Aug 12
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Share your summer stories with ARKive

Photo of sessile oak tree in summer

Sessile oak tree in summer

With the summer holidays now well underway in many countries, it’s the perfect time for kids and adults alike to get outside and enjoy the wildlife around them. If you’re planning a trip to a nature reserve, beach or wild space near you, or simply enjoy spotting the creatures in your own garden, why not have a go at writing about what you find?

Here at ARKive we would love to hear all about your summer wildlife experiences, and now you can share them with us as part of ARKive’s Summer Stories!

Photo of red admiral on nettle

Red admiral on nettle

Your story can be about anything related to wildlife or the outdoors – why not tell us about a walk you’ve been on or an interesting animal or plant you’ve spotted? If you’re stuck for inspiration, here are a few ideas to start you off:

  • The Great Outdoors
  • In the Garden
  • On the Beach
  • Urban Wildlife
  • Under the Sea

Share your stories

If you’d like to take part, please email your story to us at arkive@wildscreen.org.uk, including your name and age, before the 1st September 2013. If you are under 16 years of age please make sure you get permission from your parent or guardian before sending in your stories.

We’ll be publishing our favourite stories here on the ARKive blog at the end of the summer. We look forward to reading about all your wildlife adventures!

Photo of common starfish in rockpool habitat

Common starfish in rockpool habitat

Try our fun summer activities!

Looking for more fun stuff to do with your kids over the summer? Why not check out our Fun Stuff pages for cool games, arty activities, quizzes and more!

And if you’ve had a go at one of our creative Animal Activities, we’d love to see photos of your creations – you can share them with us on Twitter, Flickr or Facebook.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

Aug 8

There is much more to moths than you may have experienced when watching them repeatedly fly into your bathroom light at night. Britain has a whole host of incredible moths; some of which you may have seen before and mistaken for something else. Not only are moths impressive creatures in their own right but they also play a valuable role in ecosystems too – pollinating many plant species and being an important food source. Here in the ARKive office to celebrate Moth Night, an annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland, we have compiled a list of our top 10 favourite British moths.

Hummingbird hawkmoth

Hummingbird hawkmoth image

A remarkable insect, the hummingbird hawkmoth not only resembles the hummingbird in its appearance but also in its feeding behaviour, the way it flies and its unmistakable humming sound. Unlike many moths which lack mouthparts the hummingbird hawk-moth has a proboscis which it uses to suck nectar from plants. Scientists do not believe these moths evolved to look like hummingbirds as a defence mechanism but because that they both have similar demands and have therefore developed similar characteristics to fulfil those demands.

Sussex emerald moth

Sussex emerald moth image

A master of disguise, the Sussex emerald moth is almost indistinguishable against a backdrop of green. In Britain it is only found in two sites but it is present throughout Europe and the western edges of Asia. Adults are nocturnal and active between July and August, with the larvae beginning to appear towards the end of August. The larvae then enter a period of hibernation throughout the winter, re-emerging around the beginning of June the following year.

Death’s-head hawkmoth

Death’s-head hawkmoth image

The death’s-head hawkmoth has an impressive name for an impressive creature. Capable of raiding bee hives, the well adapted dead head hawk-moth has a thick cuticle to protect it from stings, is believed to have some resistance to the honey bee venom and its proboscis is short and pointed to easily pierce the walls of the honey cells. It also produces a high pitched squeak, which is thought to be a mimic of the sound made by the queen bee which causes the workers to freeze. Once it begins sucking up the honey though it has a limited time to escape because the honey clogs it up resulting it only being able to make a clicking sounds as opposed to the high pitched squeal for the next five or so hours.

Dark bordered beauty moth

Dark bordered beauty moth image

Found in a number of sites throughout the UK, the dark bordered beauty moth is actually only present between July and August despite its autumnal colourings. Interestingly larvae from different colonies around the UK will feed on different plants. For instance those found in Scotland mainly eat Short Aspen, whereas those found in England primarily eat Creeping Willow. From egg to adult they live for only about a year and around nine months of that is spent wintering as an egg.

Emperor moth

Emperor moth image

A fitting name for this magnificent creature, the emperor moth is a hardy insect despite its delicate and beautiful exterior, with adults surviving for a couple of months without ever eating. Male emperor moths spend their days flying around searching out a mate while females spend the days resting and waiting. Once impregnated, the females will wait until nightfall before setting out to search of suitable sites on which to lay their eggs. To increase the survival chances of their offspring the female will lay her eggs in multiple sites. Thankfully this beautiful animal is common throughout the whole of the British Isles.

Oleander hawk-moth

Oleander hawk-moth image

This rare migrant species is a special visitor to the British Isles not always being recorded.  Whilst the adult is sometimes recorded in the British Isles, the larvae of the oleander hawk-moth has never been recorded in the British Isles. It is an elegant moth covered in fur with beautiful decoration on its wings and thorax.

