News from the nature trail – by Keith Falconer

In the hot weather we have enjoyed recently, many insects have benefited and populations have been high. Grasshoppers and bees have been abundant with many species appearing that were rarely seen. Up at the Tank Lake, Keith (our volunteer naturalist) was pleased and even excited to see the tiny lights twinkling in long grass, that told of the presence of glow worms.

Appearing after darkness falls, the female glow worm climbs a plant stem until her light can be seen and then a cold green light is produced from the last three segments oif her abdomen. She then proceeds to waggle her tail from side to side.

This light is highly attractive to the male glow worm who will be flying around trying to find a mate. If you wait long enough then one or more males will usually appear, they are ordinary looking little brown beetles about 1cm long, whilst the female is flightless and has an abdomen swollen with eggs and looks quite strange, with a Darth Vader style helmet on her head.

The larvae of glow worms (species name Lampyris noctiluca) feed on snails deep in the undergrowth at the bottom of long grass and scrub and so are very rarely seen. It is only on hot still nights in mid-summer that the little green lights begin to twinkle and tell you of one of nature’s small miracles – an insect that can make light shine from its backside!