The other day, I was passing by my pond when I noticed what I thought was a small beetle that had fallen into the water.
I bent down ready for the gallant rescue and prepared myself to polish my halo when I noticed that it wasn't thrashing about, it wasn't caught in the surface tension, and indeed it suddenly seemed to hop quite effectively onto a neighbouring leaf of Broad-leaved Pondweed that was floating on the surface.
As I bent even closer, I noticed two more things:
1) It had impressively swollen thigh muscles, making them look rather like those of Popeye and putting my skinny ones to shame
2) Its back was punctured with rows of little dimples that reflected and refracted the light (physicists can correct my terminology) into little coloured beads of light. It was as if decorated with tiny strips of fairy lights on Blackpool seafront.
Overall, it was a bit of a stunner, the likes of which I hadn't seen before:
At this stage, I still thought it needed rescuing, but the penny began to drop as it hopped smartly across onto another leaf to meet up with...another one.
Notice, too, rather smart red 'connectors' where the back legs meet the body - you can see it clearly in the nearer beetle here.
My little grey cells began to slowly clank into action. "Ok, mes amis, so if there is more than one, and they are quite happy walking around on pondweed leaves, then perhaps this is their home. Perhaps these are - how shall we say - 'pondweed beetles'!"
Well, thanks to the magic of the Internet and a fabulous website called www.ukbeetles.co.uk, I soon found myself looking at a whole page of waterside beetles called the reed beetles, the Donaciinae. A full 15 species of them, many of them widespread across the UK in ponds. Amazing!
And it turns out that one of them called Donacia versicolorea is associated with, you've guessed it, Broad-leaved Pondweed. And what do they do there? They graze the surface of the leaves.
At which fact, have a look back at the photos above of the leaf surfaces - yes, someone has been having a vertiable feast there, and I think we know who the nibbling culprits are!
This is a beetle that doesn't have an English name (that I know of), so I feel fully justified in giving it my own - the Fairy-lights Beetle.
It was yet another of those moments when you realise that something has been going on right under my nose, perhaps for several years, and I just hadn't noticed.
How many more magical moments must we miss. (Try saying that quickly).
How much more there is to discover!
How amazing is garden wildlife?!
It's a beautiful creature!
How wonderfully well described! Thank you Adrian, garden wildlife is amazing !
I loved reading this, thank you for the post Adrian. Definitely agree that these beetles are stunning, and your name should enter the vernacular, why not!!! I suspect I'm not alone in having spent much more time and energy exploring the wonderful world of micro fauna this year, and I've really enjoyed seeing what I have and reading about what others have!
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