Categories
Flies

Types of Flies in the UK

Like other insects, flies tend to have large numbers of individuals on planet earth, and it is estimated that there are around 120,000 known species. In the UK, flies are found in homes and businesses, attracted to our food and waste.

Some species are more abundant than others and are attracted to different environments that are compatible with their habits and life cycles. Knowing the type of fly present in your environment helps you know which pest control treatment will help eliminate them.

So, here’s everything you need to know about the types of flies and what distinguishes them, so you know exactly which insect you’re dealing with.

Cluster fly

cluster fly

The scientific name is Pollenia rudis, and each is between 8 and 10 millimetres long. They have golden hairs on the abdomen, and when at rest, the wings overlap just in that area.

These flies emerge between summer and autumn, finding harbourage in homes, which they enter through cracks and holes in attics, windows or walls. They require warmth inside their hiding place to hibernate.

They have a life cycle lasting 30 to 50 days. The larvae emerge from eggs in the nest, then feed on worms for 3 to 4 days, eventually developing into maggots. After 30 days or more, they emerge from the soil as adult flies.

Fruit flies

fruit fly

Drosophila Melanogaster are usually smaller, measuring about 3 millimetres in length. The abdomen of fruit flies is black above, while their thorax is light yellow or golden.

Like other flies, these insects have large eyes and translucent wings. The fruit fly’s abdomen hangs low, making it one of the slowest flies. They are found in the kitchen or other places where food is stored.

They are attracted to fermenting organic matter, preferably decaying fruit or sour milk, for oviposition.

If the fly larvae are not removed, they will turn fruit into a kind of semi-liquid. If you want to exterminate them, it is important to identify the nests and apply residual insecticide or ULV treatment.

House fly

house fly

Experts agree that these flies are the main transmitters of disease, infesting all kinds of establishments. They are attracted to all foodstuffs, whether human or pet, waste and faecal matter.

One of the most obvious signs of their activity is to see them hovering around, which is sometimes a big problem. Larvae are also often seen as they emerge from their eggs to become pupae.

Adult blow flies are 5 to 8 millimetres long, with a grey thorax with four narrow stripes. Their abdomen is beige or yellowish, and is provided with hairs which they use as organs for tasting.

As troublesome as they can be, they are easy to control with insecticides for flying insects. But if there are rubbish collection problems, a pest is imminent.

Blue Fly

blue fly

Calliphora vomitoria is twice the size of the traditional bluebottle fly, between 10 and 14 millimetres. As the name implies, the abdomen of this fly is bright metallic blue with black spots.

Another distinguishing feature is the orange hairs under the eyes. They generally grow well in warm temperatures and are not seen much in the winter or autumn.

They are found near rivers or rural areas. The bluebottle fly inhabits higher ground than other flies.

They hibernate in the colder months until warmer temperatures cause the pupae to resurface. Bluebottles feed on nectar, while larvae prefer to feed on faeces or carrion. They live for about two weeks.

Horse fly

horse fly

Also known as horse flies, this species of fly can be detrimental to livestock. The relentless attacks of the females cause certain animals to lose body weight. Males feed on pollen and nectar, remaining active during the day.

Horsefly bites are also painful to humans, which is because these flies have mouthparts that operate like miniature razors, which they used to cut the skin as if with scissors.

They are usually black or dark brown, with black or green eyes. Male horse flies have close-set eyes, which distinguishes them from females, which tend to have widely spaced eyes.

Black Fly

black fly

These flies vary in appearance and range in length from 5 to 15 millimetres. They have an arched thorax, large compound eyes, small antennae, and large wings. Although most flies are black, yellow, and orange flies have been found.

Black flies are attracted to clean, fast-flowing water. They are aquatic insects that need blood to live. They usually bite poultry, wild birds, and occasionally various farm animals.

Furthermore, they are found in concrete dams or steam channels, as these are places that favour the development of larvae and pupae. It is the females of the species that bite during the day by biting the top or head of the victims.

Autumn fly

house fly

The female autumn fruit fly is much the same as the traditional fruit fly. Males are different in that they are distinguished by their orange abdomen with black stripes. They have red eyes and light wings, and the females are considerably larger than the males.

The insect is found in houses, but can also be found in the eyes and noses of cattle or horses. The fall army fly harasses these animals when feeding on their saliva, which inevitably leads to disease transmission.

