Woodland Picture Gallery 1

Aphids, Badger, Bank Vole, Beetle

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Aphids Aphids Badger

A colony of aphids feeding from the juices in a plant stalk.
These small insects measuring about 2-4mm in length when mature reproduce in enormous quantities.  Wingless females born in the spring from eggs which have overwintered do not need males in order to produce young.  They can produce 5 live young every day for up to 30 days.  During the summer, a generation of initially flightless females will develop wings and fly to new food plants as aphid numbers become too large for the plants they are feeding on.  Aphids are an essential food for many woodland birds rearing their young during the spring.

Different size aphids feeding on a leaf.
Aphids can reproduce either by giving birth to live young or by producing eggs.  The small aphids in the picture have probably been  born as live young as they tend to be smaller than those which are produced  from eggs.  Aphids can   reproduce within a week of birth.  In the early Autumn, both winged males and a mixture of  winged and wingless females are born.  Eggs are laid by these generations which can overwinter.  Aphids produce a sticky waste product called honeydew which is a favourite with bees, wasps and ants.  Ants will "farm" the aphids  and protect them from predation.  There are many different species of aphid each with slight differences to their extraordinary lifecycles.

A young badger at night.
Badgers are nocturnal mammals but are very occasionally seen by day.  They live in social groups of up to 12 adults in an underground network of passages called a sett.  Normally, only one female in each group will reproduce, with up to three cubs being born during February.  A few badgers live up to 14 years of age.  However, most do not as there is a high mortality rate, mainly due to road deaths. In Britain they are most common in the Southwest of England,  where the population is quite high.  They are rare in East Anglia.


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Bank Vole Bank Vole Beetle

A Bank Vole emerges from  a hole in a hedge.   The Bank Vole is the smallest vole living in Britain at just 11.5cm in length.  It has a mouse like body with a reddish brown coat, long tail and noticeable ears.  They are fast moving creatures who can run, climb and swim well.  They tend to remain fairly hidden in hedges, banks and thick undergrowth as they are vulnerable to attack from predators such as weasels and kestrels.They eat a wide variety of plant material including nuts, seeds, berries, roots and bulbs.  Some of this food is stored in covered holes in the ground where it will provide the vole with food through the winter.

A Bank Vole's diet is varied depending on what is available. Bank Voles can reproduce after just 4-5 weeks and like most rodents have a short life expectancy, perhaps as little as a few months.  Breeding starts in the spring.  The female builds a nest of grass, feathers and moss under tree roots  and can have up to 5 litters of young per year.   Bank voles are gregarious and have a home range of about 40 metres.  The numbers are governed by the availability of food, so in some years when food is plentiful there will be more bank voles.  To observe Bank Voles you need to find a suitable place downwind where you can see some of their holes and sit down perhaps four or five metres away.

One of thousands of different species of beetle. Beetles are found in all parts of the world except Antarctica.  There are more species of beetle than any other organism with over 350,000 already catalogued .   They vary in size from 0.3mm to over 15cm and the first fossils of beetles date back over 265 million years.  Many beetles are scavengers and will eat living or decaying plant material as well as small animals and fungi.  They communicate with each other in a variety of ways including the release of chemical pheromones, the production of sounds and vibrations, as well as visual signals such as the emission of light by glow worms.  One of the main characteristics of beetles is their hardened forewings known as elytra.  These fold over the delicate hind wings to protect them when the beetle is not flying.


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List of images in this gallery

All images copyright Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust