Category Archives: The Ranger’s surfing highlights

The benefits of peat-free compost

The UK currently uses three million cubic metres of peat per annum for horticulture.  69% of this is used by amateur gardeners and 30% by professional growers.  As peat is effectively a non-renewable resource, the extraction of peat for horticulture is unsustainable, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and damage to rare habitats and archaeology. (DEFRA source)

So, what to do? For a start, you can choose peat-free for your own garden. Read on to see how – and why.
The benefits of Peat Free Compost - Compost Direct

This is a ******* wasp!

Regular readers will know how the Ranger has an uneasy respect for waspkind. At this time of the year there aren’t many around yet and it’s easy to forget our yellowjacketed friends, but don’t be fooled: they are busy getting ready for the summer.

The Asian Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia
The Asian Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia

 

I was entertained to find, whilst reading Imgur’s ‘Best pictures of 2010′ one wasp-related graphic which I decided not to use earlier this year as, well, it’s a bit profane. In fact, very profane. But I enjoyed it so much I thought that you could probably make the decision for yourself. So if you don’t like rude words, don’t click through.

This is a wasp (NSFW)

 

This spider is pretending to be a beetle

Piotr Naskrecki
Coccorchestes ferreus by Piotr Naskrecki

Jumping spiders are known to imitate ants – and some of these clever mimics can be found in the UK. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen a beetle-mimic.

The species is Coccorchestes ferreus which is mostly found in New Guinea, and very rarely on mainland Australia.

Chrysis inaequidens, the jewelled cuckoo wasp

Chrysis inaequidens, the jewelled cuckoo wasp

Look at this gorgeous North American solitary wasp (click the image for a bigger version if you like). Now wonder about its name – why is it named after a bird? After all, cuckoos are hardly known for their brightly coloured plumage. The answer lies in its lifestyle. Cuckoo wasps are so named because they breed by surreptitiously laying an egg in the nest of another (usually) wasp or bee – just as cuckoos do to other birds. Then the young cuckoo wasp larva hatches out, eats the larva of the host animal, and then enjoys the provisions the mother has left behind for her own offspring. From the cell emerges not the expected bee or wasp, but another species entirely – the adult cuckoo wasp.

The cuckoo wasps (and there are many species, including quite a few in the UK) have some special adaptations to help them do this. They have a really long egg-laying ovipositor, that can extend telescopically to let them insert an egg deep into a host cell. They also have the ability to curl up into a protective ball, like some woodlice do; with strong armour on the back, and gaps underneath where they can tuck their legs and antennae safely. It must be a hazardous life being a parasite – those host bees and wasps can bite and sting!

Reference

Nice legs! The world’s leggiest animal is rediscovered.

Last seen in 1928, the colobognath millipede Illacme plenipes is thought to have more legs than any other animal on earth – one female was found with 750 legs, while the males are thought to have a maximum of 562. Despite its legginess the species is actually quite small, even relative to other millipedes. Females grow to just over an inch long; males are slightly smaller. Now scientists from the University of Arizona have rediscovered this elusive beast, and here’s a video of it.

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A shrimp on a treadmill to the tune of Benny Hill

Persisting with the Ranger’s long-standing interest in bizarre invertebrates, the latest addition to his virtual menagerie is this video, enigmatically titled “A shrimp on a treadmill to the tune of Benny Hill”:

This is one of the funniest things the Ranger has seen online for a long time. Which probably says something about the internet.

An enormous jumping spider

Jumping spiders are, on the whole, pretty tiny things. And I say ‘pretty’ deliberately as they are amongst the cutest, funniest and most decorative of spiders. The game of ‘hide and seek’ with a passing zebra spider never grows old. But what if they were bigger? A lot bigger? They’d be irresistibly cute, surely! Well, Hyluss diardi, a south-east Asian species, is one of the biggest jumpers there is, growing up to 10mm long. And here he is:

Delightful!

See a further video here.