These flies enter buildings during the autumn to prepare for hibernation, always looking for a place to feed. Keep these flies at bay by closing windows as well as possible, although insect screens are also recommended.

Categories
Wasps

What is the role of wasps in nature?

It is a common and natural feeling to think that, unlike bees, wasps are pests. It is well known that bees pollinate flowers, helping plants to produce fruit. And, as if that wasn’t enough, bees also produce honey. But what do wasps do?

There is no denying that wasps do not enjoy the good press that bees do. Wasps have a bad reputation, most of the time undeservedly so. But if you think wasps are just nasty stinging insects, think again!

Wasps are good for the planet and play a useful role in farms, gardens, and natural environments alike. I invite you to learn why, despite all our complaints, the ecosystem, and the economy depend on these undervalued insects.

The importance of being a predator

Simply put, wasps are predatory insects. Their evolutionary ancestry is the same as that of ants and bees, and they are all part of the genus Hymenoptera. Of the hundreds of thousands of known wasp species, only a few are nest-forming and social.

Wasp prey are usually caterpillars and small larvae that feed on crops. Together with other predatory insects, such as spiders, wasps are responsible for controlling their prey populations.

If wasps are eliminated from an ecosystem, the result is an imbalance that can be disastrous for plants. Their prey population will grow out of control, resulting in damage to crops and native plants, as well as reduced crop yields.

A predator that doesn’t eat what it hunts

A curious fact about wasps is that adults do not eat the prey they hunt, but feed it to their young. They may take them broken or whole, or even leave them alive (but in a deep state of sedation) for their young to consume fresh at birth.

Adult wasps don’t live long, so they don’t need much protein. They only need to load up on carbohydrates. Instead of eating other insects, adult wasps (both social and solitary) feed exclusively on sugars.

In nature, sugars come from flower nectar, sweet fruits, plant sap and honeydew produced by aphids. Wasp larvae also produce a sugary liquid that adults consume.

There is also a lot of sugar around humans, from our food and drink. This is the main reason why they come so close to us. The wasps’ continual search for sugar benefits us in other ways, as you will see below.

They are also accidental pollinators

When on the hunt for nectar, wasps can also become accidental pollinators, as they travel from plant to plant carrying pollen.

Their smooth bodies do not collect pollen as effectively as hairy bees, so their contribution may not be as important as that of honeybees. Even so, wasps still play a valuable role.

One type of wasp is incredibly specialized in pollinating a specific flower. Fig wasps, as you can probably guess from their name, pollinate the flowers of fig trees. In fact, they are the only pollinator of fig trees.

The fig tree cannot exist without the wasp, and the wasp cannot exist without the fig plant. Their importance to fig lovers cannot be overstated.

The pollination process of fig tree flowers is fascinating. Figs are inverted flowers. The female fig wasp enters the fig through a tiny hole called an ostiole.

The purpose is to deposit her eggs inside, but in the process, she loses her wings and deposits pollen from the fig in which she hatched. It then dies. Nature is cruel, but ingenious.

Without wasps there would be no wine

Well, here’s one reason why wine lovers need these insects. Wasps are essential for turning grapes into wine.

The yeasts on the skins of grapes are responsible for fermentation, the process that turns grapes into young wine. Interestingly, grapes cannot retain this natural yeast without the help of wasps.

Most yeasts can only survive in warm environments and die when winter arrives. The wasps are what keep the yeast alive between harvests.

Like us, wasps love sweet grapes. As they move among the grapes, they also carry some natural yeast in their bodies, depositing it on the fruit. Then, when the yeast begins to grow on the grapes, the wasps help distribute it throughout the vineyard.

Of course, winemakers may choose to add other strains of yeast during the winemaking process, to give their wine some distinctive character. But without the natural yeast deposited by wasps, human interest in growing grapes would not be the same.

As each summer draws to a close, and the wasps begin to retreat to their shelters, many may wish for a wasp-free world. But a world without wasps would certainly not be a better place.

Categories
moths

What is the difference between butterflies and moths?

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that moths and butterflies are very similar. Just by looking at them, we know that there must be a relationship between the two types of insects. And they actually belong to the same group of flying insects, called Lepidoptera, which comes from the Greek for “scale wings”.

Both butterflies and moths share similar life cycles and look so similar that it can be difficult to tell them apart. There are somewhat monochromatic butterflies that look like moths, and colourful moths that look like butterflies.

