Planarchy Archive - May 2005


Inch High Club?

This story has an unhappy ending.  Do not read if you are easily upset!

Topical as ever, today I thought we'd link to the story of an increase in under 16 teenage pregnancies with a look at safe sex in the insect kingdom. 

Damselflies to be more precise. 

As you can see from the picture above they like to try some interesting positions.... this heart shaped one particularly attractive I think.  But they don't just do it on a leaf..... they also fly around in this position in some strange variation of the mile-high club.  Except these two thought they'd fly rather low over the pond.  And a very quick frog had an extra snack..... One of the couple did survive... I hope it was the Mrs and the eggs had been fertilised otherwise it was all a bit of a waste of time.

Anyway, to all Damselflies reading (and my visitor stats suggest there are quite a few)..... don't fly so low!

20050526   20:03

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'til I come marching home

A step-over apple tree is what it is. 

As you can see, with Mrs.Planarchy helpfully stepping over it.  Why would you want a step-over tree you might ask.  Well, Durhhh  So you can step over it, obviously. 

Most people don't appreciate that, until recently, all apple trees were so diminutive.  Some of you may be aware of the Andrews Sister's classic wartime song "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With anyone else but me)".... but I'm sure that none of you are aware that the original lyric was "Don't STEP OVER the Apple Tree..." For in those days all apple trees were of this size.  Indeed if we look further back into history we learn that "stepping over the apple tree" was a pagan pre-marriage celebration. Live and learn, people, live and learn.

OK, I don't know what the point of a step-over apple tree is either. 

20050525   11:13

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We finally got around to seeing Terminator 3 this weekend.  And it was a lot better than I was expecting.  I'm sure it got some pretty damning reviews at its release but, though obviously not as good as its forerunners, I thought it rounded off the series rather well.

Also terminating this weekend was this Broad Bodied Chaser, the first actual Dragonfly I've seen this season (the others being mere Damsels).  When I first caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye I thought it was a giant hornet (about two inches long)..... happily not, just a fluttery Chaser darting around.  Nice to see her (almost certainly a female as the males are blue, except when immature when they're... errr....yellow... ).

And here's another picture of her

20050523   20:44

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Umbrella fungi

These cute little beach umbrellas were not what is supposed to be growing here. 

It's supposed to be Spinach.  I suppose, as an ex-microbiologist, I should be able tell you what fungi they are.  But I've no idea....... Fungi popeyeii maybe?

20050519   18:22

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Banded Demoiselle Damselfly

I make no apologies for posting another Damselfly so soon.....and there will also almost certainly be more to come.  I'm totally entranced by this tiny elegant creatures.  This one, a male Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens) looks very much like a flutterbye when you first catch sight of its fluttery flight .  It's only when it lands that you realise that it is actually a Damsel.  Wonderful.

20050518   20:27

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Eat Your Greens

When young Kay first moved in she would not eat anything green.  Thus it was a delight that when she arrived back from the sugar-fest of a younger friends party recently she asked if she have some salad. 
"Of course,"
we replied.
"Is there any salad dressing?" she continued.
"No, you'll have to make some more."
"OK, where's the olive oil, seedy mustard, garlic and Balsamic vinegar?"
We answered and a few minutes later she arrived with a bowl piled full of lettuce, onion and cucumber doused liberally with her own-made dressing (which was rather good).

So, we're into greens now..... just like the coots.

20050517   17:08

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It looks a bit fishy... or maybe like a spinner one might use to catch a fish.  It's actually the wing of a female Azure Dragonfly (Coenagrion puella) as you'll see if you do the clicky thing.  A battle of wills we had this leetle (about an inch long) Damsel and I. 

It had settled on the bramble as the sun went behind a cloud, presumably not strong enough to fly too long without the heat of the sun.  We waited for nearly twenty minutes for the sun to return and give me enough light for a decent exposure and for the Damsel to fly away.  I had a couple of seconds before she'd enough solar energy to fly out of my reach......I think we'll call it a draw... not a perfect shot but shimmery enough for this early in the season.

20050516   17:21

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flambeau butterfly

Mainly because it almost works as an abstract image.  I think it's a Flambeau Flutterbye Dryas julia found in South and Central America but I could be wrong.  I found it at the London Butterfly House which I have to say I found a bit bizarre.  Wonderful to be amongst so many beautiful (and large!) flutterbyes... they regularly land on you..... but still a bit zoo like and from a photography point of view a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.  A very warm barrel to boot.

20050513   11:18

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They appeared, as I approached, to be dancing in mid air. 

They were actually suspended on thin strands of silk hanging from what was left of the first flush of spring of an aged oak.  They're Tortrix Moth Caterpillars.  Green Oak Tortrix caterpillars to be a bit more specific.... or Tortrix viridana to be even more so. 

