When it comes to insects, the glamour-pusses such as the butterflies, bees and dragonflies tend to command our attention, but in the last couple of weeks, it has been some more unsung creatures that have caught my eye in my garden.
They belong to the group of insects called 'the bugs' - not the way we tend to use the word these days to mean anything small and creepy-crawly, but 'true bugs' or the hemipterans. There are like beetles, but instead of having wing cases that cover the whole body like a shell, with true bugs the wing cases tend to finish half way down the back, creating a 'V' shape.
The most obvious ones in the garden at present are the Dock Bugs. All bugs have mouthparts like a sharp straw that they use to puncture plant stems (or in some cases other insects), and my Dock Bugs have taken a particular shine to my Rhubarb flowers.
All ages are congregated there, and over the last few weeks the Rhubarb flower stalks have gradually wilted as the Dock Bugs suck away to their hearts' content.
With my bug eyes now focused, my next find was these beauties:
They are one of our 30 or so species of shield bug, but are much smaller than the typical green shield bugs you see, and with a most attractive ruby metallic sheen on the back. These are the Woundwort Shield Bug, and indeed they are sat on the leaf of Hedge Woundwort, a weed in many of our gardens. You may know the plant best for its smell - as you pull one up when weeding, the crushed leaves emit a herby scent of the most whiffy kind. (As you can see, shield bug sex is not of the intimate, stare-into-each-others'-eyes type.)
My next bug has been hanging around one of my earth mounds for a couple of weeks, looking very dapper indeed, in a Chelsea Pensioner kind of way.
This is called the Cinnamon Bug, Corizus hyoscyami. Once a southern coastal specialist, it is spreading northwards, so might turn up in your garden soon.
And my final buggy treat of the month was when I saw a whole cluster crammed onto a leaf of my Alder tree.
Now it is not very often that you see insects piled together in this way, and if you don't know this creature, I think you may be rather charmed. For this is the Parent Bug. Or at least these are Parent Bug babies.
They get the name because, in a very unusual piece of behaviour, the mother bug lays her eggs in a clump and then guards them. When her brood hatches, she continues to diligently watch over them. These in the photo are well grown youngsters who have just shed their skins - you can see some of the old cases looking like little spiders around the edge of the cluster.
By the next day, they were gone, and they have just one more skin-shedding to go to turn into adults, ready to begin another round of bug-creches next year.
So it is worth taking a closer look in your garden at this time of year for little buggy wonders of your own.
Thanks for ID's Adrian ... I like bugs too!