemoralis, on succulent. Sep 2018
  4. Syrphid fly
    Syrphus sp., on Calla lily spathe.
  5. Common drone fly
    Scaeva pyrastri, on allium. Aug 2020
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flutterbys

& moths

The diversity of butterflies in my garden has declined over the years. The new bypass and housing development half a kilometre away may have contributed, but closer to home my own garden may be to blame. When creating my garden a lot of unkempt hedge and rough grass was ‘tidied up’ – a euphemism for habitat destruction. Hopefully the new planting and settled landscaping will allow them to return.

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  1. Red Admiral
    Vanessa atalanta Sep 2020
  2. Peacock
    Aglais io Jul 2010
  3. Comma
    Polygonia c-album Jul 2010
  4. Small tortoiseshell
    Aglais urticae
    Jul 2010
  5. Cabbage White
    Pieris brassicae Sep 2021

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Jun 2020

BEAUTIFUL PESTS
Above: Cabbage White, the bane of brassica growers; Left: Box-tree moth (Cydalima perspectalis), destroyer of topiary. A recent arrival from SE Asia. Below: The magnificent silver-y, a beautiful migratory moth that damages lettuce crops.

Autographa gamma Aug 2020

Pond life

There is nothing like a pond for attracting a huge range of invertebrates. Although not an insect typically associated with water, I found this Wasp Nest Beetle, Metoecus paradoxus, clinging to the leaves of water mint on the margins of my pond.
Aug 2021

Male Southern Hawker Dragonfly
Aeshna cyanea | Aug 2020

I see these beauties darting across the Pond Garden in the summer, never sitting still long enough to photograph. This one made the mistake of flying in through the back door. We caught him in a plastic pot with a semi-transparent lid, enabling me to take this shot before we safely released him.

Male Southern Hawker Dragonfly
Aeshna cyanea | Aug 2020

I see these beauties darting across the Pond Garden in the summer, never sitting still long enough to photograph. This one made the mistake of flying in through the back door. We caught him in a plastic pot with a semi-transparent lid, enabling me to take this shot before we safely released him.

Bumble bee on water mint Aug 2021

Fly on Equisetum hymale Aug 2020

Azure damselfly, Coenagrion puella Jun 2021
Marmalade hover fly on Campanula portenschlagiana Jun 2021

Pollinators: the garden’s little heroes.
This final shot shows in exquisite detail what pollinators are all about: seeking out food, they inadvertently carrying the pollen from one flower to another, ensuring fertilisation takes place. You can see the pollen grains stuck to his face and eyes.


A photographic review of the butterflies, bees and other bugs that visit my garden. One mark of a healthy garden is the diversity of invertebrates that it supports.

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