Last time I was at Juliet’s Wood near Slaley it was a couple of years ago and I was looking at the first signs of spring, mostly spring flowers. This time I was accompanying a botany group to get as full a list of plant species as possible for this nature reserve. So it would be reasonable to expect a long description of the plants to be found there but instead a few of the invertebrates caught my eye. That’s not to say that the carpets of stitchwort and tufts of newly unfurling buckler fern were ignored or that the battle to confirm the identification of a rather straggly spring sedge wasn’t of interest.
Froghoppers are usually associated with the small clumps of ‘cuckoo spit’ found on various plants and containing an immature little insect inside. The adults are usually a dullish brown and jump off with amazing force if touched. However Cercopsis vulnerata is somewhat more striking with its black and orange pattern; it seems to go by the somewhat dull if descriptive name of ‘red and black froghopper’.
The butterflies were putting on a good show with small tortoiseshell, peacock, orange tip, speckled wood and the ubiquitous greeen-veined white all present. More fascinating however were the pair of spiders engaging in a courtship ritual; the smaller male was waving his club-shaped palps at a female. These palps are a sensory extension of the mouthparts and can be confused for antennae that are seen on many insects.
At a nearby site there were a number of wood ant nests one of which was particularly striking as it had been built up inside a rotten fence post: the ants were swarming around the top and side. One advantage of this location is in the protection offered by the solid sides thus reducing the opportunities for animals like badgers from getting inside. Indeed some of the other nests nearby did appear to have been attacked by them.