However, if you look carefully (and know what to look for) you can quickly find some differences between butterflies and moths. Read on to learn more about both groups of insects, so you can identify and distinguish them like a pro.

How are butterflies and moths alike?

Before we discuss the difference between butterflies and moths, it may be useful to focus on what makes them so similar. We have already told you that they are lepidopteran insects and that they are closely related.

Both moths and butterflies share wings covered with microscopic scales. However, at least from an evolutionary point of view, it is likely that the two species did not arise at the same time.

Butterflies are thought to have evolved from moths, existing as the daytime equivalent of moths. The colourful butterflies we now know evolved much later, after the emergence of flowering plants some 150 million years ago.

As adult, flying insects, moths, and butterflies are in the final act of a four-stage life cycle shared by Lepidoptera.

This cycle begins with the egg, passes through the caterpillar (larva) and chrysalis (pupa) stages, and finally ends with the adult stage, usually called the imago. This imago can be a butterfly or a moth. And in this metamorphosis we find the first difference.

Differences between butterfly and moth pupae

Most moth caterpillars weave a silk cocoon into which they metamorphose in the pupa stage. You probably already know that silk threads are obtained from the pupae of the Bombyx mori moth, a fully domesticated species that cannot live without human care.

Instead, most butterfly caterpillars form a pupa made of a hardened protein, also called a chrysalis. These butterfly chrysalises can be gorgeous, with intricate and colourful patterns and textures.

There are, however, some exceptions to the rule. Some moths do not form pupae, and simply remain buried, though exposed, during metamorphosis. A few butterflies also do not form elaborate chrysalises, leaving the pupa partially exposed.

Different as night and day  

In French, butterflies and moths have interesting names. They are called, respectively, “papillons de jour” (day butterflies) and “papillons de nuit” (night butterflies). But is this useful as a criterion for distinguishing them?

It certainly is. Most moths are nocturnal or crepuscular, while most butterflies are diurnal. There are species of moths that fly both day and night, although they are a rare exception to the rule.

Moths often use moonlight to navigate, which is why they are often confused by artificial lights in our homes. It is believed that they are not attracted to light, only confused by it.

Although the mass lighting of our cities is a relatively recent event, we are already having an impact on their habits. A group of researchers determined in 2016 that city moths are evolving to be less attracted to artificial lights.

Colour, or lack thereof, can distinguish them

The habits of moths and butterflies have an impact on their appearance. For how important can the brightest colours be in the almost total darkness of night?

Nocturnal moths are usually brown, grey, white, or black. This austerity in colour is accompanied by patterns that help them camouflage themselves from predators when they rest during the day.

In contrast, most butterflies have brightly coloured wings. The few species of diurnal moths are also often brightly coloured, especially if they are toxic (as a warning sign).

Colour is also used to find a mate. Diurnal species of Lepidoptera evolved to locate mates visually, unlike nocturnal species that use pheromones. These are highly volatile chemicals that are dispersed through the air.

The structure of their bodies may be the key to distinguishing them

Moths tend to have a stout, hairy body. Butterflies, on the other hand, have a thinner, softer abdomen. Moths also have larger wing scales, which make them appear denser and fluffier.

The scales on butterfly wings are very fine. Some are so fine that they scatter light in whimsical ways, forming a very attractive iridescent effect.

This difference in their bodies and wings is probably due to the moths’ need to conserve heat during the coldest nights. Butterflies have no such problem, being able to absorb sunlight.

But perhaps the most noticeable difference between butterflies and moths is in their antennae. Most butterflies have thin, rod-shaped antennae at the end. Moths, on the other hand, tend to have larger, branched, feather-like antennae.

Moths and butterflies smell (or, rather, detect chemicals in the air) through their antennae, and the need for this sense is greater in moths. This is because moths must rely more on their sense of smell, as low night-time lighting limits their vision.

Maybe they just need to be seen resting

If you see them resting, you may not need anything else to distinguish between butterflies and moths. Moths usually rest with their wings spread out to the side, attached to or very close to the surface on which they perch.

When perched on a surface, butterflies usually fold their wings together above the body, although they occasionally bask in the sun with their wings outstretched for brief periods. Many moths may also fold their wings together when there is no space to hold them outstretched.

In the end, it seems that there are no hard and fast rules for distinguishing butterflies and moths, but surely, you now have additional information about the differences between the two groups of lepidopteran insects. Thank you for joining us at the end of this exciting journey.

Any Questions?