Small lappet moth

Small lappet moth

The brilliantly camouflaged small lappet moth is sadly now believed to possibly be extinct in the British Isles, but is still doing well in mainland Europe. It would not be surprising though if it was just being missed due to its superb camouflage which allows it to blend in with rough bark and dead leaves. Not only are its colourings perfect for camouflage but the shape of its body and wings render it almost unrecognisable amongst its habitat.

Narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth

Narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth

You would be forgiven for mistaking the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth for a bumblebee if it were to fly past you, especially as it even behaves like a bumblebee feeding on the nectar of flowers. Its resemblance to a bumblebee gives it added protection from predators as bees are not the choice diet of most predators. Only living for about a month between mid-May and mid-June, the larvae become pupae around the end of August and overwinter that way until emerging again as narrow-bordered bee hawk-moths.

Fiery clearwing moth

Fiery clearwing moth image

The rarest of the clearwing family, the fiery clearwing moth closely resembles a parasitic wasp. Like many other moths it uses this mimicry as a defence mechanism against predation. Unusually the males of this species are a little smaller than the females. The fiery clearwing moth is now restricted to the Kent coast with southern England marking the northernmost extent of their territory.

Scarce merveille du jour moth

Scarce merveille du jour moth image

Completing its life cycle within one year, the Scarce merveille du jour moth is very well adapted to blend in amongst lichen, as shown in the picture above. The larvae mainly eat oak before turning into pupae ready for winter. Found in deciduous woodland of south-eastern England and much of mainland Europe, the furthest extent of its range is parts of Sweden.

Do you love moths? Do you want to get involved in Moth Night? Find out about a public event happening near you here.

Max Sargent

Jun 11
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Guest blog: Feeding Life – Society of Biology amateur photography competition

Jenni Lacey from the Society of Biology explores inspiration for this year’s photography competition

The Society of Biology’s amateur photography competition is currently open for entries. This year’s topic is ‘Feeding Life’ which neatly compliments the recent World Environment Day theme of ‘Think.Eat.Save’. Food consumption and its global impact is at the forefront of current environmental research, policy decisions and the public’s mind as we’re encouraged to remain economical and thoughtful around our eating habits.

So, it seems timely to celebrate some of nature’s prudent and opportunistic feeders, who also offer a valuable lesson in self-control and a warning of the dangers of overeating.

Nature’s overeaters

The ornate horned frog (Ceratophrys ornata) at first glance is quite a comical character – with its large, wide mouth and rotund body, it seems harmless. They are not built for speed but instead lie in wait, conserving their energy and waiting to ambush passing prey. They are indiscriminate feeders and therein lies their talent: they make the most of their surroundings and their physique, thriving in the rainforests of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Surviving on a diet of insects, rodents, lizards and other frogs, they will pounce and attempt to swallow almost anything that passes.

Ornate horned frog eating mouse prey           Ornate horned frog eating worm

With a stark similarity to humans, their sedentary behaviour can result in problems; in environments where food is abundant their voracious appetite can cause them to overeat and become obese. They will keep eating as long as food is placed in their path. This is particularly the case when they are kept in captivity as pets, owners must carefully monitor their behaviour and tailor the amount of food they feed the frogs accordingly.

Humans don’t have the safeguard of a loving owner to oversee their diets so it is our own responsibility to consider our eating habits and help reduce the waste of food resources. Not only are we in danger of affecting our own health but we will rapidly exhaust food and energy supplies: global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Get involved

The Society of Biology is seeking photographs that encapsulate the topic ‘Feeding Life’. The photograph could address a challenging issue like food security and waste, or malnutrition, obesity, and other diet-linked diseases. It could provide insight into the feeding behaviour of a plant or animal species including predators and parasites. Or it could illustrate how we are manipulating our diets using GM and other biological techniques. Whether illustrated on a global, organismal, cellular or molecular scale, the photograph should draw attention to the topic of food and biology in a unique and thought-provoking way.

If you wish to enter the Society of Biology photography competition visit its website for full details on how to enter.

Jun 5
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Happy World Environment Day 2013

Today is World Environment Day, an opportunity for millions of people across the globe to take positive action to help build a healthier and more sustainable world.

This year’s theme is Think.Eat.Save, an anti-food waste campaign encouraging us all to reduce our foodprint by thinking about the environmental impacts of our food choices.

The natural world is full of thrifty super-scrimpers which employ a range of food-finding and food-saving techniques to ensure they aren’t running on empty or wasting time, energy or, most importantly, food. We’ve foraged around the ARKive collection to reveal some of nature’s most frugal species and see what tactics they employ to reduce their foodprints.

