Invertebrates

 

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Wetland Invertebrates

Wetlands support a vast and diverse range of insects, which in turn provide food for a huge range of other species.  Marden has fascinating wetland insects, including water scorpions, water spiders, mayflies and alderflies; caddisflies and stoneflies; pond skaters, water boatmen and backswimmers.

One of our largest beetles, the Great Diving Beetle is a specialist of wetter habitats.

Dragonflies and damselflies are tied to water for breeding, but always favouring those with good water quality, as their nymphs grow underwater and require clear water to hunt effectively.

Marden is blessed with having a population of the strikingly beautiful Willow Emerald Damselfly. Preferring ponds or other still water with overhanging trees, this damselfly has a characteristic habit of spending much of its time up in their canopies. The eggs are laid into the bark of willow or alder.

Meadow Invertebrates

Our meadows, especially those in the nature of the magnificent, wild-flower rich Marden Meadows SSSI, are the lifeblood of many insects and bugs. Shield bugs, leafhoppers, frog hoppers, plant hoppers, ground hoppers, spittle bugs, grass bugs, tortoise and turtle bugs, numerous beetle species including our native ladybirds are found here.  Grasshoppers and crickets, flies and hoverflies, bees, wasps, sawflies, and of course, butterflies and moths are all meadow species. Marbled white butterflies love long meadow grass as does the day-flying moth Mother Shipton. Each forewing of this moth has creamy-coloured markings, the outlines of which resemble a witch’s face

Floodplain meadows provide habitat for invertebrates in a range of ways. They provide seasonal resources of pollen and nectar. Bumblebees, sawflies, hoverflies and various beetles, including many in global decline, are abundant. Floodplain meadows also offer habitat for specialist flower-feeding insects that require particular plants for their breeding cycle.

Some of the ground beetles here can survive flooding for months on end.

Garden Invertebrates

We have become increasingly aware of the importance of providing a garden home not just for wild birds and mammals, but also our struggling insect population. With bee and bug hotels and a small amount of garden management that allows for a wild area, or even a log pile, we can all play our part in halting, and hopefully reversing their decline.

With thoughtful planning and planting we can expect to welcome any number of invertebrates that need not be seen as crop-destroying. Quite the reverse in many instances. A modest garden could host up to 50% of all the known British species.

It is estimated that there are in excess of four million insects still to be discovered and your garden is a very good place to start. Who knows, with the right habitat and a little detective work, you may even find a yet to be named species.

Woodland Invertebrates

Woodland habitat supports thousands, probably millions, of insects and invertebrates among the leaves, under bark, in dead wood and on the woodland floor.

Invertebrates underpin the ecology of woodland. They are a sign of a healthy eco-system. Opening clearings in woodland is important as particular insects and bugs rely on the lush vegetation that springs from coppiced and open areas. This in turn encourages predators to move in and so the cycle moves on, with the woodland teeming with wildlife.

Many woodland invertebrates are supported by deadwood, left standing or fallen. About 60% inhabit or eat the wood of the degrading tree. It is important to leave wood in-situ, lying on the woodland floor or even to create larger habitat piles where feasible.

Expect to find centipedes and millipedes, spiders and harvestmen, flies and hoverflies, bees, any number of fascinating beetles (including the amazing green-tiger beetle), moths and woodland specialist butterflies, like the amazing lobster moth  which gets its name from the remarkable crustacean-like appearance of the caterpillar, and the majestic purple emperor butterfly. Most of the shield bugs, including birch, juniper, hawthorn, parent and pied. If you are really lucky, you might discover ‘Tritomegas sexmaculats’ Rambur’s pied shieldbug: a bug first discovered at two sites in Kent in 2011 and now spreading fast.

Floodplain meadows provide habitat for invertebrates in a range of ways. They provide seasonal resources of pollen and nectar. Bumblebees, sawflies, hoverflies and various beetles, including many in global decline, are abundant. Floodplain meadows also offer habitat for specialist flower-feeding insects that require particular plants for their breeding cycle.

Some of the ground beetles here can survive flooding for months on end.

Farmland Invertebrates

The presence of bugs and insects in a farmland setting has long been a contentious issue: however, we now realise not only the huge importance attached to pollination by insects, but also that they can be encouraged to thrive in order to not only pollinate, but also help control other species we might term as pests, as well as improving soil quality. We now routinely call upon the services of flies, beetles, bees, wasps and ants, bugs, lacewings, arachnids and other beneficial invertebrates to carry out these tasks for us.

The sad fact is that many of the insects, including the beneficial ones for farmers have been, and continue to be, in decline.

Take your pick of the total insect species possible in Marden, and most could survive and thrive in a farmland setting. Add to this the invertebrates that livestock attract and it becomes a truly diverse mix.  Marden’s many farmland birds are here simply because there is an abundant supply of invertebrates on which to feed to their young each spring.

Butterflies

Marden’s diverse habitats are home to many of the butterflies found in Kent.

Spring is when butterflies become most apparent, particularly the colourful Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone and Comma. These have overwintered as adults, usually sheltering in places such as out-buildings, foliage or crevices in tree bark. The first to appear are generally males which patrol woodland edges and clearings seeking emerging females or basking, wings open, on a favourite patch of bare ground to raise their body temperature more quickly.

The Red Admiral is now tentatively included as a hibernator although most individuals that remain here do not survive the winter. Spring sightings, therefore, are just as likely to be immigrants from the continent. Another well-known long-distant migrant which can reach Britain in springtime is the Painted Lady which, in certain years, may ‘invade’ in considerable numbers. 