They roll up the leaves of the oak with silk to hide from birds whilst eating the leaves from the inside of their hiding place.  If disturbed by predators or the wind (or, in this case, when they want their pictures taken) they suspend themselves from the leaves by a long strand of silk which they rewind to return to the tree once the danger or wind has passed. A very bizarre spectacle.

And this is how they reacted to it in Californ-eye-ay....

20050511   20:51

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Part 2?

Now, aside from the question as to whether this Ikea self assembly chair actually needed any instructions we have the question as to why they labeled it stage 1.  Was there originally a stage 2 that showed one how to sit in the chair? 

Comfortable though.

20050511   9:32

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Car'oon Strip

The greenfly in the garden have been laughing at me. 

The Ladybirds up the allotment (and there are loads) were all looking a bit thin.  So I thought I'd try a little experiment and bring a Ladybird from the allotment back home to meet our Greenfly.  Those with a delicate disposition are advised not click the picture above or to read any further.  For the yoof element of the readership I have reduced the whole story to a cartoon strip.

I placed the Ladybird on the stem of an Aquilegia which was particularly heavily infected with greenfly.  The Ladybird very quickly got the idea and trundled up to greenfly #1.  There was a quick face off before the greenfly turned and tried to escape.  Too late.... Ladybird 1: Greenfly 0.

Its taste for greenfly flesh whetted the Ladybird turned round and quickly consumed greenfly two, three and four.  At this stage two greenfly thought that they'd try and hide on the Ladybird's head where it presumably couldn't see them.  The Ladybird had seen this trick before and trundled up the stem to the flower where it brushed the greenfly from the top of its head down into its mouth by levering them against a petal.

Many more greenfly were eaten before the Ladybird had had its fill....

NB: whilst I may have anthropomorphised the intent of Ladybird and Greenflies, this sequence occurred without any interference from me after the initial placing of the Ladybird on the plant stem.  The six frames described above took about ten minutes and the Ladybird was munching Greenfly for about half an hour.

20050509   17:23

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A major problem for those of us trying not to spray pesticides everywhere.... the Ladybirds don't seem to be able to cope and you can only squash so many a day.  Bastards (literally come to think of it).

20050507   9:32

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Who's Baby?

Any ideas for what this bird might be?  The colouring around the head gives completely the wrong idea...if I hadn't seen them with the parents I'd have bet they were something else....

20050506   17:34

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For today a nicer insect, the Green Veined White flutterbye.  A close relative of the cabbage white but apparently it doesn't lay its eggs on your (or my) cabbages.  Since I don't actually like cabbage anyway this is a bit of a moot point.  Still, quite pretty.

20050505   19:08

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Booo!!! (part 2)

Close on the heals of the Lilly Beetle comes the Vine Weevil Larvae.  Found when emptying out some old compost from one of last years pots.  The used compost was to be taken up t'alltoment to improve the heavy clay soil structure.  Fortunately we always check compost thoroughly before doing this and Zee spotted the characteristic little bastards wriggling around the remains of the roots of something they'd already killed.  I'd thought the plant had died from lack of water.... but no 'twas these evil creatures.  They're just under 1/4 of an inch in reality in case you come across them.  Stamp on them hard (or leave them on the surface while you go and get extension tubes for your camera and watch the local Blackbird come and have a feast).

20050504   17:04

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We bit the bullet and went to see "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" on Saturday.  There was a certain degree of trepidation on my part following several luke warm reviews (somewhat turned around by DG's favourable one).  To make an event of it, the whole Planarchy family descended upon a South Woodford Pizzeria for a leetle round something to eat beforehand.  It's seems like ages since the four of us have been out together for an evening....Teen Dee and even not-so-young-anymore Kay are so often out with their own crowd's these days.  The first shock of the evening came when the nice plate of olive appetisers had to feed four rather than just Zee and me.  Too many Greek holidays have obviously worn off on the girls taste buds.  Pah!

The adventurosity continued with far more exotic pizza toppings than I seem to remember them liking.  Pleasant conversation rapidly ate up the time and we crossed the road to the cinema (somewhat fuller than we're used to) just in time for the trailers.  The only memorable one was for "The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse",  tag line"At local cinemas soon"..... the trailer faded to black a small voice behind us asked "Is this a Local Cinema, Dad".  The whole cinema erupted with laughter.

But enough of this delay, what did we think of "Hitchhikers"? 

Well, I liked it. 

We liked it, I should say. 

In some ways I wish I'd never read the book or heard the Radio series as so many lines are permanently carved into my grey matter.  Because of this some of the bits I liked best were the deviations from previous tellings of the story.  This is unusual for a film I think, usually we want the film to accurately show what we already know.  But the Hitchhikers story has always changed as it moves from one media to another...... the changes worked well I think.

So, yes, generally a thumbs up.  Martin Freeman is excellent as Arthur, Alan Rickman good as Marvin (but still not as good as Stephen Moore), Zaphod, Trillian all good, Stephen Fry excellent....only Ford didn't seem to fit in.

Recommended...............even for Hitchhikers fans!

20050503   16:59

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