Grow your own

Take a leaf out of the fungus-loving leaf-cutter ant’s book and grow your own food! These clever critters grow a patch of nutritious fungus using specially prepared mulch, which is cultivated using leaf segments that the ants dutifully collect and carry back to their garden.

Photo of leaf-cutter ants in fungus garden

Watch a video of the leaf-cutter ant gardeners in action!

Nature’s freegans

You’ve probably heard of the phrase “one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure”. Well in this case it’s “one creature’s waste is a vulture’s treasure”! Like most vultures, the opportunistic lappet-faced vulture is primarily a scavenger, preferring to feed on the carcasses of smaller animals such as gazelles and hares rather than expending energy hunting.

 Lappet-faced vulture coming in to land

Nature’s larders

If your vegetable patch has been particularly fruitful, why not follow the lead of the American pika by preserving some of your haul. During the summer months, the American pika displays ‘haying’ behaviour, whereby it collects food in hay piles on rocks or in crevices and stores it ready for winter when food is scarce.

 American pika collecting vegetation

Entomb leftovers

American burying beetles may not have freezers and Tupperware, but these intriguing insects have their own totally organic solution for preserving food! By covering the carrion in antibacterial and antifungal oral secretions, American burying beetles are able to slow the decaying process.

Digging and lining a tomb with the fur or feathers of the dead animal, the beetles bury the carcass and dig a chamber above it where the female lays her eggs. The developing larvae can then easily feed on the carrion. This takes mums leaving food in the freezer to a whole new level!

 American burying beetle on carcass

Cheek pouches – the ultimate bag for life?

Like other chipmunks, the eastern chipmunk has large internal cheek pouches which it uses to carry dry food such as nuts and seeds back to its burrow to store for the winter months. This behaviour is aptly described by the eastern chipmunk’s scientific name, Tamias, which means ‘storer’.

Eastern chipmunk with filled cheeks

Chipmunks aren’t the only mammals to have facial shopping bags though! Check out this video of a cheeky monkey stealing food directly from another’s cheek pouches!

Faecal feasts

Some of nature’s herbivores have a rather unique, if slightly gross, way of ensuring they get the most from their food. Gorillas, rabbits and capybaras all practise coprophagia – the consumption of faeces. It gives these inefficient digesters of plants a second chance at gaining important nutrients. In some species such as the koala, infants eat their mother’s poo or ‘pap’ in order to cultivate important gut bacteria to aid the digestion of plant matter.

Photo of young mountain gorilla

If you’ve got a strong stomach you can watch coprophagia in action with this video of a mountain gorilla making the most of its own faeces.

Hungry for more?

Find out what you can do to reduce your foodprint this World Environment Day.

Check out ARKive Education for some great resources on food chains and human impacts on the environment.

Lucie Muir, ARKive Content Manager

May 29
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Whose foot is this?

So you may be a species identification wiz, but how much attention have you paid to your favourite animal’s feet? Do you know those toes? Could you spot that sole a mile off? If you get a kick out of quizzes then why not put your best foot forward and have a guess at the owners of these fancy feet.

Study each image and make sure you ‘paws’ for thought before clicking on the photo to reveal the answer!

Big foot

Big foot

No clues for this easy starter – who could this foot belong to?

Cold feet?

Chilly feet

Despite looking rather chilly these feet have a rich network of veins in the webbing that produce heat to incubate this species’ eggs – but whose feet are they?

Sticky toes

Sticky toes

Thousands of microscopic hair-like hooks on the feet of this species allow it to walk up the slipperiest of surfaces.

Long foot

Long foot

The particularly long ‘foot’ of this antipodian is specially adapted for the species’ peculiar means of locomotion.

Funny feet

Long foot

These funny-looking feet belong to a water-loving species common across Europe and Asia with a closely related species widespread in North America.

Foot comb?

Foot comb

This little nocturnal animal spends almost all its time in the trees and, uniquely among its relatives, uses the raised nails on its hind feet for grooming.

Tiny feet

Tiny feet

This well-known species undertakes a long north-south migration over several generations and spends the winter hanging in the trees in central Mexico.

Slimy foot

Slimy foot

Another character with sticky feet, this animal has permeable skin and likes a moist environment.

Scaly foot

Scaly foot

This unusual marine species deals with excess salt absorbed while eating seaweed by sneezing salt crystals.

Poison foot

Poison foot

This last one is a little tricky – the venomous spur at the back of the foot is a particular clue.

How many did you get right? Step up and share your score!

  •  0 – 3 Pull your socks up! Your identification skills need a little work.
  • 4 – 6 You’ve got your foot in the door but you need to try harder to make a real impression.
  • 7 – 10 What a talon-ted individual you are! Time to put your feet up for a well-earned rest!

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