Species that spent the winter as a chrysalis also soon appear: the Speckled Wood, which alights on patches of dappled sunshine along woodland paths claims the fleeting spots as its territory; the Holly Blue, often seen scuttling around gardens and woods looking for its caterpillar’s food plants (Holly and Ivy); the Orange-tip and Green-veined White, both of which frequent damper places such as ditches and pond edges; the Large and Small Whites, whose caterpillars are the bane of vegetable growers and whose numbers are later increased by an influx from the continent, and the Green Hairstreak, with its iridescent green colouring, which may be found discreetly camouflaged in vegetation, only leaving its station to engage another male in a spiralling air-battle, or to pursue a passing female.

As spring progresses into summer, the ‘browns’ (Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Marbled White) begin to emerge, the females searching out suitable grass species on which they either ‘drop’ their eggs when in flight or land to lay them on blades of grass. Common Blue, Brown Argus and Small Coppers, adding to the variety, can be found warming themselves on bare soil or resting on the tops of grasses.

Many of these species fly through the summer, together with the aptly named Gatekeeper, dancing around brambles and hedges; the Purple Hairstreak and Purple Emperor, both of which spend most of their time in the tree tops, the latter challenging and chasing anything that approaches its territory, including small birds; the Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral, powerful fliers that skim along woodland rides, and the Skippers (Small, Large and Essex), close relatives of moths, that buzz and flit amongst the grasses.Some can still be seen during early autumn, including additions from the continent such as the increasingly common Clouded Yellow and other rarer migrants.

Butterflies have specific plant and habitat requirements. Local initiatives to extend hedges, woodland and meadows will increase both the numbers of species present and the populations of many of them.

Moths

Moths come in all shapes and sizes, from only 3mm long to a wingspan of up to 270mm. Although here in the UK the largest is around 120mm it’s still an impressive size when you find one. Fossils of moths have been found dating back 200 million years so Marden’s moths have a long pedigree, their ancestors having survived the mass extinction at the end of the Triassic period.

Along with the closely related butterflies moths are hugely important pollinators and their conservation here in the UK is vitally important. There are approximately 2500 species to be found in the British Isles, of which well over 300 – far too many to mention individually – have been identified in Marden in the brief period we have been studying them

Far from popular belief, moths are not just plain browns and greys. As you start to investigate, moths emerge that could be easily confused with butterflies, having bright colours – pinks, reds, yellows, spearmint greens and even a metallic like sheen. The names also are far from dull, with Merveille Du Jour (translates as ‘wonder of the day’), Burnished Brass and Clifden Nonpareil, just a taster of the moths we find here.

There are day-flying moths, moths that have clearwings and some that do not fly at all. There are moths whose larvae burrow patterns into the leaves of our native plants or inhabit the leaf-litter on the woodland floor. And of course, if you have a light on you will attract those that fly at night.

A small band of local enthusiasts use simple light traps to catch moths on most nights through the year and are steadily recording the huge range we have locally. Although still in the relatively early stages they have found several species of Local and National importance – Sallow Clearwing, Scarce Aspen Midget and Autumnal Rustic for example – thus putting Marden firmly on Kent and the UK’s ‘Mothing’ maps!  

There are certainly a lot more moths to be discovered here and our helpful group would welcome anyone, expert or total beginner, interested in becoming involved. If you would like to find out more, just contact us and someone will get back to you.

Dragonflies

Dragonflies and damselflies are among the largest, most colourful, fastest flying and most voracious predators of the insect world.

Their three-stage lifecycle (egg, nymph, adult) lasts typically 1 to 3 years. Most of this time is spent underwater as a nymph before undergoing complete metamorphosis and emerging into the flying adult form we are all familiar with.

Dragonflies are an important group of species for monitoring habitat quality because they are sensitive to pollution, react quickly to changes in habitat conditions and are relatively easily identifiable.

There are an estimated 47 species of Dragonfly breeding in the UK. The British Dragonfly Society shows Marden as having an impressive 20 of the 37 species in Kent – no doubt with more wating to be discovered!

Amongst Marden’s species, the following are nationally or locally important:

  • Mainly found along streams and rivers the Beautiful Demoiselle is the only UK damselfly with wholly coloured wings. A robust damselfly with metallic bodies and broad wings they have a distinctive butterfly-like flight.
  • The aptly named Downy Emerald dragonfly has a bronze-green downy thorax and dark metallic green abdomen. Typically found at well vegetated ponds and lakes, in Marden they can be spotted in the trees above slow flowing streams.
  • The striking yellow and black bodied Golden-ringed Dragonfly is our longest dragonfly. Found along small streams where the female pile-drives her ovipositor into the stream bed to make a hole for her eggs. When mature they have bright green eyes.

The following species are also notable:

  • Over the last few years the British Dragonfly Society have been closely monitoring sightings of White-legged Damselfly due to concerns of the species declining in the UK. Marden still hosts healthy populations of this species.
  • The Willow Emerald Damselfly is a recent colonist to the UK and spreading quickly across the country. First spotted in Marden in 2019, there were several sightings last year including at the new wetland.

Fauna and Flora

We have generically grouped all our Fauna and Flora and know that these groupings aren't always perfectly correct, but this has been done to make it simple to get an idea of the variety of species we have in our parish. We do not expect this website to be used as an encyclopaedia. 

Birds

Our unique environment allows a great variety of species

Reptiles & Amphibians & Mammals

You'll be surprise what's we have in the area

Invertebrates

Great variety of moths, butterflies, dragonflies and more

Fungi

Without these Trees and Plants would not survive

Orchids & Flowers

Such a diverse amount of flowers in different environments

Trees and what comes with them

Trees create homes for many different elements of wildlife

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