Beasts by the Pool!

Paper wasps enjoying the pool
Paper wasps enjoying the pool

A day visiting the pool of friends Abe and Brenda. Their villa is in the Cómpeta countryside off the road to Torrox; low in the hills with almond and olive groves around it. There is some lovely scrubland there, but not much water, so the pool attracts visitors.

I knew there had been wasps the year before, but was surprised to see so many by the water until I spotted this nest.

Paper wasp nest

The nest
The nest

 

 

 

 

 

Paper wasp nestI am not fond of wasps, but their behaviour is fascinating. Paper Wasps build nests with open combs – they are sometimes called umbrella wasps because of the nest’s shape, with a stalk anchoring it in position.

Wasp on palm leaf
Wasp on palm leaf

The ‘paper’ is made from chewed up wood-pulp and the eggs are ‘glued’ into each hexigon; the young are tended within the nest and eventually spin a silk cocoon to pupate in, emerging as adult wasps. Wasps themselves are pollinators, feeding on nectar; it is their larvae that are carnivorous. The adults catch and chew up caterpillars and beetle larvae for them. If that seems unpleasant remember wasps can be pollinator and pesticide in one: good for gardeners. And, putting aside the sting, the adults are beautiful in their own way, aren’t they?

Of course, they were a bit too close for Brenda and Abe and have, I think, been dispatched. They will need to be careful though. Wasps have a tendency to relocate within the same neighbourhood and can become more aggressive if previously evicted.

Another visitor, who I think just about everyone will agree is beautiful, was attracted to the water, determined to stay by the pool: a dragonfly.

Odonata, Dragonfly, Orange winged dropwing, off Torrox road, 07.15 (1)

Orange-winged Dropwing
Orange-winged Dropwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an Orange-Winged Dropwing; a tautologous name for a pretty creature!

Of course there were grasshoppers (we get everywhere) and I found my own icon at this spot, a little redwing (should have been a blue wing since I follow the blues, but you can’t have everything). It was rescued from the pool and took a few moments to warm up before springing and landing about 2 metres. Two metres! Jumped by a creatures not much bigger than a thumbnail! Perhaps it is because I see myself as an overlooked athelete that I became Grasshopper!

I, Grasshopper
I, Grasshopper

 

My favourite beastie wasn’t remotely interested in the water. It aimed to stay in the dry grasses of the bank and carry on hunting. This is a committed stealth predator: luckily it was only about 4cm high, if that. I’ve already featured it in a blog on Camoflage – and no wonder! I spotted the piece of grass that was walking against the wind and couldn’t believe what I’d found.

Conehead Mantis
Conehead Mantis

Mantis, Conehead Mantis_empusa egena, Abe's off Torrox road, 07.2015 (23)

Mantis, Conehead Mantis_empusa egena, Abe's off Torrox road, 07.2015 (21)You can see that it blends in with the stalk; that it can grip the hairs of the grass-seed with four limbs for balance while keeping its forelimbs free to catch prey; that its bottom is curled and spiked to resemble a burr. It’s incredible.

 

With the conehead I thought I had captured the most dramatic invertebrate to be seen at Abe and Brenda’s, but it was not the case. When they were shifting some rocks from beside their property and had used a bin to do so Brenda was startled to see the bin had an intimidating new inhabitant: a scorpion. I knew there are scorpions in the region but have never seen one (not yet, anyway). I’m so jealous!

Scorpion, Brenda's photo.
Scorpion, Brenda’s photo.

 

Seen anything at the poolside this summer? Send me your wildlife jpegs (low res please) at grasshopper@wildingmalaga.com and I’ll post them on the What You’ve Seen Page.

 

 

 

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